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Author Topic: Ribbon UI - is it really THAT good?  (Read 11342 times)
wraith808
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« Reply #25 on: December 01, 2011, 02:25:56 PM »

you can't get to Font or Paragraph properties without those

Yes you can.  I know I have, and I'd forgotten that you can click that.  I think the right click menu has it.

UPDATE: I was right... it is the right-click menu.



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tranglos
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« Reply #26 on: December 01, 2011, 02:48:39 PM »

The ribbon gives you a flexible toolbar. Looking at the example you gave there, that's what it looks like. You just don't get that nice, compact UI with most toolbars.

So this is where we disagree, I don't have a problem with that smiley The way I see it, in reply to the part quoted above, the ribbon gives you a flexible toolbar but takes away the menu. I don't miss the toolbars, I miss the menus! A menu is much more compact, faster to navigate with the keyboard and - to me - more discoverable than the ribbon.


If you can't fit in an extra 80 pixels or so at the top when you have monitors at 1920 x 1200... You have a real problem. It's not the software taking up 80 pixels that's the problem.

Yep, and in that vein of thought, with Office 2010 MS came up with the lovely idea of taking the whole page (screen) for what used to be the "File" menu before, and later was the "Office button" in Office 2007. Why do they hate me? smiley

If you can't afford a monitor with a modern resolution, then the solution to me seems to be to use older software that's designed for small resolutions. But don't blame the software author for taking advantage of newer technologies that most people have.

Two 23" monitors here, thanks. But IMO you have it backwards. What's the point of buying a bigger screen, if new software is going to take ever more of it and leave you with less?

But, I will concede the point on screen estate. (I just don't like hearing MS's claim that the ribbon is more compact then menu+toolbars. It isn't.) My main beef with the ribbon is that it makes commands much harder to discover (often you see the icons only, while menus give you enough horizontal space for informative descriptions), much harder to navigate than a main menu, and even when I know where a command is supposed to be, the ribbon gets shrunk when you resize the window, and what used to be a big button is now tiny and I can't find it again. After two years of working in Word and Excel nearly every day I should have learned where the things are, but I haven't. To me, that's a failure for which I'm not about to blame myself, since I don't experience similar cognitive difficulties with other software.


As for .NET. Who cares?



At the end of the day there is 1 and only 1 and exactly 1 consideration that matters: What will make life easier for the people that use the software? Nothing else matters beyond that. Nothing.

On this we totally agree. It's just that the ribbon makes it significantly harder for me, not easier. That is precisely why I am against it.

« Last Edit: December 01, 2011, 02:57:58 PM by tranglos » Logged

wraith808
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« Reply #27 on: December 01, 2011, 02:58:43 PM »

I do, when a program that used to start inside of a second now takes 10, and when it flickers all the time displaying menus or switching views. When I built my last system 4 years ago, I started from this, then upped some of the specs even more. I later swapped a video card for one that can play most of today's FPS games at max settings. I used to have a WD Raptor drive for the system partition (until it broke). I really don;t like waiting, so I built a system that didn't make me wait too much. And still, both back than and today, .Net apps flicker like heck and perform most operations with the urgency of a lazy iceberg. Granted, sometimes coders do things in ways that are inappropriate for the platform, but their suboptimal code would not cause significant slowdowns in native C++ or a Delphi apps. And still the apps crash just like they used to, except what used to be "invalid pointer operation" is now "reference not set to a valid object instance" or some such. It's the same darn error! For the user, .Net gives no gain whatsoever, but it exacts the very high price in loss of performance.

But none of this is a function of .NET.  I used to be a Delphi fanatic also.  And my first forays into .NET were less than stellar, especially because I was converting Delphi apps to C#.  But nothing that you said applies to *all* .NET apps; they're a function of how they're implemented.  I get no flicker in places that I used to have to code around in Delphi/C++ and use less memory in most cases.  It's overkill for some things, but then again, so was Delphi.

