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  • Blog Post: Giving You Fitts

    One of the most well-understood and salient principles underlying the ergonomics of graphical user interface design is Fitts' Law . Named for Paul Fitts, a psychologist at Ohio State University, Fitts' Law is a mathematical model of fine motor control which predicts how long it takes to move from...
  • Blog Post: Iterative Design Process Applied to Charting

    I know I seldom do two posts in a day, but in addition to Rich's guest article , I wanted to point to a very interesting article Sander, one of our designers, wrote on the Excel blog . The article is focused around the charting experience, but he posted some of the screenshots of the early prototypes...
  • Blog Post: Usability: Art and Science

    Yesterday morning we were sitting in the office of one of our usability researchers watching some DVCAM tapes from tests conducted a few weeks ago. We had a discussion that got me thinking about a set of tests we ran several years ago to determine the discoverability characteristics of contextual tabs...
  • Blog Post: The Spelling Check is Complete

    Yesterday, I mentioned the new contextual spelling feature that is part of Office 2007. Writing the post reminded me of a story from years past... One of the things we've tried to do from time to time is reduce the number of modal alerts that pop up as part of working with Office. Most people don...
  • Blog Post: Catching the Plane

    One of the most challenging aspects of developing the new UI has been making sure that everything ends up loaded into the airplane before it takes off. Confused? Let me explain. Sometimes I think about shipping Office like an airplane taking off. Our job is to load up the plane with the right passengers...
  • Blog Post: Designing Against a Degrading Experience

    I'm sure many of you have experienced being the "one who knows about computers." In social and family situations this often means having to help to fix, clean up, or otherwise restore a computer experience which has fallen into disrepair. There are a million reasons software experiences can degrade...
  • Blog Post: Not So Set In Our Ways After All

    Back in the article " Set In Our Ways? " I talked about one of the design issues we were thinking about at the time--namely, whether or not it was OK sometimes to break commands out of a set. In particular, we were thinking about the Mini Toolbar which comes up on selection and as part of context menus...
  • Blog Post: Prototyping With PowerPoint

    A couple of weeks ago when I talked about The Feature Bob Invented , I mentioned that we use PowerPoint as an easy way to prototype UI, especially in the early stages of design. A number of people have asked me for more details, and so today I thought I'd go through it step-by-step. We use PowerPoint...
  • Blog Post: Set In Our Ways?

    Today, just thinking aloud... A minor design conundrum we face is as follows: based on the data we collect , we can see that within certain sets of related features, some of them are used much more frequently than others. Should we ever act on this data by showing only the most-used features in...
  • Blog Post: Flea Market of Functionality

    Last Monday , I set out a simple brain teaser for the Word gurus out there. I listed a number of seemingly unrelated features in Word 2003 and asked the question "what do these have in common?" John Topley got the answer I was looking for in the very first comment to Monday's post: all of the features...
  • Blog Post: Obsession to Detail

    The success of a user interface depends on getting the details right. That's not to say that a little bit of fit-and-finish work can save a horrible design, but a good idea won't thrive either unless enough of the little details are right. I know that I am sometimes frustrating to work for because...
  • Blog Post: The 50/50 Rule

    Much is made in the business world about the 80/20 rule. Also known as the Pareto principle, the basic idea is that in many phenomena 80% of consequences stem from 20% of the causes. Wikipedia has a good discussion of the principle , its myriad applications, and its common misuse and abuse. (I should...
  • Blog Post: A Brief History of the Status Bar

    The status bar. A ubiquitous piece of the modern user interface, hardly anyone seems to pay it mind. That attitude often extends to interaction designers as well. The status bar, if you are new to the world of computers, is the (usually) gray strip commonly found at the bottom of application windows...
  • Blog Post: I Am Your Density

    A comment we've heard again and again about the Office 12 interface after people use it or see it demoed live is: "wow, it's so much better than I imagined just by seeing the screenshots." Several people made that comment to me once again after my talk at PARC Tuesday night, and I wanted to write...
  • Blog Post: Fast At Any Speed

    One of the major engineering feats associated with shipping Office is making sure it runs fast enough. This effort, which we classify under the broad heading of "performance" includes responsiveness (how quickly a button responds when you click it), throughput (how fast Excel can recalculate a...
  • Blog Post: Help Is For Experts

    One of the most interesting epiphanies I've had over the last few years seems on the surface like a paradox: "help" in Office is mostly used by experts and enthusiasts. How can this be? I think my biased assumption was that experts know how to use the software already and eager novices would...
  • Blog Post: Fun Factor

    Unless you've just awakened from a Rip Van Winkle-style hibernation, you probably heard that Microsoft released the Xbox 360 last night at midnight. The local news in Seattle was stationed outside of the Best Buy I normally go to in Bellevue , giving up-to-the-minute updates about the progress...
  • Blog Post: For Sale By Owner

    One of the never-ending challenges associated with designing the Office 12 UI is managing screen real-estate. One of the tenets of our design is to leave as much room as possible to work with the document. On the other hand, there are always more and more features competing for space, trying...
  • Blog Post: Accessibility Begets Usability

    I saw the following post as a comment below a news article on Office 12: "with its fancy skin, it appears Office has abandoned low-vision users forever." Nothing could be further from the truth. We have accessibility experts within every team in Office, including in the user experience team...
  • Blog Post: The Importance Of Labels

    My first experience in Office was working as an intern program manager on Outlook 98 . During that summer I learned one of the key usability lessons that carried over into the DNA of the Ribbon: the importance of labels. Part of the user experience effort around Outlook 98 was improving the...
  • Blog Post: Most People Are Not Trained In Geology

    One of the tenets of the Office 12 user interface is that we don't want people to have to look "under rocks." I don't know why we say "under rocks." Maybe I made it up, maybe I heard it somewhere, who knows. The picture I get in my head is an insect-eating animal crossing the land, turning...
  • Blog Post: Be Willing To Be Wrong

    Early in our work designing Ribbon content, we had little data to go on in terms of how different content layouts within the Ribbon would affect the usability of the features being laid out. Being a new control, there wasn't any direct information we could fall back on to tell us how to use it...
  • Blog Post: Formatting: An Act In Three Plays

    One challenge that some people have raised against a gallery-based approach to formatting is that "all of the documents are going to look the same." In today's episode, I'll explain why I'm not overly concerned about this and in the process share with you something we've learned about how people approach...
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