Monday, December 13, 2010

What is the problem with Microsoft Office Ribbon?

I had some issue with Microsoft's Ribbon interface (first introduced in Microsoft Office 2007). Actually, I think many people had more or less trouble using it. So I was thinking how to sum it up, what Microsoft did wrong, and where it placed its risky, but reasonable bets that might seem wrong but a necessary to obtain long-term viability of the product:
  • Incompatible with previous knowledge - actually this is not up to Ribbon, but to its implementation in Microsoft Office 2007. Microsoft just changed some of its classifications of Tools, as they are not classified the same way as they were in menus and toolbars. I think it was too much to change both things at the same time
  • Visually chaotic - again, this could be implemented different way with same Ribbon technology, but it seems that at this moment Microsoft prefers this implementation. So, while I think it is a good thing that some icons are bigger, the way of their layout on Ribbon makes you feel disoriented. Over the time, your spatial memory will probably get used to it.
  •  Non efficient for using rare options - menus seem to be better here. If you go for some option you just need at that time, and it is not a rare user pattern Ribbon doesn't do well. It doesn't come back to most frequently needed tools, but it leaves you on some special toolbar you might not really need. So, you must click to go back where you want. It hurts productivity. Even if you get used to it. And it will help you not to want to get used to it.
 But the real gain is in Easy access to a lot of tools, specially the ones that you had to go through dialogs to use them, and you have them at a touch of the hand.

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Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Users don't need to be system integrators

As Jobs said, today.

It is something simple, and something that everybody should know, but at the end it is rarely implemented well. I remember when I was school age, I enjoyed tweaking every single visible and hidden setting to get the best experience. But now, I realize it takes time and it is just that someone didn't bother to make it right for me.

But there's more than what Steve said. Users don't want to install apps at all. Well unless they are more media than app (consider games, you will want new game because the old one will become boring after time). They want everything readily setup on their phone. And that's where, as said in my previous post, Nokia still has some advantages.

Friday, December 03, 2010

How Nokia sells phones?

Well, even with all bad reviews, Nokia is still company that sells most phones.

Obviously, the answer is that there are many different consumers. And not only staff that reviews phones buy them - many folks do and they might have different needs.

Some people want cheap phones - it could be because they can't afford better. But also, it could be because you don't want to carry 500 € device with yourself - possibly because you may lose it, drop and damage it, or in the worst case it might even attract someone to steal it and possibly even attack you.

But it is not really just that. If people pay more money, they want the thing that just works. Well, at least most of them, some geeks might want the thing that can be tweaked most. And Nokia performs pretty well here:
  • GPS - well OVI maps are free for Nokia phones, and they are probably best mobile maps
  • Camera - Nokia was performing well here, and Nokia N8 is just to claim the best mobile camera
  • Phone quality - as a traditional mobile phone company Nokia was always on top here
So, many people want just this, and if Nokia does it very well, and is price competitive (except in US where it has poor relations with carriers), then it is logical that many people buy even Nokia top models that seem to have no chance to compete with Android phones or iPhones according to reviews.

Yes, I know that Nokia is less fun to use (with poor touch interface), and lags in applications... but how many people really care? General user pattern should be that your phone is your backup portable device - you use it if you don't have anything else. Yes, there are mobile games... But why would you use it if you have Playstation or Xbox or PC at your hands?

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