The ribbon file blunderfest

I already mentioned the lack of file open icon, and previously I have talked about the ridiculous blob. And the initial flashing they had to incorporate to tell us its a button.

But when you actually get closer it just gets sillier – I really wouldn’t have thought that was possible!

When you click and look, if you decide to cancel and move to the traditional cancel location (lower right) and click that button, does it close the file open dialog/ribbon?


Or does it close Excel?

Everyone I have asked (and me) has accidentally closed Excel numerous times before eventually learning that this particular piece of the interface is not ‘normal’.

In fact to cancel that thing you click anywhere else in Excel – and Excel ignores the click but closes the dialog! How ridiculous is that?

They have created a thing that is not as powerful or controllable as a dialog, but is too big and intrusive to be a menu or toolbar so they butchered an existing UI concept – the click away to cancel menu concept to work with this quasi dialog. But dialogs never worked like that before or in other applications. So now Office is the most friction-full application in the widows world (excluding perhaps Ulead products).

I won’t talk about the pain of the new file formats and the shock inexperienced users go through on seeing all the spreadsheet types you can save as.

So the ribbon file/blob shambles:

  1. Its massive
  2. its not really ‘in’ the command part of the UI
  3. No one knew it was a button
  4. the flashing just worries new users
  5. The cancel button actually closes Excel!
  6. Its full of those inconsistent dual controls pretending to be a single
  7. combines the worst of menus with the worst of dialogs
  8. Why is Excel options there? its not related to files its related to the application

From start to end I think the blob epitomises everything that is wrong with the Effluent UI, and it really shows just how polished the proper Windows style guidelines UI had become. The ribbon confuses and scares beginners and regularly wrong-foots experiences users. A stunning piece of work!

(have a good weekend)



11 Responses to “The ribbon file blunderfest”

  1. Bob Phillips Says:

    Ah, but you have to admit, pinning files on the MRU is great!. It would be better if pinned files all congrgated at the bottom of the list.

    BTW, I nearly thought we wern’t going to get one today, my palms were getting all sweaty. I have enjoyed this weeks blogs immensely, and I think the one on the pixel/command count should be emailed to all MS UI designers.

  2. Bob Phillips Says:

    Just noticed Toggle Ribbon at the foot of your piccie. What does that do, or what is it as it looks like a workbook, and how did it get there? My blob dropdown stops at close.

  3. Mathias Says:

    I think it’s time to rename this blog – something like “Shred the Ribbon”, maybe?

  4. Simon Says:

    nah, I love the ribbon, and this is ribbon lovers week.
    I’ll lay off it for a while once I have this little lot off my chest.

  5. Bill D Says:

    Long time lurker…

    I like your blog, but the anti-2007 sometimes goes a little far for me. Give MS a little credit for trying. Some things work well (pivot tables, some formatting, some functions) and others don’t (the orb)

    To poke a liitle fun: good to see you are still using Win 98/00 mode. Anyone who has purchased a new computer in the last 1/2+ decade hasn’t had a Windows Toolbar that looks like yours unless they have purposely made it look that way.

    Seriously, maybe one of the positive unintended consequences of 2007 is to get people to use the keyboard more. I still know very intelligent people who don’t use CTRL-X/V to cut or paste, but do use the icon buttons.

    Anyone who wants to click on a button rather than the ESC key to exit a dialog box (or other UI construct) deserves whatever happens to them. If you click on Exit Excel then you should expect to Exit Excel.

    UI is a lot about habit. Everyone should challenge their assumptions.

  6. Simon Says:

    Bill – to take your points in order:
    1. I do give MS little credit, I have lots of time for the product teams, the 2007/2010 UI team sadly undermine all their good work.

    2. I reset as much as I can to ‘old’ because old was when MS cared about performance and simplicity and not so much pointless cycle sapping eye candy. The next pc I buy will have XP classic too, if it has Windows at all.

    Keyboard – agreed, but only because they messed up the button concept – they havent improved keyboard access just not broken it as badly as buttons.

    Exit = exit fair point. Often if you use the mouse to get into something its common to try to use it to get out.

    UI/habit I agree, but habits can make efficiency, constant relearning destroys efficiency.

    The ribbon is a pitiful UI compared to the consistent, easy to learn Windows guidelines it replaces. It’s not ‘designed’, its thrown together. Or at least its not designed for interaction, perhaps designed to look ‘good’ whatever that means.

  7. Jon Peltier Says:

    This stuff could be in a File tab, or in the Home tab if you remove the Style junk. And Options should be in an Options tab.

    They wanted to get rid of Tools > Options, instead we have The Orb.

  8. Stephane Rodriguez Says:

    On a serious note, the move towards shredding the File menu (especially this name) is consistent with the more connected move that has been introduced in Office 2007 (spreadsheet from sharepoint, soon from the cloud, …). The notion of File is too restricted. Microsoft wants users to think in terms of being serviced from (subscribed) objects, which is a new concept (that is in fact their selling point, a new lock-in).

    And since it always takes at least two product cycles for those guys to implement a feature, I guess that will become more obvious in Office 2010.

    As for the rest, what they call ribbon is really basically a way to make it more Mac-like and more web-like, i.e. no right-click. To me it’s consistent. It’s awful, lame, incredible poorly designed and implemented, but it’s consistent.

  9. Blue Ribbon Interface | PTS Blog Says:

    […] The ribbon file blunderfest […]

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

    […] about the Ribbon and other parts of the Fluent UI in Excel 2007 has prompted me to respond. Read the ribbon file blunderfest, where Simon says (I snipped a few bits out here for brevity, and the bold is mine): I already […]

  11. Adam Vero Says:

    Again I found myself making a bid for the world’s longest comment so I wrote it up where I could format it properly and make it readable.
    In short, to me it looks and behaves pretty much like I would expect a menu to behave:
    – It appears from a button above it, and remains in that fixed position (unlike normal dialog which are windows which can be moved about).
    – It has items which when hovered over reveal sub-menus of related items. The ones which do this are correctly indicated with a small arrow to the right.
    – Since it is not a dialogue, it has no “X” close button in the window title bar because it does not have a title bar. (as an aside, I would wager this is just as popular a method of closing an unwanted dialogue as going for the Cancel button)
    More here:

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