I tend to complain a lot. Which frankly, doesn't do much for what I'm complaining
about. In most cases, it comes down to "okay, here is a problem, now someone
else go and fix it." There is a direct correlation to how many people I annoy
too. The number of people I annoy increases as the magnitude of my complaining-ness
(hey, a new word) increases:
If I wanted to change something, obviously I’m going about it the wrong way.
However, there is a direct correlation between how often I do something wrong and
the likelihood I will get it right. See previous image. What that means
is if I keep screwing something up, eventually I am bound to get it right. However,
what is not necessarily apparent in the chart is that if I do nothing, I won’t improve
upon my actions. Maybe it is apparent, I don’t know – I’m still working on it.
The reason I bring this up is because I keep hearing people bash/complain/hate the
Office Ribbon and application Ribbons through Windows 7:
major complaint has been that people couldn’t find what they are looking for anymore.
There aren’t any menus, so they can’t figure out how to set [insert obscure property].
It doesn’t make sense to them. They now have to change the way they think about
the application. What is unfortunate about this is that menus are a horrible
interface. You shouldn’t have to dig through 6 layers of menus to change a single
property, and that’s what Office 2003 became. The Ribbon has it’s own problems,
but it also increases user productivity greatly when the user knows how to use the
Ribbon effectively. Which in lies a major problem.
Most end-users don’t like when you move their cheese.
Well now we have a problem because people also want improved systems. Improve
the system, but don’t change it. This paradox is why fundamentally different
– game changing – designs aren’t seen all that often. We stick with what we
already know because if we deviate people will complain. It’s a very tough way
to create a better interface.
So how do you create a better interface? You keep changing it. Guaranteed
the first couple of designs are going to annoy people: i.e. the Ribbon.
This is good.
If you keep failing at designs, that means eventually you are bound to figure out
what kind of interface works best. You will never figure it out if you never
change. Without MicroBating MasterSoft’s (hey look, two new words) ego, I must
say that Microsoft is doing well in this area. They keep making lousy design
decisions. See Expression Blend UI, and listen to most non-technical office
workers using Office 2007. I’m sure there are quite a few instances in other
applications as well. However, and I must make this clear, Microsoft is doing
the right thing. They are actively trying to create better interfaces.
Yes, it will piss people off (it’s pissed me off quite a few times), but at least
they are making the effort. And that’s what counts.
EDIT: P.S. I do like the Ribbon.