Causing a buzz among folks who design websites and software is Jakob’s latest Alertbox “RIP WYSIWYG.” The coming Microsoft Office User Interface portends the move from the What You See Is What You Get interface popularized by the Macintosh, toward a What You Get is What You See model, also called “results-oriented UI.”
Now, I am not qualified to criticize the new Microsoft Office interface, as I haven’t seen it fully, and, more importantly, I haven’t used it.
What not mentioned until the very end (after the conetnt) is that a Design Research Lead is speaking at the User Experience event on the Results-Oriented UI. By not mentioning it at the outset, it feels like Jakob is marketing Microsoft in his Alertbox to promote his workshop.
And I strongly question this part:
If anybody else introduced a new user interface paradigm, it would probably remain a curiosity for years, but Microsoft Office has a special status as the world’s most-used interaction design. We know from user testing that users often demand that other user interfaces work like Office. When you’re used to one style most of the day, you want it in other applications and screens as well.
If the new interaction style works as well as early predictions indicate, users will quickly expect many other user experiences to provide the power of a results-oriented design.
Is “most-used interaction design” really true anymore? Are web browsers and lightweight email apps (NOT Outlook) not more-used? Particularly around the world?
Wouldn’t mobile interfaces be the “most-used interaction design”? I guess there’s no single mobile UI with the dominance that Microsoft has on the desktop, but I need more proof of Microsoft Office’s “special status.” And I’d also like to see trends.
Also, “results-oriented design” doesn’t make sense to me. From the description, Office is now even *more* monolithic. The idea of “results-oriented design” only plays into the user-as-victim model that plagues user-centered design… The poor user can’t handle things, so we’ll try to do all the thinking for them.
The problem is, there are infinite desired results… How will Office be able to accommodate them? And, given their past UIs, why should I not simply fear that their attempts at making it “easier” will only confound and frustrate me?
The last thing I find puzzling about RIP WYSIWYG is that, well, WYSIWYG remains pretty well intact in the new Office interface. I try to make the thing on the screen look exactly how I want it, so that I can then print it. There’s no great paradigm shift. At best, the introduction of the Ribbon is not about results, but about tasks. It’s akin to iPhoto’s interface. Others have also labeled it “task-based.”
Also, this new interface is solidly WIMP (Windows, Icons, Menus, Pointers). Remarkably, WIMP has remained the standard paradigm, even though the fundamental ways that people use their PCs have changed. And as long as WIMP remains so prominent, it’s hard to claim any paradigm shift.
Before signing off, I wanted to mention that I’m enjoying Jensen Harris’ Office User Interface blog. My comments above notwithstanding, clearly, the UI of Office is a big deal, and will have a significant impact. It’s refreshing to see its story told in such detail.
Update: I’ve just finished watching a 40 minute interview that Robert Scoble conducted with Julie Larson-Green, where she walked him through the new UI. If you’re curious, this is probably the best source of info.