IE7 – Where is the menu?

Today, I finally went ahead and installed the current Beta 3 of Internet Explorer, so I too will have the opportunity to comment on it.

What I ask myself is: Where is the menu?

Well. I know it’s to the right of the screen behind these buttons. But it’s no real menu. It’s something menu-alike.

Why radically change the GUI? Even in Vista itself, there won’t be a menu any more. Or at least not a permanently visible one.

The problem is: It took me years to teach my parents, that all functionality of a program is accessible via the menu and that the menu is always at the top of the application (whereas it’s at the top of the screen on the mac).

Now with this new mood of removing the menus and putting them behind arbitrary buttons, how will I explain my parents how to use the application? I can’t say “Go to File / Save” any more. Besides the names of the menu items, in the future I will also have to remember where the menu is.

And as each application will do it differently, I’ll have to remember it countless of times for different applications.

And even if I know: How to explain it to them? “Click that Icon with the cogwheel”? I doubt they’d associate that icon with the same thing as I do. Thankfully in IE7, there’s still text so I could say “Click on Tools”. But what if some “intelligent” UI designer decides that not even the text is needed any more?

In my opinion, removing the menu has nothing to do with making the application easier to use. It’s all about looking different. And looking different is counter-productive to usability. Why move away from something everyone knows? Why change for changes sake?

It’s not that people were overwhelmed by that one line of text at the top of the application. People that didn’t use the menu didn’t bother. But in the case where they needed it, or needed assistance in using it, it was clear where it was and how to use it.

This has changed now.

And even worse: It has changed in a non-consistant way: Each application will display its own menu replacement where each one will work in a different way.

So I repeat my question: How can I teach my parents how to use one of these new applications? How can I remotely support them if I can’t make them “read the menu” when I’m not sure of the layout of the application in question?

Thankfully, for my parents browsing needs, all this doesn’t apply: They are happy users of Firefox.

But I’m still afraid of the day when the new layouts will come in effect in Office, Acrobat and even the file system explorer (in vista). How to help them? How to support them?