Coffeehouse Thread

18 posts

Quantitative analysis of Office Ribbon UI productivity and Windows 8 predictions

Back to Forum: Coffeehouse
  • androidi

    http://www.dailytech.com/Windows+8+Early+Build++Explorer+is+Built+Around+Office+2007like+Ribbon/article21298.htm

    pre-Ribbon: "It's worse than that. There was a Print button on the toolbar that by default was already there. One click."

    Ribbon: "Window Button -> Print Context Menu -> Quick Print."

    As you can see, Ribbon, producing 3 clicks from the user instead of 1, produces the most clicks. This I call a productivity boom (with a small sacrifice of abundant vertical space).

    Further productivity is gained by customizing the ribbon and looking for said customizations in non-customized setup (should one not be aware of there being customizations present). This can be enhanced by distributing customized ribbons to all users, such that each organization has their own custom UI. (Of course IT should block each user from customizing their UI's and using their customized UI everywhere. Because support can't help with custom UI's.)

    OTOH all that could be a bunch of FUD, as I haven't used Office much since quickly testing 2007 and going back to 2003. I'm worried about Windows 8 going the same way. This is of concern due to some issues that MS is unlikely to fix in Windows 7 service packs. If Windows 8 fixes some issues and adds a bunch of new Riblems then where does that leave us? Fuddity fud (fud).

    (Of course, if you have a tablet, the Ribbon UI may be better in that context for Explorer use - but was it designed tablets in mind? If not then it's likely not optimal for tablets)

  • battlebottle

    Actually, using the toolbar, you need to drag your mouse first, then click. were as you could just memorise every command as a keyboard shortcut and save more time.

    I see the whole Toolbar vs. Ribbon as a classic design problem of "Less is Less". Yes the tool bar takes less clicks to find things, but finding a function in a wild nest of menus and context menus can be frustrating to anyone who hasn't spent a lot of time memorising the where everything is. The only reason the Ribbon was developed was in response to the toolbar system in office becoming overrun with to many items. The original design for the toolbar specified that toolbars shouldn't contain more than 7 items for usability. Although the Ribbon is more taxing on people who've learned to use the toolbar very efficiently, I don't think the toolbar is appropriate today, or going forward, as consumers expect easier and more self explanatory user interfaces.

     

  • AndyC

    @androidi:I just press the "Print" hotkey on my keyboard and have done for years, before then I think I tended to go File->Print rather than the toolbar because it required less mental effort to find (even if it took more clicks).

    It's easy to forget that the ribbon layout is (and should be in all apps that use it) based on extensive metrics and studies of what people actually do, rather than speculative ideas about what people should do because it takes less clicks or whatever.

  • philjay

    I mostly didn't even use the toolbar buttons like print and stuff, because I wasn't always sure what the icons meant and probably often made bad experience with toolbar buttons not doing what they look like they do, so instead I printed via File -> Print... (never without the 3 dots, because this could mean that it would quick print without configuration).

    Today I prefer keyboard shortcuts and love the ribbon, although I'm not exactly sure how that would incorporate with the metro ui.

  • MasterPi

    The # of clicks is just one factor used to assess the effectiveness of a UI - it is more an estimator of intuitiveness, as are tests of navigation through a text-less design. If the goal is to reduce the time it takes to perform common tasks, then the the number of clicks required shouldn't matter so much as the discoverability of components, design principles, the opportunity to convert novice users to power users, recognition over recall, etc. You should really design for what people actually do, as Andy points out, instead of optimize a route that isn't really taken as improving a user's actual task pipeline would benefit him most in the end anwyay.

    If design were truly concerned with solely the reduction of steps it takes to perform a task, then surely backpack toilets would be the norm. Tongue Out

     

     

  • spivonious

    Ctrl-P has been my print command for years now. The Ribbon is just a big toolbar. I don't see why it's so controversial. It's much easier to find features that you didn't previously know about. For users who already knew where things were, there's a learning curve.

  • JoshRoss

    @spivonious: Don't forget about the quick print shortcut, ctrl-p, enter. I really don't see what the hubbub is about, Bub.

