(…an open letter to Microsoft about why I, and many others, are not buying MS Office 2007 or 2010)
Okay, I’m shocked. I had actually believed Microsoft was interested in making products that would sell. I’m seeing “10 year power user” and “15 year power user” and the like in these ‘we hate the Ribbon’ threads. I’ll top all of those; I was considered a power user when Word and Multiplan were the productivity tools for Windows 286.
Nowadays, I’m a writer, meaning that I actually use word processing for a living. Back in the late ’80s, we had something we called a WUI—a Windows User Interface—in response to that upstart, the Macintosh, that had a UI claiming that everything worked according to the same intuitive plan.
The idea of a user interface was so that we could get more work done with less grief. That’s kind of the opposite of the Ribbon’s blatant disregard for having a consistent UI. And by the way; for those of us that use both keyboards as well as pointing devices (why should their be “keyboard-centric” or “mouse-centric” users?), the Ribbon gets in the way of all of our former ways of getting the job done, but is less efficient and more time consuming to use after you get ‘expert’ with it!
Stick this little tidbit in your pocket, Microsoft: I’m not buying anything above Office 2003, and oh-by-the-way, I’ve already bought that. As in, I’m not spending money on Office 2007 or 2010. Why? Because I’ve used both of those products plenty at short-sighted MS-centric clients’ places, and I don’t just dislike them, I positively hate them because of the Ribbon.
“What? Someone’s not buying our products?” Durn tootin.’
Why would we buy something that makes life worse? If a product gets in the way of getting the job done it makes work more like work and less like living. If it comes from a company whose attitude is “this is the way it’s going to be from now on,” who then adds that particularly galling slap in the face, “get used to it,” I might never buy from that company again, and moreover I might actively convert away form that company’s product line. This goes far beyond simple indifference toward numerically progressive product releases; this is me now being ‘offended and emotionally charged to jump-ship.’
A small point that seems to be forgotten is that it is the customer who is writing your paycheck, not the other way around. We don’t have to “get used to it.” Or, put another way, we would lose all pretext of manners and civility, and retort with “Get used to having smaller profits, Microsoft.”
Please get it through your heads that it’s a really, really bad idea to confuse, discourage, confound, or befuddle your customers. You want to make customers happy, not to do the opposite. Happy is kind of the opposite of hate. When customers are happy, you get paid. When you piss them off, they start opening their eyes to what else is out there, and nowadays, their are some decent choices. Whether or not those choice are free, the net result is the same for Microsoft; no income.
By the way, for every customer that’s taking time to be vocal about how much they hate the Ribbon, there are a hundred more that don’t have the time or are simply too pissed to care enough to tell you where you blew it.
Another tip, don’t make test groups out of people who’ve never used a computer before. That’s just not going to give you the product feedback you need; especially not for word processing or spread sheets.
If you torture the data enough, it will confess.
Your test groups should be the people that are spending money on your products, meaning the people who depend on word processing and spread sheets. Those people want an interface that is intuitive, and doesn’t require hand-eye coordination just to do the most rudimentary of tasks. Don’t use a focus group of people who, in this modern age, are just getting around to using a computer; they’re not the people you absolutely need to please.
If you are going to axe the features that make your product the best choice, and replace them with an inflatable dartboard, then your product has stopped being the best choice and, quite frankly, we are going to axe you.
When people stop using keyboards to compose documents, then and only then you can probably get away from using keyboard-friendly menus, but until then you might want to zoom out and get a wide angel shot. The big picture should show you:
who your paying customers are
what they want
whether they are perceiving this or that new thing as a good thing or not.
And if you’re thinking the Ribbon is simply “ahead of its time,” try to bear in mind a couple of things; 1) products that are too far ahead of their time sink companies, and 2) some products, like the inflatable dartboard, or glow-in-the-dark combat fatigues, are not actually the wave of the future, they’re just wrong.