Dec 14, 2005, 02:31am EST
I just saw the best presentation I’ve seen in a long time. It was even better because it didn’t include any web 2.0 buzzwords like tags or ajax.
Jensen Harris gave a talk at BayCHI about the ribbon interface that will be in the next version of Microsoft Office. I took away two important points from this talk. The first is that context is important. Office has lots of features, but at any given time, only a few are relevant. This can be seen in how “tabs” appear as objects are selected and how the minibar appears as text is selected.
The other important point is that a lot of change was driven by data. In Office 2003, users had an option of sending usage data back to MS. They recorded how many times each button was clicked and created sequences of user actions which was used to derive which options go together. For example, when positioning an image in the page, it’s common to also change how the text flows around the image.
One of the reasons I’m in support of the ribbon UI is because it is an innovative interface. MS is taking a (slight) risk by moving away from the user expectation of menus and toolbars. I’m convinced that this is the only way to make real progress, otherwise you’re stuck making incremental improvements. Unfortunately, few companies are in a position to do that and succeed.