There has been a lot of criticism regarding Excel 2007, particularly about the new chart engine, the UI inconsistencies and the Ribbon. Jorge yesterday concluded that Excel 2007 is Useless and Jon wrote a comprehensive analysis about Changes to Charting in Excel 2007 where he expressed his concerns regarding the new Charting. In 2006 Stephen Few reviewed Excel 2007 charting and concluded Excel 2007 charting Preview of an Opportunity Missed. Charley Kyd did a survey about How Do Business Users Like the Ribbon and came back with the result that about 56% of all respondents had a negative opinion about the Ribbon
One criticism I don’t share, however, is the criticism about the need to have the Ribbon UI at all. I can understand that the Ribbon isn’t popular as it means you have to relearn a complete new UI paradigm and I have to admit that I have my problems to learn it. I have been using the Excel menu for more than 16 years now, learned all the commands and shortcuts and now I feel like I felt when I opened Excel 4 the first time. I would invest the time in learning the Ribbon if Excel 2007 did not have all the other problems mentioned and criticized above, that still hinder me to use Excel 2007 in a productive environment.
Jensen Harris and his User Experience Team did a very good job at Microsoft designing the Ribbon as a new UI paradigm for feature rich applications like Microsoft Office. You can learn about the design process and design considerations of the Ribbon in Ribbon UI Blog. I participated in the non-public and later the public beta and enjoyed following Jensens blog. You could see that Microsoft really cared about Usability and good a User Interface. You could see from build to build how the Ribbon UI developed and got better and better.
But then one build the new Office 2007 UI Themes were introduced and all my enthusiasm for the Ribbon went away. The new themed UI got all kinds of glow effects, effects of light you should avoid in Data Visualization and Effective User Interfaces.
I’ve opened Paint and redesigned the Ribbon UI applying the Rules of Effective Chart Design. Basically, I got rid of all glow effects and effects of light, and replaced the Office Button with the classical File Menu.
This presents a clean, visually easy to scan, User Interface that still has all the advantages of the Ribbon UI. Maybe Jensen Harris will read this post, so Jensen please keep up the good Usability work at Microsoft. But please, Pimp Down My Ribbon!