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Friday, 12 March 2010

The ribbon and why others are applying it.

It is my firm belief as a user of many of Microsoft’s applications that one of the best ideas to ever to come out of the Microsoft stable is the absolutely brilliant ribbon interface. The reason why I feel this way about the ribbon interface is really quite simple. The ribbon interface enables a new user to learn how to use an application quickly and easily and additionally allows the new user to be able to discover and utilise features of that particular application that otherwise they might not have easily discovered or come across because they were hidden or buried under a multitude of menu’s and list’s and therefore would be be harder to discover.

Ribbon in Word

Yet to hear some users talk (and the disgruntled tend to be users who have used that particular program for quite some time prior to the introduction of the ribbon interface)  to make your applications easier to use for everyone  especially the newbie seems to be paramount  to committing some sort of crime. They seem to prefer that all users have to do things the hard way and continue having to use a cluttered up user interface requiring the user to need to drill down into menu’s and lists ad infinitum in order to find all the programs features, or alternatively use  so called  ‘keyboard shortcuts’ (which incidentally I find are never short or time saving at all and usually require the user be able to remember them all and to press either two or three keyboard buttons at the same time in order to enable  a feature that could just as easily be acquired with one click from a well designed user interface.)

Ribbon in Paint

So if its so unpopular with ‘old hands’ then why are other sites and other program makers  intending to use the ribbon interface  for their applications and programs?  Its really very simple.  Instead of having new users put off from ever using your program or application just because your complicated interface gets in the way, then it makes sense to make your program easier to use for everyone by utilising the Ribbon and thereby simplifying your user Interface.  The ribbon interface simplifies the use of any program or application simply by  presenting the user with only those  features  that they need at that particular time, without cluttering up the screen with unnecessary choices and options that are not required at that point in time.

Prototype UI for open office We have already heard that the Open Office bods are considering applying the ribbon interface to their Office suite (where in my opinion it would then make using Open Office far easier to use for everyone and I myself have been put off in the past from even considering using Open Office because of its ‘unfriendly and confusing interface)  and now the latest news we hear is that Mozilla are also considering applying it to the next version of Firefox.

Ribbon type interface for Firefox

I have no doubt that every Firefox fan  will be up in arms about it which makes this ordinary user ask why?  Why are long term users of any browser, application or program so against making that program easier to use for everyone concerned? Are they so set in their ways that they hate any change at all to the user interface? Do they want it to remain  as complicated to learn as possible for any user who is unfortunate enough to be a newbie?  Or is it simply because the original idea came from Microsoft?



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