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Sunday, December 10, 2006


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I was thinking on posting about Joel's article. To me the real solution is a software product line where a short interview allows a user to generate their own customized solution with the 20% of the features that they need.

I posted a little about this some time ago and I think you'll hear a lot more about these approachs in 07 and 08:

Nick, you are one of my 'shareware heroes' and I absolutely love your insights on software development and the microISV-ing in general.

It's a pity you don't write often on these topics. It would be great if you share more of your philosophy on software design.

Joel is spot on with this, and I think one example of this flaw can be found with what the Microsoft Office team did with their Ribbon. They all but hid their keyboard shortcuts while adding larger and more icons to their 'ribbon' — all under the guise of showing off more of say, Word's features. And instead of taking advantage of current widescreens and allowing that huge ribbon to be docked as a sidebar, they said no.

Without customization, Office's ribbon becomes a 'take-it-or-leave-it' UI, making Microsoft appear to be fascinated with what they "could" do rather than what customers wanted.

Another option is of course to actually monitor this. E.g. as per google toolbar ask users if they mind their usage info being stored and polled to a data collection service and see which are the actual features users are using.

How valuable could that info be?

Jensen Harris' blog (http://blogs.msdn.com/jensenh/default.aspx) covered how Microsoft addressed this issue in great detail - in particular drawing on an immense usage database collected through their customer experience programme.

The general consensus appears to be positive towards the beta of Office 2007 and the interface certainly doesn't seem threatening despite the immense feature-set of the MS Office products.

Thanks, Boris - that's very flattering. I agree that I should write about developement more often, and I hope to (finally) do that over the coming months.

Zaine, while I understand your point, I have to disagree with you about the ribbon UI. I think in Office 2007, Microsoft really paid attention to what their customers wanted: a simpler UI that enabled them to more easily focus on the task at hand.

I agree with Boris, Nick. I'm not a developer, but I use a lot of software on different platforms and I know what I like and I find it interesting to learn the process behind it. Often I will try an application because I like the developer's work and style. That's certainly what started me with FeedDemon! :-)

Slightly off topic Nick, but have you ever considered using TestRecorder (optionally of course) in a beta and parsing the results to see how at least your beta testers use FeedDemon and TopStyle. I know they are both "open apps" so you are "80%" there. ;-) I've hought about this off and on over the years and a recent podcast of Jon Udell as well as your blog is making me think about doing it in my own apps.

good points, and, if your toolbars are customizable anyway, users who want 'hidden' features can add those buttons themselves if they want.

Greg, I have thought about using TestRecorder, but not for that purpose. That's an interesting idea...

That is a good idea, but one would have to make dang sure that any potential beta testers knew darn well it was being used (and why)


I've experimented with intelligent UI's before such that the application monitors what the user does and moves those options to the forefront to make them more available. After a while, the application often looks very different between users.

I think this technique is something to consider in future UI's.


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