MS Office, Ribbons, and you

Richard Gaskin ambassador at
Fri Feb 2 11:22:32 EST 2007

Last year Dan Shafer shared this URL with us:

That's a blog by the UI lead for MS Office, and most of it describes 
Office's new Ribbons interface.

If you haven't been following the story, the Ribbons UI is worth 
learning about, and the blog is a great read.

Dan also shared this background article from Jakob Nielsen about the new 
Office UI:

In a nutshell, the Ribbon UI breaks away from the primacy of menus, 
expanding the concept of the toolbar with a smart use of progressive 
disclosure to provide more visible access to a program's features.  It's 
arguably one of the single most significant innovations in UI design 
since this industry first standardized on GUIs.

It also represents a welcome return to the practice of having UI 
designers from an OS vendor publicly discuss their usability research 
methods. Tog used to do this with Apple back in the day, but Apple no 
longer has any regular public communication about usability research, at 
least none that I've seen since Jobs came back to Apple.

Another interesting aspect of Ribbons is that it's possibly the most 
significant innovation Microsoft has implemented which didn't merely 
copy an existing Apple feature.

But for all the commitment MS has demonstrated with rolling out this new 
paradigm in Office, the absence of Ribbons from Vista is a curious 
omission.  Is Office merely a test case, and MS intends to use Ribbons 
in a future version of Vista?  Or do the higher-ups at MS doubt the 
efficacy of the research that led to the design?

And for Apple, we wonder whether something like Ribbons will find its 
way into their designs, or do they doubt the research or have had a 
relapse of their NIH syndrome (Not Invented Here).

For us developers, it also raises the question of whether we'll take 
Microsoft's lead and adopt something like Ribbons in our own applications?

I've been prototyping a major upgrade for one of the apps I develop 
which is strongly influenced by Ribbons, but I'm not going all the way 
with it and will still have a full menu bar.

Any of you thinking about Ribbons-influenced designs for your apps?

What do you make of this shift?

  Richard Gaskin
  Managing Editor, revJournal
  Rev tips, tutorials and more:

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