Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 29th Aug 2011 22:27 UTC
Windows Ah yes, Windows Explorer. One of the oldest parts of Windows, and yet, it's far from perfect. It's hated less than, say, the Finder (but that's no achievement), but most geeks I know aren't particularly fond of it either. For Windows 8, Microsoft is going to make the biggest change ever to Explorer's interface: it's getting the ribbon treatment.
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When I was in college, one of my computer science professors pointed out to us that changing how a feature works in a program costs money - not that it costs money in development (which it does) but that it costs money to every employer whose employees must spend time learning or relearning how to use the feature.

In a program with a relatively small user-base, it's not necessarily a big deal. But with a popular program such as Microsoft Office or Windows Explorer, it can be huge. Even if it only takes a few minutes for each person to relearn how to use a feature after it's been changed, the sheer number of users can put the total cost in the millions of dollars. Employers end up wasting money on employees relearning whath they already know. So, unless the changes are going to provide a large benefit in productivity, it's better not to make them. And redesigning the whole menu? That could easily cost hours of productivity per person as they each take the time to relearn how to use the program. And with millions of users, there's a decent chance that the total cost would be in the billions.

Now, it's probably not as big a deal to change Explorer as it is to change Office, since it's much simpler, and obviously not all programs have the user base to cost millions of dollars to the economy as a whole due to making UI changes, but for something like key Windows programs, which just about everyone uses, you could argue that it's irresponsible to make major changes when they are not clearly much better. And it's been very rare that I've heard anyone say anything positive about the ribbon interface. I think that I've see more positive comments about it here than I've ever read or heard up till now. From what I've seen, most people hate it.

Changes like this cause serious harm to productivity unless the resultant UI is a marked improvement which has serious productivity gains, which the ribbon does not provide. I'd love to see the ribbon interface die out completely. About the only saving grace at this point is that it hasn't caught on outside of Microsoft (yet).

And if the ribbon isn't a marked improvement in productivity, then it will ultimately cost productivity due to the time required to learn it, and that costs money. But since it doesn't really cost Microsoft money, and they can try and use it as a selling point for their new program or OS, I guess that they just don't care.

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