I know what you’re thinking, “has it really come down to this”.
No doubts you’ve all seen the “Computer” icon in Windows Vista. Some of you might have even clicked on it and few of you probably have a shortcut on your desktop. But has it ever occurred to you it’s facing the wrong direction – away from you? At least one guy did, and this is just one of the minor details under scrutiny at the Windows UX Taskforce that is particularly fascinating, to me at least.
The problem is, by default, Windows displays icons from left to right. Assuming the user sits in the middle of the monitor, the icons should in fact face right towards you and not the edge of the monitor. The only icon in Vista off the top of my head which does this correctly are the “folders” icon which open up towards the right. This actually conflicts with the official user experience guidelines suggesting the perspective of icons face left.
If this isn’t weird enough, the Windows XP’s icons and even conceptual Vista icons designed by Iconfactory faced the right (pun) way. For some unknown reason, Microsoft designers decided to flip them. FYI: Mac OSX icons face directly at you – probably the best solution.
Of course I understand that this is not a make-or-break issue and probably won’t be addressed in Windows 7 – just flipping the icons won’t actually work since the lighting and symbols on the icons will be different – but this raises an interesting discussion around the “psychology” of design. Could this explain why so many people are turned off by Vista? On the same note, facing left also implies “looking back” as opposed to right – “looking forward”. You get the drift.
In spite of the serious discussion at hand, this comment by “Turge” had me giggling inside. He writes, “My computer is to the right of me, so the icon is facing the right way. Please don’t change this otherwise I’ll have to move my PC.” Can’t argue with that.
Update: Ged from Iconfactory confirms the icons are facing “the wrong way”.