In a Medium post on Tuesday, Microsoft detailed a variety of major changes coming to the Office user interface. The company said that it wants to focus its efforts on simplicity and make Word, Excel, and other prominent productivity tools much easier for people to use.
"The next wave of Microsoft 365 UX changes will go even further by fading brand colors from app headers and exploring adaptive commanding," Jon Friedman, corporate vice president of design and research at Microsoft, said in the post. "This lets you move a simplified toolbar around the screen to wherever you find it most helpful, using progressive disclosure to contextually reveal commands."
Simpler is good thing. This may work out the way Microsoft hopes, but as recent "refreshes" to operating systems and mobile apps have proven, software design overhauls can go horribly wrong.
Microsoft learned that the hard way with Windows Vista. The company had wanted to reimagine its operating system in the early 2000s, and it did so with Vista. Users balked at the dramatic design changes and many corporate users decided against implementing the operating system across their offices. Soon after, Microsoft retreated to a more traditional Windows design and has stuck to it ever since.
With this new, reimagined Office, Microsoft is envisioning a platform that replaces its ubiquitous ribbon interface with a toolbar that delivers contextual commands. The company also wants to make the Office experience uniform across mobile devices and laptops-desktops. It might make at least some of the updates available as early as next year.
If that doesn't scare business owners, it should. While it sounds nice to have a redesigned interface, in a corporate environment, productivity reigns supreme. Software tweaks on mission-critical applications can put a real damper on productivity--and profitability.
It's easy to envision a user who for years has relied on Office to perform certain tasks finding it difficult to navigate the new interface. And along the way, they might discover that the tools they use most often aren't in the same spots where they'd previously been.
Companies, therefore, should think seriously about not deploying Office when the new updates come out. As flashy as it may be, the new Office could ultimately cause real issues. And that could be a drag on your company's performance, not to mention cash flow.