...and yes, suboptimal code will slow things down in Delphi.  I've seen it.  I've dealt with it and had to fix it.  As far as the user getting nothing from .NET, it depends on whether the user is paying for development.  When the user is paying for a product, nothing that the product is written in is going to do anything for the user.  But I've found that once I figure something out in WPF/XAML, the solution is a lot easier to implement, a lot more straightforward, and easier to maintain.
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Ath
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« Reply #28 on: December 01, 2011, 03:06:18 PM »

But I've found that once I figure something out in WPF/XAML, the solution is a lot easier to implement, a lot more straightforward, and easier to maintain.
Yup, that, and stick to MVVM.
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wraith808
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« Reply #29 on: December 01, 2011, 03:51:47 PM »

But I've found that once I figure something out in WPF/XAML, the solution is a lot easier to implement, a lot more straightforward, and easier to maintain.
Yup, that, and stick to MVVM.

MVVM itself is also not a silver bullet, and can be a hindrance in some cases.  All of these things (to steer back on subject), from the ribbon (and other UI elements), to .NET (and other frameworks), to MVVM (and other design patterns) are tools.  And the same tool is not useful in all situations.
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« Reply #30 on: December 01, 2011, 04:16:38 PM »

Also don't forget that the ribbon is more than just a menu / toolbar replacement, e.g. the Galleries are a new concept, which I think is very powerful.

Yes, the part where you hover the mouse over a font or style selector and the text in your document temporarily assumes that style - that part is awesome. But although it came together with the ribbon, it does not require one. You could just easily have that kind of "live preview" with a menu or a toolbar.

But it's not only the preview when hovering over it, it's also the mini-preview of the style which the ribbon itself is already giving you. And that needs some space.

On the other hand, Office 2007 had these tiny semi-buttons:
 (see attachment in previous post)
I wonder how many people ever figured out you can click those. I personally know a few who never have. And these are pretty important buttons - you can't get to Font or Paragraph properties without those. Why not allow users to click the whole lower bar where the "Font" and "Paragraph" labels are? Now that would be intuitive and easy to click. Seems like no-one at Microsoft has ever read Joel Spolsky's essay on affordances - or they have read it and decided to do the opposite out of spite.

And although you can navigate to these tiny thingamajigs with the Tab key, try doing that in Word 2007, it takes at least twice as many keypresses as Alt+F (Open Format menu) and three or four Down Arrow (to navigate to "Paragraph..." or "Font..") used to take. And really, even if you see them, there is no indication of what they do. They seem to still be there in Office 2010.


And that is exactly what I meant with "learning and understanding its concepts". To be honest, I did not notice that tiny arrow myself until I read about it. And as you say, that knowledge is essential when working with ribbons. So I agree, ribbons are not perfect yet. But nevertheless I think they are an improvement over menu / toolbar for Word and Excel.
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Josh
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« Reply #31 on: December 01, 2011, 04:42:27 PM »

If 80 pixels is a big deal, why not hide the UI automatically? You can set it to auto-appear only on hover or when the ALT key is pressed. This actually takes up less real estate than the standard menu system with toolbars.
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JavaJones
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« Reply #32 on: December 01, 2011, 06:04:06 PM »

At the end of the day there is 1 and only 1 and exactly 1 consideration that matters: What will make life easier for the people that use the software? Nothing else matters beyond that. Nothing. If a ribbon fits that, then so be it. If not, then that's the answer.

I heartily agree. Now, how can you figure out which is right for a given user base? Polling and surveys? Test groups? Guesses? Extrapolations? Assumptions? Going through the work of creating 2 versions and see which is downloaded or "liked"/+1 more?... I don't see any really good solutions.

I also thought I'd weigh-in with my Ribbon feedback. I personally don't like it, and after reading some feedback from others in this thread who feel similarly, I think I might have figured out why. At the risk of sounding like a braggart, I have always had a knack for learning software and finding things in UIs. More than an occasional "ah hah!" moment, as an IT person I have in fact had countless experiences in my life where someone who uses a piece of software daily comes to me with a question I don't know the answer to, and I am able to figure out how to do it in many cases just by a quick look at the app and menus, without further research.

Often times I think this results from just having a good sense, from seeing many app UIs, of what a developer might have named a particular function and the multiple "normal" (as well as "abnormal") places a dev might have put it. A good example is Options/Settings: first of all you have the two names right there, which both often mean the same thing; accessing options can often be done from a Tools menu, but can also be found under File, and even Edit at times, among other places. These things are not necessarily intuitive, but from a lot of experience with different apps, I've learned where to look and what to look for. Believe it or not this extends even to complicated industry-specific apps like Indesign, where I may need to look for a tool to make a shape editable, and it may be called "Convert object to spline" or something. It helps that I know what a "spline" is, for one thing, but even just the word "convert" gives me an initial tip-off that it might be close to what I want, since I know the basic idea of what the function I need should do.

