Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Microsoft Office 12.0 : Say Goodbye to the standard user interface

Wow - for years, the familiar File, Edit, View menu approach has become synonymous with the "Windows" and "Office" experience (even though it was pioneered by Apple, PARC, etc) and now in one swoop, MS has decided to do away with it (at least once version 12 comes out)

The slide show is linked about half-way down. Update: Direct Link

While I'm a big fan of "task-groups", I'm not sure how this user interface will fly. Why?

1. While every application is different, having a standard interface does make it easier to learn and train new users on. Menus are "complexity browsers" and while Office continues to try and make it easier to use, having spent the last 10 years convincing people that menus are good - to come around and say they are no longer there, may not be quite the best default option.

2. By grouping items into categories, it certainly helps improve the interface but if you look at the last slide (the "less-intimidating" Access), you'll see that there's a real danger when you continue to have lots of options available.

3. I do like the idea of when you click on Write in Word, it shows "galleries" of areas where you can make changes like fonts in one section, paragraphs in another. It almost reminds me of the "toolbars" that appear in "other" operating systems and applications.

Now, I'm sure MS has done their user research on this so I'm excited to see what it will look like in the end but don't forget - MS User research also suggested that people would like "MS Bob" and Clippy. And some people do.

What does this mean for the FoxPro developer? It will be interesting to see - because while FoxPro has kept up to speed on the "Windows XP" compatibility (Theme support, etc), it has always lagged behind with the Office user interface compatibility. With the new Office 12, the UI will most certainly be affected.

I'm looking forward to what Ken has said regarding Sedna's compatibility with Office 12- it's likely more to do with the new XML file formats.

But I think developers will face another round of "why doesn't my application look like...." - sounds like a job for Arg Software Design!!


Craig Boyd said...

I don't see a link to a slideshow anywhere in the entry. What am I missing?

Andrew MacNeill said...

Direct link:

Craig Boyd said...

Thanks Andrew. After having read your blog entry, I went looking for the slides and found a Channel 9 video...

Looks like MS Office 12.0 has a pretty awesome user-interface. Can't wait to get my hands on it.

Andrew MacNeill said...

Watching the "Julie" video and it does look

It was really interesting listening to how they did their usability tests.

There WAS a reason for that Office usability option in the program after all!

The real test - will more people be able to figure out Pivot tables in Excel?