Microsoft is driving the future of its Office interface and design today and involves major changes to the traditional ribbon interface.
The software giant has been gradually improving Office with its Fluent Design system over the past two years – adding new icons, a dark mode and revising the ribbon toolbar, making it smaller and easier to use.
The next stage of Microsoft Office design makes the company focus even more on simplicity.
“The next wave of changes in Microsoft 365 UX goes even further, lessening the colors of the application header tags and exploring adaptive commands,” explains Jon Friedman, corporate vice president of design and research at Microsoft.
“This allows you to move a simplified toolbar across the screen to where you find it most useful, using progressive disclosure to reveal commands contextually.”
This adaptive command will see the Office ribbon interface replaced by a toolbar that can be undocked to float nearby actions that you are performing in documents with contextual commands.
Microsoft is currently exploring how this interface will work, but some of the design details the company is bringing about today will be released in a year or two, according to Friedman.
Microsoft originally introduced its ribbon interface in Office 2007, and now the company is ready to go further. Microsoft has gradually simplified the ribbon on mobile devices and the web, but the new designs shared today are certainly a big step beyond the ribbon.
Other changes include a simple application icon at the top of the applications to indicate which Office application you are using and the centralized search or command bar in the center of the stage.
Microsoft has emphasized this search and command bar interface in Office in recent years and is a feature that also exists in Microsoft Teams.
“We are going to go even further in our integrated suite research to bring relevant information directly to your fingertips,” says Friedman.
The purpose of all these changes is the idea of generating productivity gains, reducing unnecessary distractions and focusing on tasks.
“Throughout the process, we are basing everything we have built on in-depth research on the nuances of attention,” explains Friedman.
“Some moments require prolonged and sustained concentration. Others, like many scenarios for mobile devices, are great for multitasking. When designing for multiple cognitive states, experiences focused on the entire Microsoft 365 ecosystem minimize external distractions, decrease automatic interruptions and initial flow. “
It is unclear exactly when these changes will arrive in Office applications, the web and elsewhere in Microsoft 365. “While some of these changes will be released within a year or two, others will still be very exploratory,” says Friedman.