Ok, I'm getting to my point, hehe. The issue I have with the ribbon is that, for me, it makes things *less* discoverable. I can see and agree with that for many basic, day-to-day uses, it's a faster and more fluid UI, perhaps more intuitive for the average user. But as currently implemented, I never get the sense that I am seeing all possible options, which is important if I'm looking for something that I don't know where to find. In general with a menu-driven app, if I look through all the menus I'll know pretty well that I have seen all the functions and if I don't find what I'm looking for, I will at least know that it's sensible to try to do more research, e.g. a web search. With a ribbon I never had that feeling that I have fully explored it, seen all the options, largely because it tries to be just a bit too "clever". Even if ribbons had a mode where you could force all options visible or something, it would be a big improvement. But I think a menu option alongside or instead of the ribbon is still valuable for advanced users or at least certain users, like myself.

As to the original question, if the only reason you're adding the ribbon is as a marketing tool, then I think you have to ask yourself whether your audience is more marketing-driven or functionality-driven. For small utility apps often the latter is the case. Also remember that you can often get a few users being very vocal and making a particular feature seem *very* important, when the reality is the vast majority of satisfied customers just don't see anything (because they're satisfied), so they are under-represented, but in fact represent a much more significant portion of your user base than the vocal minority. Something to think about. As a casual first-step into the consideration you might want to run a poll on your website or even do a mailing to your users, if you have an existing email relationship with them (e.g. regular newsletter send-out).

- Oshyan
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Renegade
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« Reply #33 on: December 01, 2011, 11:46:08 PM »

Heheheh~!

Seems like my first comment about the ribbon/menu thing was right. It is a holy war~! Grin

If I may, would anyone mind if I interject with another possibility that will hopefully fuel the ever-burning fires of holiness? tongue

The "Opera" or "Firefox" button or the Google wrench, or the IE gear...

Yet another way to work a menu that takes up minimal screen real estate. cheesy

I think it works well in a browser, though for most software, I doubt it would be an improvement, and most likely, a hindrance.


But whatever works seems good by me.


I think the only holy war I'd like to get into is with anyone who still thinks that the command line should be used for everything and by everyone. tongue (Just kidding.)

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« Reply #34 on: December 02, 2011, 02:06:40 AM »

If 80 pixels is a big deal, why not hide the UI automatically? You can set it to auto-appear only on hover or when the ALT key is pressed. This actually takes up less real estate than the standard menu system with toolbars.

And I would not be surprised if the next version of Office would allow you to dock the ribbon to either side, and as such using horizontal instead of vertical space.
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« Reply #35 on: December 02, 2011, 03:37:04 AM »

Side seems nicer for screens that are not so tall.
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barney
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« Reply #36 on: December 02, 2011, 01:32:15 PM »

I had been refraining from comment, but might as well add my own two (2) pennies  Wink.

My biggest complaint with the ribbon is screen real estate - it takes a significant amount compared to a menu or even a toolbar.  (That's generic, not application specific, btw.)  And while you folk without vision impairment might well be able to discern each discrete icon and recognize its function  thumbs up, older or visually impaired folk may not have that luxury  thumb down.  Oh, yeah, those same icons are not intuitive, they have to be learned  Sad.

But my biggest gripe is screen real estate  mad.  Recently discontinued a program I'd been using for years for that very reason.  They added a ribbon which stole a minimum of four (4) lines of vertical dimension.  That's four (4) lines of information that can no longer be viewed w/o scrolling.  OK, the ribbon can be minimized to some extent, but that's just more work - clicks, shortcuts, or the like - that has to be done, consuming more time that could be devoted to the project at hand.

MS was notorious when I was in IT for changing the menu structure in every new release of Office, and the ribbon strikes me as one more unwarranted change, just so you'll know it's a new version.  I can see some usefulness in, say, a graphics program, but for me and some of my contemporaries, it is a production hindrance in most of the software that we've seen utilize it.

That said, there are also a number of folk known to me that absolutely adore it.  To me, it seems a lot like the Web 2.0 groundswell, where everyone had to convert their sites to a new format and appearance lest they seem behind the times, change for the sake of change.  That has never been a good reason to alter a working UI.

