Pixel Envy


People care about the pixels a lot.


And why not? Few things elicit as deep of an emotional response than how something looks. Is the design pleasing? Does it fit my style? Does it fit its purpose? Is it beautiful? Is it
practical? Will it wear well with time?


When we first revealed the concepts behind the Office 2007 UI early last autumn, the initial feedback primarily consisted of people sharing their visceral reactions on how it looked. What about the gray… it looks a bit like brushed metal. Are they trying to copy Apple? It doesn’t look friendly enough. It looks too friendly! It’s too decorative. It’s too plain!


Of course, as I mentioned even on Day 1 of the big reveal, the visual
appearance you’ve been seeing is only temporary. Yet, the screenshots have been
passed around so much, duplicated and analyzed, that most of the conversation on
the web still revolves around the visuals.


Not that I’m surprised by that; I’d probably be in the exact same boat if I weren’t personally involved in the project. I totally get how deeply felt the emotional reaction to a visual design can be… I’m a bit obsessed by it too.


And that’s why we’ve been working so hard on the true visual design for Office 2007 since last summer. Designing, refining, tweaking, beautifying, simplifying… trying to create an attractive yet
practical design which complements the look of the operating system but which also fits hand-in-glove with the new interaction model.


Why? Because we know a lot of people do care about the pixels. We do too.


T-1

Comments (22)

  1. Phil Wilks says:

    So…. when do we get the first screen shot of the real visual design?

    I rather like the design in the images posted to date — I hope you don’t go too far towards the Office 2003 look.

  2. More than pixels, I want to know if this system will become available to other Windows devleopers. If history repeats, it will be up to third party developers to create their own.

    Imagine if every application had its own menu bar! Well, I guess you don’t have to imagine it because we’ve already seen it on the Windows platform. Every time there’s a pixel tewak, developers need to adopt their code to the new style or look out of place. I can’t believe the users and developers tolerate this.

  3. Brandon Bloom says:

    I concur with Steven Fisher.

    Jensen, can you comment on the availability of the Ribbon as a supported windows control for independent developer use? Personally, I’m praying for a .NET version and a "ribbon design principals" guide.

  4. ping pong says:

    "Every time there’s a pixel tewak, developers need to adopt their code to the new style or look out of place"

    I curse the developers who feel the urge to follow most recent MS Office redress. Do you really think your application must look like that? What’s wrong with standard comctl32 look? Are you *really* going to sell less copies if your app has no icons in menus?

    I see the argument for ribbon GUI components being available for 3rd party apps. Don’t believe this will happen, though.

  5. John Topley says:

    Surely Microsoft are between a rock and a hard place with making the Office UI available to third-parties? If they were to do so then they’d be accused of cutting off the oxygen supply from the likes of Developer Express.

    And what is the signifance of "T-1" at the bottom of today’s post?!

  6. Joshua says:

    My guess on the T-1 is that there is T minus 1 days until they reveal the final look of Office 2007. I would expect if this is the case that it will happen at CeBIT tomorrow.

  7. Lex says:

    That’s what I thought when I saw T-1 too.

    I’m ashamed at been mildly excited over seeing the new L&F for a business productivity product…

  8. Jote says:

    I’m quite, shall we say, skeptical about the "Every time there’s a pixel tewak, developers need to adopt their code to the new style or look out of place" line. Even Microsoft can’t get it right. Just look at Vista. Explorer, Internet Explorer, Media Player, Calendar, Photo Gallery. These applications are supposed to have unified GUI. Yes, supposed. Virtually all of the mentioned differ regarding search box, back-forward, address bar control placements. Explorer has the back-fwd buttons on the glass, Photo Gallery and WMP on the darker bar. The "toolbar" buttons have "text labels on right" style in Explorer, yet in Photo Gallery they have the "text labels below". Explorer has the address bar on the glass, WMP and Photo Gallery below the dark bar. Consistency anyone? 🙁

  9. It’s hard _not_ to believe you when you say you care about pixels. 2007 Office will shure look attractive. But what about consistency? Might Office 2007 just be as, say, KDE – pleasing to the eye, but a closed ecosystem, concerning consistency and usability? Experience tells me not to have too high hopes. Please, UI folks at Microsoft: prove me wrong.

