Giving You Fitts

One of the most well-understood and salient principles underlying the ergonomics of graphical user interface design is Fitts’ Law. Named for Paul Fitts, a psychologist at Ohio State University, Fitts’ Law is a mathematical model of fine motor control which predicts how long it takes to move from one position to another as a function…

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Where do the Smiles go?

Over the last month, you’ve sent us thousands and thousands of comments about Office 2007 Beta 2 using the Send a Smile tool. For taking the time to install our beta and writing down your thoughts (positive and negative) I am very grateful. A few bloggers have posited that “it’s not worth sending feedback because…

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Usability: Art and Science

Yesterday morning we were sitting in the office of one of our usability researchers watching some DVCAM tapes from tests conducted a few weeks ago. We had a discussion that got me thinking about a set of tests we ran several years ago to determine the discoverability characteristics of contextual tabs. At the time, contextual…

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Usability Stockholm Syndrome

One of the many ways we test designs with real people is through usability testing. Although in Office 2007 we’ve greatly expanded the range, scope, and types of testing we’ve done to include everything from remote testing to extremely early deployments to longitudinal studies, we still do our share of standard usability tests. What is…

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Prototyping With PowerPoint

A couple of weeks ago when I talked about The Feature Bob Invented, I mentioned that we use PowerPoint as an easy way to prototype UI, especially in the early stages of design. A number of people have asked me for more details, and so today I thought I’d go through it step-by-step. We use…

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Measuring Results

A couple of us on the UI team were having a conversation about the comments to yesterday’s post.  Someone pointed out that it appears we’ve discovered a community on the internet of people just as obsessed about UI as we are around here. 🙂 I wanted to build on yesterday’s conversation by helping you to…

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The Feature Bob Invented

It was a cold winter afternoon early in 2004, and we were in the midst of doing some of the first usability tests with a working, clickable prototype of the Ribbon.  (Prior to that, most of our prototypes had been paper-based.) This particular prototype was put together in PowerPoint as a fairly inexpensive way to…

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Quality Is Usability

We have a number of ongoing, long-term projects designed to help us test the overall usability and learning curve of the new Office 12 user interface. One of the most important tasks has been a full deployment of Office 12 Beta 1 within a local company.  We chose a dozen people with all different job…

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Paper Prototypes

Often people ask us "how did you come up with the ideas for the Office 12 user interface?" That’s a big question.  And the answer isn’t simple. What is easier to describe is the process by which we work to validate the design choices that we make as we go along.  The very first ideas…

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Fast At Any Speed

One of the major engineering feats associated with shipping Office is making sure it runs fast enough.  This effort, which we classify under the broad heading of “performance” includes responsiveness (how quickly a button responds when you click it), throughput (how fast Excel can recalculate a spreadsheet), and “perceived” performance (do the fade out of…

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