In the long run, I'll prolly have to live with it, just as with Web 2.0.  And, as Renegade has pointed out, it's like the old Miller Lite beer commercials of, "Great taste!!  Less filling!!"  But as long as there's a choice, a menu system (with a single-line toolbar, if available) will be my choice.  I want an interface that does not get in the way.
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« Reply #37 on: December 02, 2011, 08:39:13 PM »

+1 from me for just about all of what @barney says.    Thmbsup

Especially:
My biggest complaint with the ribbon is screen real estate - it takes a significant amount compared to a menu or even a toolbar.  (That's generic, not application specific, btw.)  And while you folk without vision impairment might well be able to discern each discrete icon and recognize its function  thumbs up, older or visually impaired folk may not have that luxury  thumb down.  Oh, yeah, those same icons are not intuitive, they have to be learned  Sad.

But my biggest gripe is screen real estate  mad.  Recently discontinued a program I'd been using for years for that very reason.  They added a ribbon which stole a minimum of four (4) lines of vertical dimension.  That's four (4) lines of information that can no longer be viewed w/o scrolling.  OK, the ribbon can be minimized to some extent, but that's just more work - clicks, shortcuts, or the like - that has to be done, consuming more time that could be devoted to the project at hand.

MS was notorious when I was in IT for changing the menu structure in every new release of Office, and the ribbon strikes me as one more unwarranted change, just so you'll know it's a new version.  I can see some usefulness in, say, a graphics program, but for me and some of my contemporaries, it is a production hindrance in most of the software that we've seen utilize it.

Criterion #7a - Use - Ergonomics (and efficiency) - (see below) is, for me and from experiences of many users arguably the single most important factor for user acceptance and continued use of a piece of software. If the UI is a pig, then the Criterion #11 - Trade-off/compromise - fails as well.
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« Reply #38 on: December 02, 2011, 08:44:44 PM »

I don't suppose a whole lot survives that list these days...

As a side note, +1 for PMI smiley
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IainB
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« Reply #39 on: December 03, 2011, 12:57:43 AM »

I don't suppose a whole lot survives that list these days...
Haha. Yes, you are probably right - but then that's a good thing, I think. Your selection process using those criteria (or similar) can be quite speedy. You can narrow the field down rapidly because the failure rate is so high. It narrows things down to just a few choices at most.


But the Ribbon? Seems like another possible case of The Emperor's New Clothes to me.
My list is pragmatic at least, and the Ribbon fails big time on Criterion #7a - Use - Ergonomics (and efficiency).
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« Reply #40 on: December 21, 2011, 03:35:54 PM »

Late to the party but somebody said Ribbon! I, and thousands of others, despise the ribbon. I avoid any software that uses it.  It takes up way too much room and, like that screenshot in Renegade's post, it's a  cluttered mess. Too bad all software doesn't give users the choice. Download the app with the ribbon, or download the app without. Choices. My favorite thing!
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« Reply #41 on: December 22, 2011, 04:23:44 AM »

Barry Schwartz on the paradox of choice
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Carol Haynes
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« Reply #42 on: December 22, 2011, 05:57:05 AM »

I have been using Word since Word 2 (and other Office apps for nearly as long) - and in most incarnations since. I know it is a personal choice but having used 2007 and 2010 for a couple of years now I really wouldn't want to go back to the old shifting menu and random icons of earlier versions - I MUCH prefer the ribbon. Once you know where things are they are just there and I find the whole layout o be far more intuitive. I have to say initially I was very sceptical and thought it was just a gimic to sell 2007 - a new version with few new actual features - but in reality I think the ribbon is well thought out and works well. I suppose it would be nice to have proper menus and the old interface (at least as an option) but that would just mean yet another layer of backward compatibility rubbish in every new release.

Most of the complaints seem to come from people not wanting to change old habits - fine stick with Office 2002 or 2003 - they still work in Windows 7 and 8. Given that most people only use Office to do basic typing of documents, build pretty simple spreadsheets and manage email Office 2002/2003 are perfectly usable for most needs so why upgrade if you hate the new versions so much?

Having said that a little bit of time spent with an open mind and a willingness to change old habits makes the ribbon much more consistent and productive than the old system. There are still keyboard shortcuts and it can take up virtually zero sceen space with autohide on.