    -Josh

     

  • Ian2

    Maybe we will be able to say 'PRINT' in Win8 and it will print whatever we have on screen?

    (Ever the optimist)

  • PaoloM

    @androidi:Is there a reason why you're posting an article from April when we've already seen (and Sinofky already commented at length about) the most recent UI?

  • DeathBy​VisualStudio

    ,PaoloM wrote

    @androidi:Is there a reason why you're posting an article from April when we've already seen (and Sinofky already commented at length about) the most recent UI?

    Wow. You almost make Sinsfsky sound like Jobs. Never question the great master... Unfortunatly the ribbon is still the ribbon.

    While I think the ribbon in an improvement is many ways I do think:

    1. The notion that it was ever meant for a touch interface is fraudulant at best. Microsoft threw that little "fact" in there when they originally were pushing the toolbar to try and help justify it's existance. Now that the interfaces of iDevices has become to prefered you never hear them talking about that anymore because it's complete rubbish.
    2. I have no doubt the empiracle usage data was useful in organizing the ribbon. That said in the particular case of "print" I doubt that was the only criteria for print. Again IMO I suspect that it was in Microsoft's best interest to keep things digital so they can sell more OS and Office licenses for phones, tablets, and laptops. Why take a printout to a meeting when you can take the document via your phone? Consider this my Glenn Beck moment.

    All-in-all while the organizational nut in me admires the efforts of the ribbon to help the user get work done more quickly as a user of the ribbon for many years I still struggle in finding what I need in Office and other ribbonized apps.

    What I'd rather perfer is something that is much more context oriented (as seen in the 2019 video) and backed up by voice commands. Microsoft has had some great ideas but they never seem to bring a game changer to market. Instead their bar seems to be "good enough" which results in their "also ran" products like WP (mango included).

  • androidi

    Judging from the comments, the Ribbon UI will drive users to learn keyboard shortcuts. That's actually welcome, as long as the UI offers easy way to find the shortcuts. Maybe we can one day move to a mouseless desktop. The ribbon might be also better for using "eye based mouse" as everything can be bigger than in the toolbar menus.

    Keeping hands on the keyboard and using eyes to point and a left/right "mouse" buttons" below the space bar in the keyboard could actually be a working solution for apps designed to support that.

    Of course further development would be to include some kind of brain-activity correlation algorithm, that can learn (like joystick calibration) which of the small icons next to each other you are thinking while looking. So it doesn't really read your thoughts but can help the eye tracking algo to make distinction when there is uncertainty about what icon you are looking.

  • Royal​Schrubber

    ,androidi wrote

    Judging from the comments, the Ribbon UI will drive users to learn keyboard shortcuts. 

    http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2011/08/crazy-90-percent-of-people-dont-know-how-to-use-ctrl-f/243840/

  • AndyC

    ,androidi wrote

    Judging from the comments, the Ribbon UI will drive users to learn keyboard shortcuts. That's actually welcome, as long as the UI offers easy way to find the shortcuts.

    If you press Alt in a ribbon app you'll see it highlights the keypresses required to activate the various functions.

  • DeathBy​VisualStudio

    ,AndyC wrote

    *snip*

    If you press Alt in a ribbon app you'll see it highlights the keypresses required to activate the various functions.

    Really!?!? Wow. I thought only the old ring menu was capable of that. We all know how much that feature got people to move to using the keyboard over the mouse...

  • evildictait​or

    1. The notion that it was ever meant for a touch interface is fraudulant at best.
    Guilty. Doesn't mean it that Office isn't waay better with touch screens than other equivalent competitor programs. Office is primarilly used by people with a mouse and keyboard, and if the Office team even suggested sacrificing usability by their core users to go with hypothetical new users they'd be slapped down.
     
    1. I have no doubt the empiracle usage data was useful in organizing the ribbon. That said in the particular case of "print" I doubt that was the only criteria for print. Again IMO I suspect that it was in Microsoft's best interest to keep things digital so they can sell more OS and Office licenses for phones, tablets, and laptops. Why take a printout to a meeting when you can take the document via your phone? Consider this my Glenn Beck moment.
     
