04 October 2005

Tuned for the Task

I was just reading a post by Steven Sinofsky and he mentions the new UI in Office "12" with this comment

One of the things that has made us very comfortable thinking about change has been the role of new hires and interns in our group. They have seen the work we are doing and take to it right away. In fact they don’t see it as nearly the huge change that folks who have grown up with the products see it. The generation of people that move between TiVo, iPods, and IM have not been indoctrinated by “consistency is all that matters” or the goal of having “one single user experience”. Rather they experience life, and productivity, through a series of programmed experiences each tuned to the task at hand remarkably well. Our job in Office is to build those tuned experiences while integrating the work products seamlessly across the entire range of programs in Office.
In physical life, where phsyical things are created and made, this happens quiet a bit. Design, good design has a lot to do with understanding the process and needs of the user as well as the specific task at hand. I'll give an example. My small yard has grass and in that grass a small plant likes to grow called by us Duvall folk Dandelion. They spread around the yard like crazy and really distroy the look of the lawn. You can go and weed them out, but with their tap root, it's really hard to get them fully gone, and they just come up again, this time closer to the ground. Well, the other day, my neighbor introduced me to a tool that is specifically designed for this weed removal task and as a proud owner, I can say it's perfect for the job. Here's what it looks like and some pictures on how it works: The basic idea is that the suspended nails pierce the broad leaft vegitation and surround the tap root while simulaniously squeezing it, so when you pull up, the whole root comes up. It's perfect. It's called the Weed Hound and the whole Hound Dog web site is full of specially purposed tools. The point is someone actually sat down and worked out how to solve this very specific problem, and by doing so, produced a tool that is aguably not general purpose, but also perfectly suited for maximum effeciency given the specific purpose for which it was intended. The same can be said for Office. When you look at what people do with Office there are certain patterns, problems that show up again and again. It's taking the time to specifically solve those problems in a tuned way that makes the UI changes to Office "12" so exciting.

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