Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Let's Talk About Customization

How many people customize their UI?

"One topic that has come up frequently in our private beta newsgroups as well as here in blog comments from time to time is the issue of customization.

As with every component of the Office 2007 user interface redesign, we put a lot of thought into how much customization to provide; today I'm going to try to walk you through our thought process.

Many of you have been passionate in conveying feedback that you wish the UI had absolute customizability. As in my article on the size of the Ribbon, I'm going to lay the facts out on the table and hopefully it will help you to at least understand the rationale behind the decisions we made (even if you wish we had made different ones.)

What is Customization?

There are many aspects to customization in a software user interface. The ability to change the visual appearance, to change preferences, and to turn pieces of the UI on or off are all aspects of customization.

Most frequently among power users, the term "customization" is used to represent the ability certain programs have to add, remove, and relocate commands within the UI.

The History of Customization in Office

Command Bars, introduced in Office 97, were kind of a nirvana of customization capabilities. With Command Bars, you could change virtually anything imaginable within the organization of the menus and toolbars: create new ones, move buttons from toolbars to menus and back, use a built-in icon editor to directly edit the pixels of the icons, etc.

Unfortunately, this flexibility came at a price in terms of the complexity of Command Bars and the kinds of layouts and controls it could support. One of the reasons that many of the prior attempts to simplify the UI were unsuccessful was that any feature had to work within this ultra-customizable framework where you could never predict where a control might live or how it might be presented to the user.

There were downsides for normal users as well. When we go on site visits to watch people use Office 97-2003 in their place of business, we often find that Office has been ravaged by the effects of accidental customization.

In fact, one of the most frequent questions we are asked by people during on-site usability research is: "How can I get the menus back to the top of the window?"

Because of the ultimate flexibility of Command Bars, you can make one small misplaced click and suddenly the menu bar is docked to the left side of the screen or floating in space. Of course, this could have been improved somewhat by some sensible measures such as locking the UI by default, but it does illustrate the different ways a power user and a more typical user think about the same feature."   continued ...   (Via Jensen Harris)

Very few people customize the toolbars. - User Interface Design, Human Computer Interaction (HCI), Ergonomics

Very few people customize the toolbars


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