The Story of the Ribbon

I just saw a very interesting talk by Jensen Harris -- the guy responsible for Office 2007's user experience -- about the development process of Office's new UI Element "Ribbon".

Jensen Harris

Microsoft Office -- as we know it -- has it's roots back in 1989. Over the years thousands of features have been added and the UI designers at Microsoft usually took the easy way to make them accessible for the users: They added menu items, additional toolbars, and -- as the users became more and more confused by zillions of buttons -- task panes.

Statistics of the number of toolbars and panes in Office

It's quite obvious that this process won't scale forever as teaching office to users becomes more difficult with every button you add and users loose the feeling that they are in control of the application ("sense of mastery").

So it was time for Microsoft to start over.

Jensen Harris talks a lot about the rational behind the Ribbon, the development process behind it, design iterations -- including some fancy UI concepts that did not make it into the final product or only heaviliy modified -- and how they evaluated their prototypes.

It's really a great talk for everybody who has the slightest interest in User Interfaces and a must-see for people who are working in the area of Human Computer Interaction.

He talks about using low-fidelity paper prototypes and UI concepts implemented in Flash, he describes what's behind those anonymous usage statistics that can be send to Microsoft and how the data was used.

Watch it! (90 minutes)