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The Office 2013 UI, as captured by Peter Bright of Ars Technica.
Wow, that is massive fail. It reminds me of all the things I hated about the Google redesign, except much more ruthlessly implemented. This is what happens when you remove all depth and texture in a UI in some misguided crusade against skeuomorphism.
Instead of simplifying the interface, they just softened all of the UI. You’d could achieve the same effect by bumping up the brightness to maximum on your monitor so that all the soft UI elements get washed away. All the UI elements, especially in the ribbon, look like they are just floating in free space. I didn’t even realize this was an email application at first.
with nearly 30% of the email client market – and with the office suite making all that money for Microsoft – they must be doing something wrong…
There’s white space over there, quick let’s put something on it!
I do give MSFT props for trying to take their product to the next level, I just wish that streamlining and balancing relative importance was a higher priority.
I really wonder what the design process was like. And whatsup with that smiley-face in the corner? Should’ve been a sad face.
I’ve posted a different view a couple of months ago:
There’s nothing wrong with it. Outlook is fine and it’s just a nicer looking skin.
But it’s minimal! Our buttons don’t have gradients! We’re rockin’ the grayscale!
I agree with Chad. For me, the Metro UI is actually a welcome shift from the hyper-realistic UI’s we’ve come to expect from apps. But it seems like the 2013 Office suite doesn’t implement Metro UI so much as it simply strips all the color out and leaves a bunch of floating icons! It would be nice to see the Office UI team take some cues from the Azure team. The Azure control panel is a thing of beauty!
I heard it’s got a kickstand?
Looks like a terminal app.
The problem, as others have intimated, is that they have not addressed any of the structural problems of the UI. Improving an interface design has to start with the underlying structure, the actual layout, and choices made about what to include, what to leave out or hide, and what gets priority. There’s so little clear hierarchy or any sense of overarching order here. As has been pointed out, they stripped away texture and surface detail in order to make it “minimalist”. This is not minimalist! It’s just confusing and ugly. Minimalism is actually thinking deeply about how it gets put together, and making tough choices about where to say no.
I guess Microsoft is still Microsoft after all.
I have no words.
Most colleagues I know do not want to get away from Outlook. They want all these functions. They want them in front of them all the time. They feel save.
It’s a get-things-done UI. And if you use it every day, why shouldn’t it be more complex than the a UI for casual emailing? We must not reduce everything to useless simplicity.
Here are a couple different deconstructions of the screenshot above. First, a look at the interface without any text:
Next, a look at only the text:
Balmer: “a new generation that brings some of the same boldness and beauty that we’ve shown you in Windows 8 and Windows Phone”
Looks 15 different kinds of terrible. I guess we’re in an age where people like to not know where things are.
What saddens me about this is that Microsoft definitely have a great team in place who could redesign Office to be awesome under Metro.
But this screenshot feels like the result of an outsourced team being handed a style guide, a deadline, and asked to apply Metro to the existing user interface.
It doesn’t feel like someone who understands Metro’s design principles (or any design principles for that matter) and who also loves Office went in and said “right, how do we solve some of these problems?”
Imagine that on a cheap monitor, calibrated for an eye-searing 9300K, for eight hours a day.
I wish people would stop knee-jerk-hating on things that aren’t perfect. How much software out there is perfect, much less software from Microsoft?
I think it looks a lot better than it does now. The icons alone look much better, although I don’t know why they kept the “brushstroke” delete button when a geometric one would fit better. The typography looks great, and I like that they’re bringing it in line with Metro. It’s still a huge mess, but Outlook has always been a bit of a mess because it’s a Swiss army knife, not a dagger.
People in this comment section don’t seem to realize that Outlook isn’t Apple Mail. Outlook is used everywhere by millions of people, and it can’t undergo a complete redesign like other email software can. Just look at how much worse the knee-jerk-hate was for Ribbon, which was a relatively minor change.
I think it looks great for something that was built in 1998 with Frontpage !
What if I want to read the Local Newspaper, Open my Snail Mail, make some Popcorn, or do the Laundry ? Where are the button for those ?
Already waiting for Office 2015 …
“Me too” +1 regarding the new Windows Azure management interface. Mind you, it’s a poor comparison to Office in terms of what you do with it, but it makes the point that there are great design teams at Microsoft. They just happened to live in completely different buildings.
They are so out on deep water right now. I wish they saw the massive outcry for Visual Studio and at least adapted the changes they’ve made there.
I don’t even know what this is… UI? Sketch boxes?
My first response was to think of the latest Google Reader redesign. So much white, so hard to find things. I’m afraid that this is an unfortunate wider design trend* that is not a Microsoft-specific problem.
*cf: infinite scrolling
That really sucks. Beyond that, could MS please stop adding all those stupid formatting tools (color, size, font style, etc..). It’s a flip’n email, not a design tool.
That’s one hell of an awkward user interface. They failed on multiple levels. First, they tried to cram too much into one screen. Second, they did a bad job of cramming too much stuff into one screen. It’s sad, because in other products they’ve shown that they can be good at cramming a lot of stuff into one screen.
Ugly, but you have to remember that, as Morley said, this isn’t Apple Mail. Outlook, along with Word and Excel are THE engine for corporate communications.
