In Blue Ribbon Interface I summarized and provided links to a number of recent articles which were critical of Excel 2007’s new Ribbon interface. In his thoughtful comment, my colleague Dennis bemoaned the emotional content of the cited articles, saying one cannot love or hate tools, only individuals. My argument is that I become emotionally involved with any tool I spend a majority of my working hours working with, and the nature of this emotional involvement ranges from positive for tools which are pleasant to use, to negative for tools which frustrate and confuse. This post is an attempt to discuss shortcomings in Excel 2007’s redesigned dialogs objectively, with examples showing good and bad designs, and with a minimum of whining.
Microsoft has violated its own published user interface guidelines that it offers to designers. Ironically I cannot find the same version of these guidelines that I remember: they came out during the Vista beta program, and have since been edited and re-edited, and moved from place to place on the Microsoft web site. However, these guidelines were well stated and even seem to be based on our knowledge of human cognition.
The largest single region of the human brain is the cerebral cortex, which is tasked with parallel processing of large quantities of visual input. In contrast, our short-term memory is capable of holding only about seven pieces of information, and transfer of information into and out of this short-term memory is not always efficient.