Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Microsoft defends use of ribbon in Windows 8

Microsoft's choice to add the ribbon interface to Windows 8's Explorer has triggered some complaints, but the company is sticking by its decision.

Posting another installment of the "Building Windows 8" blog last Friday, Windows and Windows Live Division president Steven Sinofsky responded to user feedback over some recent blogs, including one from August 29 in which the company revealed that Windows Explorer would sport a ribbon interface.

That bit of news prompted a fair number of user comments, especially from many unhappy with the ribbon.

"We chose the ribbon mechanism, and to those that find that a flawed choice, there isn't much we can do other than disagree," Sinofsky wrote. "We were certain, and this proved out, that the dislike of the ribbon is most intense in the audience of this blog."

Despite the complaints, Sinofsky claims that satisfaction with software that uses the ribbon is much higher and that its usage is broader and deeper. But still, the company seems to be resigned to the fact that some people just don't like it.

"We also know a very small set of people remain unhappy," Sinofsky said. "That was true in versions before the introduction of the Ribbon mechanism, though obviously for different reasons. It might be the case that no matter what we do, there will be a small set of people that are not satisfied?"

Sinofsky did admit that there's been a lot of "back and forth" at Microsoft about the ribbon, specifically whether it's geared for beginners or more advanced users.

Looking at the history of how a user interfaces with Windows, menus used to be designed for beginners, while the keyboard was adopted by power users, according to Sinofsky. Context menus (popup menus triggered by a click of the right mouse button) were originally geared for advanced users but grew popular with everyone. And now Microsoft finds that menus and toolbars are favored by more advanced users.

The goal at Microsoft, says Sinofsky, has been try to unify all these different ways of interfacing with Windows to make things simpler and the screen less cluttered, one reason the company has gravitated toward the ribbon.