Socket 3: Designing the Windows 95 Interface
This link contains a recovered paper that Microsoft UI Researcher Kent Sullivan authored regarding the development of Windows 95’s now famous interface. Two notes about this paper:
- It’s fascinating to see the evolution of elements — like the Start Menu and the Taskbar — many people have taken for decades.
- Stick around for the comments after the article. The original author joins in and responds to a few questions.
Although we abandoned the idea of a separate shell for beginners, we salvaged its most useful features: single-click access, high visibility, and menu-based interaction. We mocked up a number of representations in Visual Basic and tested them with users of all experience levels, not just beginners, because we knew that the design solution would need to work well for users of varying experience levels. Figure 5 shows the final Start Menu, with the Programs sub-menu open. The final Start Menu integrated functions other than starting programs, to give users a single-button home base in the UI.