In 2010 the ribbon is customisable so you can tweak things around if you want so what is the big deal?
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« Reply #43 on: December 22, 2011, 07:17:55 AM »

Interesting how little Microsoft seems to have considered the ribbon (and Office) when creating their new champion Metro, which they plan on forcing everyone over to eventually. See OSNews article on Office problems with Metro here.

So what's next for the ribbon now that Metro is all the rage in Redmond?

It would be one thing if Metro were just the planned tablet interface. But it's not. It's going to be THE interface.

The Office dev group had a problem with Microsoft getting too far into a tablet mindset. Now I think we can see it's pretty obvious why. Something as complex as Office doesn't shoehorn into the tablet paradigm without a major loss of power and features.

Eventually we'll get to see just how important that is to the consumers and business users.

Although I guess they could always move Office (and any other interface that won't fit) completely up to the cloud and provide it through a browser window. That would at least provide a temporary accommodation. And allow them to pretend there's no problem with the Metro 'vision.'  Grin

« Last Edit: December 22, 2011, 08:04:52 AM by 40hz » Logged

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« Reply #44 on: December 22, 2011, 07:44:11 AM »

If Microsoft goes down the 'Windows is dead' route I think we can also safely say at the point 'Microsoft is dead'

I wouldn't be surprised if it happens but if it does then most computer users (and all business users) will either still be on creaking Windows 7 (or even XP) in 30 years time or will have shifted to Linux or Mac. In fact even as an Apple hater i could see my self moving to Mac before I would accept Metro as a desktop OS.

There is no way that businesses are going to shift to Metro in the office.

Even Apple aren't stupid enough to say that desktop and laptop computers will be forced to iOS (much as I am sure they would love to).
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40hz
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« Reply #45 on: December 22, 2011, 08:02:55 AM »

If Microsoft goes down the 'Windows is dead' route I think we can also safely say at the point 'Microsoft is dead'

+1! Thmbsup

In fact even as an Apple hater i could see my self moving to Mac before I would accept Metro as a desktop OS.


Hmm...I'd rather go command line or 100% EMACS first, but I agree.

Hey! Maybe Mouser will finally take FARR the rest of the way and make it a full 'desktop.' He's already half way there!  Grin
« Last Edit: December 22, 2011, 08:13:17 AM by 40hz » Logged

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« Reply #46 on: December 22, 2011, 08:12:42 AM »

Maybe MS should write it in bold on their W8 page. Metro is for touchscreen users and not for users with keyboard n mouse few inches away from the screen.
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« Reply #47 on: December 22, 2011, 08:16:56 AM »

In fact even as an Apple hater i could see my self moving to Mac before I would accept Metro as a desktop OS.
+1  thumbs up
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wraith808
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« Reply #48 on: December 22, 2011, 08:26:41 AM »

which they plan on forcing everyone over to eventually.

I *still* haven't seen anything concrete that says they plan on switching everyone over to it eventually.  I see this quoted a lot, but no substantiation.  Is there an article or anywhere that supports this view?
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« Reply #49 on: December 22, 2011, 09:11:42 AM »

As far as an official " end of discussion" statement , no there isn't one.

But a direct answer to the same question remains unheard despite numerous attempts to get an answer out of Redmond. Mixed messages from various Microsoft folks indicates it's not a done deal. Which seems to indicate there's some internal debate going on. Even Sinofsky himself didn't rule out 'Metro only' despite having kind things to say about the traditional desktop in his blog.

I think right now the 'official' position seems to be:

Quote
This is just the beginning of the discussion. There’s so much more to talk about as we dive into details about the Windows 8 UI. We’re delivering a whole new experience, reimagined from the chips all the way to the user experience, to enable new scenarios, new apps, and new ways of using a PC.


Which is fine. But what I (and my clients) don't appreciate is Microsoft's refusal to categorically state what the long term plans for the desktop are once Win8/Metro goes gold. (And by Metro i mean the whole walled garden environment every tech company seems hell bent on copying from Apple if they can possibly get away with it.) So if there's unwarranted confusion and concern, it's largely how Microsoft's been playing it so coy that's caused it.

« Last Edit: December 22, 2011, 09:18:26 AM by 40hz » Logged

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