    B.S. Word's primary purpose is to make documents that can be printed out, so to suggest that "print" is unimportant for the Office team is ridiculous - almost as ridiculous as suggesting that Microsoft have an incentive for "keeping things digital" despite the free "Office viewer" made by Microsoft online and widely used in industry.
     
    There's a video from MIX08 that describes how the ribbon was made by the people that made it, including why and how they came to the conclusion that the ribbon was better than the previous menu structure in Office 2003:
  • wkempf

    @evildictaitor: The heaviest usage of Word is probably business usage, where documents are generally not printed. Instead they are e-mailed and shared on network shares or SharePoint type servers. So the speculation may not be entirely BS. Combine the fact that most documents probably aren't printed with the fact that most people probably use Ctrl+P and not a menu/toolbar button and the fact that Print is buried three clicks deep doesn't mean a whole lot, IMHO.

    I love the Ribbon in Office. It actually organized the mess of commands in a functionally usable manner for me. That said, I also don't think the Ribbon is appropriate most of the time. The inclusion in the latest version of Paint, for instance, is rather lame. They had to work hard to make it look like 2 tabs were needed there, and the end result is something that needlessly uses vertical space when it would have been more appropriate to continue using the horizontal space where there's more space to begin with. I'm skeptical of the Ribbon in the Win 8 Explorer. It may work if it's carefully designed, but only becuase I can minimize the Ribbon. The "default" with the fully expanded Ribbon is certainly bad, here, as again valuable vertical space is being "wasted". I hardly ever use the menu in Explorer today, so using more vertical space is really not something that's needed. Having watched non-power users, I don't see them using the menu either, so claiming this to be a power user bias sounds wrong to me. The only things non-power users do in Explorer are find items, open them (double-click) and copy/move them (drag drop and/or cut/copy/paste via the keyboard or the context menu).

  • evildictait​or

    ,wkempf wrote

    @evildictaitor: The heaviest usage of Word is probably business usage, where documents are generally not printed. Instead they are e-mailed and shared on network shares or SharePoint type servers. So the speculation may not be entirely BS. Combine the fact that most documents probably aren't printed with the fact that most people probably use Ctrl+P and not a menu/toolbar button and the fact that Print is buried three clicks deep doesn't mean a whole lot, IMHO.

    No - the most common use for Word is drafting documents for meetings, contracts negotiations, documentation for work that's been done and drafting documents in one organisation to prove work done by another as well as invoices, a huge fraction of which will get printed out (and those that don't often get converted to PDFs which is outside of Microsoft's IP control anyway)

    Also, from the metrics gathered by the Office team well over two thirds of people printing documents in Office 2003 did so by clicking File -> Print and many others did so by clicking the printer button on the toolstrip - contrary to what power users think, most people don't use keyboard shortcuts.

    That said, I also don't think the Ribbon is appropriate most of the time. The inclusion in the latest version of Paint, for instance, is rather lame.

    Agreed. The Ribbon interface was to get around the fact that Office has an absolutely absurd amount of functionality, almost all of which is business critical for someone (and thus can't be removed). The Ribbon is an attempt by the Office team to manage the horrendously large amount of buttons, menus, toolbars, floating windows and dialog boxes that were needed to contain all of the interface to allow people to use Office properly, and by many accounts does so pretty well.

    The Office team were absolutely not trying to obsolete the menu strip, or claim that the Ribbon is better in all apps - indeed if you read the ribbon documentation for external developers they strongly advice developers not to use the Ribbon unless they really can't cope with the number of menus and buttons in their current user interface.

    I therefore absolutely agree with you that I think the Windows team have got it wrong by adding Ribbon to Paint, Wordpad and Explorer, but I still think the Office team were still right to introduce it for Office apps.

  • Craig_​Matthews

    ,evildictait​or wrote

     (and those that don't often get converted to PDFs which is outside of Microsoft's IP control anyway)

    And in older versions of office, those PDFs are usually generated via File -> Print Big Smile

Comments closed

Comments have been closed since this content was published more than 30 days ago, but if you'd like to continue the conversation, please create a new thread in our Forums, or Contact Us and let us know.