MS can’t afford another secretary revolt like the one that went down when they switched to the ribbon. If they move things again, there would be blood in the streets.
I’m no Office power-user, but the ones I talked to almost universally elect to hide the ribbon and use a ‘custom’ bar/ribbon/whatever that they made that put back the little menus and icons like from the pre-ribbon UI.
And yeah, this thing looks like the newest version of Google Reader. Ugly.
I like it !
That is an absolutely terrifying screenshot.
Are they serious? I can’t focus my eyeballs anywhere.
It’s kind of a bummer to see that instead of rethinking the design of the app to fit in with Metro (which is a look i like), they’ve just married the current design with a few Metro elements. i don’t think they’ve gone far enough with it.
This could be so much better :(
i hope this is an early reworking and not close to the final product.
I don’t know you’re all complaining about. Looks good to me.
i hope they keep the smiley face in the upper right too :)
It’s an unintuitive mess. Plain and simple.
Your arguments do not make any sense. Outlook isn’t Apple Mail? And?
Do people in the corporate world have a special gene that makes them appreciate interfaces in a different way? Just because you have a boring job sitting behind a disk 8 hours a day doesn’t mean you are more likely to enjoy cluttered interfaces.
“It they move things again, there will be blood”
That’s like admitting your construction is poorly built and the slightest touch will bring the entire thing down. And you’re right about this one, but it’s an argument for the improvement of the structure, not against.
What Microsoft needs is someone bold who will tell “them” (cough committee cough) how the interface should be, they need someone with a vision.
“And yeah, this thing looks like the newest version of Google Reader. Ugly.”
Well, no. Google Reader, and a lot of Google’s products, are a beautiful example of form following function. Yes, I’m a sucker for minimalist interfaces, but that’s not what makes these Google interfaces great. Google strikes the right balance between knowing what to add, what not to add, and where to place the things they do add. This is not by accident, but by endless A/B testing.
And that’s the beauty of them, you use these tools and never notice anything wrong. That is what makes a great interface. The ugliness that you describe, is entirely subjective.
@BrettAtkin – If it helps, the design ribbon is not shown by default. the user that posted this pinned that ribbon.
The “deconstructions” above made me realize what it is that sent my brain into “argh” mode when seeing the original screenshot.
There’s no sense of a “grid” applied to the interface or the text. Different text elements are frequently several pixels out of alignment with each other, etc. Yet one of the core properties of any good Metro design is exactly that: a well designed grid.
@Graham Peel The idea that “Outlook, along with Word and Excel are THE engine for corporate communications.” is just sad …. time for a new gig, I suspect if your company is still locked into business circa 2003.
I’m surprised you didn’t include PowerPoint … the idea graveyard of middle-managers everywhere.
It’s like Microsoft is trying to be hated. It’s all they’ve known for so long that they can’t do without it anymore, and now they pursue it actively.
On the plus side, they went from wireframe to implemented in 10 minutes.
I heard the smiley face is just the feedback button for bug reporting
I’m pretty definite that design simply has a user colour scheme preference layer turned off (which would vary by user / device)
Look at it people.
It looks like they have just sucked the colour out of the old UI in the name of Metro Design. This looks like a one big work area where the user will get confused as to where the tool bar panels begin and where the work area area begins!
Yes I completely agree that they have taken the Metro UI design too far and I suspect that the designer’s who worked on this is different from the designers who had earlier worked on the Window’s Phone UI, which by the way is gorgeous. They have just blindly implemented the UI language.
What scares me most is the Microsoft Bob icon in the top right.
The main thing this teaches me is that you have to do everything you can to make sure that you don’t become a hostage of your own clients. I’m sure the design team of Office isn’t completely blind, but let’s face it: they are not the ones who decides what’s included in Office, all those big corporate accounts do.
It is actually not that horrible.
This is with all tabs opened.
Just watch the official release. You’ll notice it brings some great things to office:
Balmer: “a new generation that brings some of the same baldness and beauty that we’ve shown you in Windows 8 and Windows Phone”
Maybe the smiley face will take you to a web page that will tell you how Microsoft support has been doing over their last 100 interactions with customers. I wonder where they would have come up with that idea.
Alas this is an MS dumbing everything down to the lowest common denominator. In this case they want Office working on tablets. So let’s take out anything that requires any kind of processing (GPU) power, etc, so that it will work on low powered devices. They are chasing the mythical dream of one OS, one Office suite to rule all devices instead of making devices that all work together and have interfaces that are intuitive and rich for the device in question. MS is making a huge mistake with the Win 8 design for the average desktop user and they are following it up with another huge mistake in Office 2013. It would seem that all decisions are being driven by management with tablets in hand and that is all they use, so they don’t are about anyone else.
OH above: “Its a get-things-done UI”.
If messing with the text formatting in your email is what you need to get done, then this definitely holds true.
@ Valerie P
We are a Fortune 100 company. Microsoft is what grown up companies use.
Memo from Ballmer to office Team:
To make the new web version of office, take the windows version (aka the REAL version), give it a google+ look (remove gradients & textures), and that’s done.
(And don’t fucking touch anything else!)
A basic update and it is a lot less messy :
Microsoft could design the best, most intuitive interface in the world but the typical techno-snobs will hate it for the sake of hating it just because its Microsoft.
Programmer at Basecamp.
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