Thursday, 4 December 2008

The Story of the Ribbon

Yesterday I had a chance to attend the 14th Poznan .Net User Group meeting. One of the guests was Mariusz Jarzębowski from Microsoft with his presentation "The Story of the Ribbon".

Microsoft Word 2007 and the Ribbon user interface

This excellent presentation was demonstrated for the first time during the MIX 2008 by Jensen Harris. (Edit: Presentation which we saw was inspired by both Jensen Harris' blog post and his presentation during the MIX08) Thanks to Mariusz we got a chance to see it live and "experience" evolution of Microsoft Office user interface (UI) from the very beginning - version 1.0 to the latest one - Office 2007. I think it's safe nowadays to say that The Ribbon started new era in UI design world. Mariusz gave us lots of insights regarding the process and decisions which have changed the way we think about the UI. Microsoft has invested years of work to check number of concepts, build prototypes, analyse data ... very detailed data.

For instance there are at least three ways to save document in MS Word
  1. Ctrl+S,
  2. save on toolbar and,
  3. menu File->Save.

Based on gathered data Microsoft realized that roughly 80% of people use Toolbar to save documents, 20% use Ctrl+S and almost noone uses the File->Save option. It was even more interesting that the same rule applies to other commands, hence that they can get rid of the old-fashion menu as people don't use it anyway!

Even though the numbers (exact number of clicks for each option) were convincing, still changing approach and switching from ordinary menu to the Ribbon was a risky decision. Microsoft took that risk and released the Ribbon which in my opinion (and not only my) makes them one of the most innovative company in the IT industry.

Mariusz also presented some other cool and relatively new concepts/features like:
  • Deep Zoom which allows users to explore collection of (usually) high resolution pictures without downloading them all at once to the client. Microsoft released Deep Zoom Composer which users can use to create presentation of images and then preview it with Silverlight 2 and Deep Zoom feature. check Seadragon project for more details and demos. Also check Hard Rock website for great example of Deep Zoom in action.
  • Photosynth is yet another cool concept which allows users to generate 3D model based on the pictures taken with any ordinary digital camera. Great stuff and very spectacular, it also uses Deep Zoom to enrich user experience. Check this presentation of Blaise Aguera y Arcas showing Deep Zoom and Photosynth.

  • pptPlex - Deep Zoom can also be used to change your Powerpoint presentations, this plug-in enables this feature.

For me this meeting was very interesting and I hope that Mariusz will visit us again at some point in the future. In a meantime let's enjoy all that new tools and keep eyes open for next innovative ideas as I'm sure that they will come.

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