Ribbon Will it – won’t it control thingy

I saw a few people slightly nervous around certain activities in Excel in some of my classes.

Eventually I work out their concern – some of the ‘buttons’ seem to behave differently each time they click them. The inconsistent behaviour unsettled some beginning level users (that alleged target group again)

The Pivot button is just one example – there are plenty of others.

ribbonpivbut1Sometimes when the user hovers over it the bottom bit goes pale, and the top dark,

ribbonpivbut2sometimes the opposite happened. Sometimes they instantly get a pivot, sometimes they get a drop down choice between pivot tabe and pivot chart. For a beginning user this unpredictability is confusing, and for the less confident somewhat scary.

With experience it becomes clear that the lower part has an arrow and hints that it is a drop down, the top is a normal button.

But why oh why did they make it all look like one control, with intermittent behaviour??

And of course it is only certain controls, many are just normal buttons leading to yet further confusion.

In fairness the Fail UI team aren’t the only ones doing this, WordPress have buttons that magically change into drop downs when you click them too.

So this ‘feature’ confuses beginners, and as an experienced user it just annoys me, because I could have had 4 controls of choice in the same space if it was a proper interface. (or had the same 2 in half the space leaving more for my actual work – I once worked on a spreadsheet that was bigger than 20 cols and 30 rows – imagine that!).

Somebody somewhere must like it, is it you?



3 Responses to “Ribbon Will it – won’t it control thingy”

  1. AdamV Says:

    Not me.
    I like that they have some of these things on dropdowns rather than buried or invisible – “Paste values” only two clicks away, for beginners that’s a great start, “Paste special” sounds like a bargain at a DIY store.

    The existence or otherwise of the button / dropdown combo should be made much clearer without hovering all over the place.

    So Paste and Insert Pivot{table|chart} for example should have some kind of divider between the top button and the lower dropdown control to make it clear that there are two different behaviours here. The two halves (now separate controls in effect) should only be highlighted when each one is hovered, not when the other half is pointed at.
    (and since Pivot only has the choice of table or chart, what’s the harm in two buttons rather than a drop down?)

    As an example of the other type, the buttons for Conditional formatting and Margins would not have this division, as they always lead to a further choice, there is no default action.

    The worst case of this being unclear is things like “merge and center” (leaving aside both the incorrect spelling and the overuse of this function which leads to headaches as often as not).
    This looks like a standard combo box / picklist, but in fact is two controls – one for the default action, one for the dropdown.
    And why is “center across selection” not on the list of choices? (I said I’d leave it, but I couldn’t let it lie, could I?)

    Just as bad is the “Insert” button / dropdown. If you select one or more rows or columns, the main button has a default action to insert more of the same. If you select one or more cells, the default action is to blink at you and do nothing useful (except in a table, where insert row above becomes the default).
    Why not at the very least bring up the insert cells dialogue if it is not sure what I am trying to do?

  2. Blue Ribbon Interface | PTS Blog Says:

    […] Ribbon Will it – won’t it control thingy […]

  3. Is the Office button a menu or a dialog box? « Getting IT Right Says:

    […] some of the menu items (such as Save As) have something like that weird dual-purpose behaviour where you can click the button and you get something very like it used to be, or you can hover and […]

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