There’s a great new blog over at MSDN from Jensen Harris, a member of the Microsoft Office user experience team. In case you haven’t seen the screenshots floating around, the forthcoming Office 12 from Microsoft is undergoing a pretty significant UI update, so reading one of the people working on it has been fascinating.
Jensen is writing in detail about historical UI decisions, evolution of the office suite, and some user testing results that might surprise you. A lot of their findings are definitely not Office-specific. Some notable recent posts:
- Stroking the Keys in Office 12
- In which Office visibly exposes shortcut keys when you hold down alt. Great idea; I believe Windows has been using a similar concept with underlined shortcut keys in menus for years, but this is a much more obvious way of emphasizing the connection between shortcut and function. Now if one of the major browsers were to get accesskeys working this way…
- Be Willing To Be Wrong
- In which Office’s new Ribbon toolbar tried and failed as a left-to-right layout in order of descending importance. Turns out items near the middle are far more visible. This is my favourite post in the bunch so far.
- Ye Olde Museum Of Office Past
- In which Office’s UI history is recounted from the 80’s up to the last major release.
- Saddle Up to the MiniBar
- In which Office implements a mini formatting menu on selection. I love the idea, but from the comments on the post it sounds like it’s tightly saddled to text formatting only. A shame, I’d have expected it to be modal, taking it’s specific palette of tools at any given time from the Ribbon toolbar.
I have to admit, “Microsoft” and “Great UI” are two phrases that don’t often appear together in my mind, but credit where it’s due. The Office team seems to be doing a bang-up job on the next release.