  10. Steven Fisher says:

    "’m quite, shall we say, skeptical about the "Every time there’s a pixel tewak, developers need to adopt their code to the new style or look out of place" line. Even Microsoft can’t get it right."

    Which is, in a nutshell, exactly why the current "one implementation per application" system is so stupid.

    I appreciate that Microsoft needs to have product to sell, but if part of their product is redefining the way a Windows application should look (or worse, like in this case, behave) this code should be available to other developers. Users don’t understand "Oh, that’s Microsoft’s thing. We can’t use it." They just want us to look modern.

  11. Bram Pitoyo says:

    It’s so true, because three of the most important thing in UI design is consistency, consistency and consistency — which Office 2007 haven’t showed yet.

    I’m not trying to bash Microsoft, by the way, I’m just saying that Apple did a better job at being consistent at aligning their UI any many array of Applications. Is it consistent enough? I don’t think so, and it’s going increasingly not so (the OS X 10.4 look, for example.)

    So, whatever the final decision will be, I hope it has the same look-and-feel with Vista (which was already very inconsistent within itself as one of us mentioned.) Maybe Microsoft is nowhere near Apple, design-wise, but I hope they’re getting closer with the launching of the Office 2007 UI.

  12. "…but if part of their product is redefining the way a Windows application should look (or worse, like in this case, behave) this code should be available to other developers."

    Disagree. The new UI is not defining how a Windows application should look. As Jensen stated early on, the new UI is defining how Microsoft Office should look and behave. It’s not meant as a general UI design for all applications.

  13. Zian says:

    "It’s not meant as a general UI design for all applications."

    I’d take that even further. In some applications, there shouldn’t ever be a need for a ribbon.

    Many times, the menubar and toolbar system still works well.

  14. Mikey says:

    T – 1 ?

    Trimester Minus One, perhaps.

    Does it mean Office 2007 RTM ships on June 8 ?

  15. George says:

    Since when has T stood for Trimester? I think NASA should be told!

  16. Frank Schrader says:

    For Steven Fisher: "Imagine if every application had its own menu bar!" I don’t have to imagine. Any of us who used computers back in the 80s know exactly what that’s like–no two programs did things the same way. How about using the ESC key to bring up menus (MS-Word). Not that there isn’t room for improvement but we’ve come a long way.

  17. ChrisC says:

    To "ping pong", "Jote" et al:

    You wrote: "Every time there’s a pixel tewak, developers need to adopt their code to the new style or look out of place"

    The problem isn’t that *I* believe this

    The problem is that the people who pay me to design/implement applications think this way… wasting hours of my valuable time screwing with stuff that, frankly, annoys the snot out of me.

    If I wanted to worry about details like individual pixels I would still be coding in C.  Wrap it up for me, charge my employer $250 for the component, and let me get on with the process – I can’t show a good ROI when I write an app in four months then spend another two to six months tinkering on the interface.  

    And I know the UI design should have been done in the beginning and signed off on… I hope it works that way at your company, but the real world doesn’t work that way in my experience.  In the ‘real world’ the people that approved the funding (based on an assumed ROI and/or business need) are a level above the people telling me to not release because I should screw with the interface some more.

    Compton’s Fourth Law: Users don’t know what they want, but they know what they don’t want when you show them what they asked for.

      -Chris C.

  18. As was to be expected, the publishing of new Office 2007 screenshots last Thursday brought along a scary…

  19. She was a woman in her sixties who had big blonde hair and would sing“ Good Ship Lollipop” and these sort of naughty songs, like“ I’ m Your Mailman” – I’ ll lift your knockers and ring your bell and you’ ll think I am swell, I’ m your mailman! I can come