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Office for iPad Design Manager Talks About Design Process

Office for iPadMicrosoft's design manager for Office for iPad has posted an interesting piece discussing the company's design philosophy behind the software.

The software, released back in March, has been well received by both users and critics. It's seen more than 27 million downloads and has already seen a significant update to add features that weren't ready for launch.

Han-Yi Shaw writes about the scenarios that the team imagined Office for iPad users would find themselves in, as well as the user experience goals they had:

- Familiar Office experience, with no learning curve
- Unmistakably Office, optimized for iPad
- Immersive and removes distractions
- Document content, not UI, takes center stage
- Experience is always beautiful, fast, and fluid
The purpose of a familiar Office experience is simple: a low learning curve and high user confidence. However, it’s just as important to strike a balance between “unmistakably Office” and “platform optimization,” which means optimizing for iOS platform conventions and touch-first user expectations. The most important, yet challenging, goal was finding the sweet spot between the essence of Office and iOS. Fortunately, since the Office for iPad and Mac team (formally known as the Macintosh Business Unit) is made up of Apple platform specialists, we were able to apply our deep knowledge of Apple platforms to the task.
The piece talks about how Microsoft redesigned The Ribbon -- the control strip at the top of all Office programs -- to mesh with Apple's design philosophies following the release of iOS 7. "That meant stripping out extraneous detail," said Shaw. "If there was a visual treatment or text label that wasn't absolutely necessary, we stripped it away."

Old and New Office
The full piece is an interesting peek behind the curtain for designers and anyone interested in how software used by millions of people gets built.

Office for iPad is available from the App Store. [Direct Link: Word, Excel, PowerPoint]

Top Rated Comments

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22 weeks ago
Based on the screenshots, it made "designing" the UI a lot easier.

"Should we add some borders or shadows to distinguish between various tappable areas?"
"What, no! Next thing you know, people will want graphics or something to go along with them!"

I personally cannot wait until design becomes so simple, intuitive, refined, beautiful, gorgeous, (insert denigrated aesthetic term) that our homescreens are white backgrounds with a list of unformatted text. Ahhh, that'll be something…

(http://i.imgur.com/VpYGPUS.png)

Rating: 38 Votes
22 weeks ago
I really like the green, blue, and orange colours Microsoft use for each app. Both classic and modern at the same time. Great design work.
Rating: 18 Votes
22 weeks ago
I will say I like the pre iOS 7 ribbon better but nonetheless word and excel are great apps on the iPad.
Rating: 14 Votes
22 weeks ago
The new iOS 7 version looks ssoooo much better

new Office for Mac please :)
Rating: 12 Votes
22 weeks ago
Note how the pre-iOS 7 ribbon defers to content much better than the "modern" one.
Rating: 9 Votes
22 weeks ago

Its just to bad you have to pay a subscription to use Office on the iPad :( Because of that I won't touch it.


I think we're all going to find a LOT of software for Mac / PC / iPad etc. going the way of subscription.

Remember the days of buying a program on disk... using it for a long while and eventually deciding to get the next updated version-- (2 years later !)

Now, Adobe CS is Subscription based, AVID MC is going that way it seems, MS Office is that way now... It's the ONLY way to have a continuous revenue stream for these companies.

It's Sad, but soon, with the cost of the hardware, the cost of monthly data and the cost of subscription based software... who will be able to afford today's technology ?!?!
Rating: 8 Votes
22 weeks ago
Its just to bad you have to pay a subscription to use Office on the iPad :( Because of that I won't touch it.
Rating: 6 Votes
22 weeks ago
Love Office for iPad. They really nailed it.
Rating: 5 Votes
22 weeks ago

It's human nature to fear & reject change.

If anyone thinks drilling down through menu's to find options is still acceptable in 2014 then they need their head looked at. The ribbon organises everything logically and has existed for over 7 years now in Office Suites (since Office 2007). If people can't adapt to something infinitely better by now then that's their problem.


Change is not inherently good. Tell the people who work for several soon-to-close Australian car manufacturing plants that they're just rejecting change out of fear.

It's not unreasonable to reject change that obfuscates or reduces functionality. Look at Windows 8. Look at the Nadia Comăneci-grade backflipping that Microsoft have done since its release. And that is not all "fear". There is a very large dose of poor UI design in there, given it does not properly cater to the still ever present mouse/keyboard input. It's clumsy, awkward and hides functionality that was previously readily available. I have Windows-centric co-workers (high-level IT guys) who scramble for the latest and greatest. Many of them refused to install Windows 8.0 and insist it has only just become usable with 8.1. So, apparently their criticisms are unfounded, Windows 8.0 was perfectly usable by everyone, no complaints about Windows 8.0 were valid, and they were all just afraid of change?

In the case of the ribbon, that UI element consists entirely of the vertical menu options being smeared horizontally across the screen, with clear, horizontally aligned words replaced by icons and buttons of varying and mixed sizes, some with labels next to them, some with labels underneath, some not labeled at all, some of which result in further unclear icons (e.g.: Paste results in three more Paste icons). What does a bucket icon mean in a word processor? Especially when the Ribbon "adapts" to the screen size, eliminating labeling and re-ordering/re-locating functions to often significantly different locations. Seriously. Resize your Word 2013 window some time, in small increments, and watch all the bits resize, lose clarity, shift around and even vanish. The user has to pay way more attention, look much more closely, and think a lot more about what they're wanting to do. Menus? You aim for the top, and on a small screen you might just have to scroll. But it's all where it always is.

Attachment 473490
Attachment 473491
Mighty Morphin' Ribbon.

Attachment 473489
Apparently none of those three Paste icons means "Paste Special", which does not get its own icon.

It's the digital equivalent of getting your toolbox from the garage and laying out every single tool on the kitchen floor, even though you only need two screwdrivers. Having every single thing right to hand might convey power, but it does not convey ease of use or simplicity.

Attachment 473486

Perhaps you'd prefer commands organized in a spinning wheel, like a roulette wheel? Menus are everywhere else in every other OS, including OS X for a reason. Because they work. Because they're clear, and because they're easy to aim for. And because the rest of the program uses them too. Right-click in the middle of your Word document and tell me that menus do not pop down and out.

But, sure. It's just fear.
Rating: 5 Votes
22 weeks ago
My non-tech savvy mother preferred the iOS 6 look because it was "easier to read and bolder".

Found that interesting. Sounds like familiar complaints.
Rating: 5 Votes

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