Thursday, May 29, 2008

Side by Side

This is the first time that I will blog about our Notes activity. In the last time, I heard questions about the design decisions and some comments that we do just imitate the behavior of a large competitor's word processor.

So why not talk about it and start by discussing the Note Side Pane?
But first - for the people not familiar with that - a small introduction: The activity Notes2 addresses the revision of the current notes functionality in Writer. The most significant change is the visibility of the Notes at the side of the document text page, which will be delivered with 3.0.

And this "side" is what we will talk about now.

Position of the Note Side Pane

Some years ago, Microsoft decided to show their notes ("comments") on the document page and therefore resized the page to make room at one side. I consider this solution as sub-optimal, mainly because people struggle to recognize that enlargement - no real visual clue. Think of a person who opens a document and hits the print button. If only one comment is inside the document, then the whole document is printed with the resized pages. Really, I saw thousends of pages end up in the wastebin for that reason ...

But we do have that too, don't we? If you want to have comments next to the document, want them to be scrolled together with the text and want them to be recognized as a part of a document, then you end up in something like a Note Side Pane. But this time, it is only attached to the page and not part of it. Some light border line and a light shade of gray work wonders :-) And, we do not end up in changing the document's layout (!), something which sometimes happens to Word documents.

By the way, short time after we decided to display the Side Pane slightly darker than the text page, somebody told me how this works in Word 2007. And guess what? They switched to gray...

So finally, how does that look? The next picture shows the upper part of a document. Great, isn't it?

Layout of the Notes on the Note Side Pane

Notes, good cue. Where should the Notes exactly be drawn? The iTeam had a real intensive discussion about that ... believe it! Have a look at the competing ideas (or mockups, since these are only early drawings and no real implementation):

Above, there is something we called separate layout. It does look more like the famous little notes sticking on "something", and they do have nice shadows. But, they need much valuable space and add visual complexity (look from the left to the right, you will see several borders and background color changes).

Here, there is the integrated layout. The Notes do not have own border lines: they are limited by the physical page border, the document and the Note shadow. Something you rarely see in reality, but we decided to go for that layout.

Why? People may be happy if they use the feature for the first time and the Note looks nice. But, people will be happier if they can work with half a dozen of them on the screen and still focusing on the document. Yes, this is a decision for "productivity" and against some small part of "enjoyment". To be really sure, we presented the final design to some users and they still recognized it to be a Note. Hurray.

Did you notice? Even small things do have impact.

What's next?

We have plenty ideas for a lot of next releases :-) For example, I'd like to see a more direct manipulation for toggling the visibility of the Note Side Pane.

If you like to know more about the activity, then please have a look on our "development wiki" at Notes2. And if there is anything Notes related I should blog about, then please let me know.

Thanks for reading and have a nice day!

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Spread the Word ... aehm ... Signature

A few days ago, Christian announced our shiny new User Experience logo. I think this is a huge step forward in terms our presence to others. But those 'others' still have to stop by at our project main page or the wiki pages, which is ... suboptimal. So is there a way to communicate what we stand for, if anybody of us contributes to UX related topics in 'foreign' places?

One idea is use email signatures or forum signatures. Every time we (represented by on of our team members) comments a UX related topic, this would promote our activities. For better impact and recognizability, those signatures should try to catch interest and follow a certain structure. Some proposals and explanations are given in the wiki filed under External Communication.

Personally, I picked the proposal "smile" which basically states: Make users smile! Better usability, productivity and enjoyment for

And you? What to do if you are an UX team member? Simply chose one and start communicating with it! By the way, you may agree that this makes only sense for communication outside the UX mailing lists :-)

As always, comments are appreciated. So if you like or dislike this idea, please respond by commenting this posting or discuss it at the ux-discuss mailing list.

Bye bye,

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Microsoft UX Blog vs. Internet Explorer

Going through my “crash reports” image collection I found this one. It's in German but anyway, I think it's a hilarious one :-) In summary, I was surfing Clemens Lutsch's Blog (a UX guy at Microsoft) when IE decided to terminate with the message: “THE UX Strategy User Experience Blog ... Thoughts, News, Ideas can not be created>> Unknown Error”


Friday, May 9, 2008

A new User Experience Team Logo

I'm happy to announce the new logo of the User Experience Team.

The main goal of the logo is to penetrate core values of the project:

  • Usability,
  • Productivity,
  • Enjoyment

The three terms summarize in a very short manner what the User
Experience Team's overall goals are. The list below describes the
meaning a little bit more in detail:

This term explains the ease with which people can work with to archive their goal in a particular context in an
effective and efficient manner. Sadly, this term is usually meant to
describe the “user friendliness” in the field of computer-human

This term accompanies “usability” because of the general
misunderstanding of meaning “user friendliness” only. Again, it
emphasizes that working with should raise the
“productivity” significantly.

Working with should be pleasant. This is important, if wants to attract new users and keep the experienced ones.
Currently, loses many potential users who dislike the
overall behavior/look of But there is also a serious
fact: people which are happy with a product tend to be more creative in
their solution findings.

The logo is the first step to improve the external communication of the
User Experience project. If you want to know more, then please have a
look at:

The logo is available in PNG, SVG, EPS, formats. CMYK versions will
follow soon.

As always feedback and comments are highly appreciated.


Thursday, May 8, 2008

Featuritis – The source of all evil!?

A couple of days ago, I stumbled over a title of an article that has already been discussed in many other blog postings. I found it so appealing that I purchased the publication from Harvard Business Review. „Defeating feature fatigue“ by Ronald T. Rust et al. (2006) is an excellent piece of work that should definitely be added to our recently originated literature list. Here are the three main findings:

1. “Consumers know that products with more features are harder to use, but before they purchase a product they value its capability more than its usability.”
2. “Even when consumers are allowed to customize a product, they load on the features, worrying little about the learning curve they are setting for themselves.”
3. “Once consumers have used a product, their preferences change. Suddenly, usability matters very much.”

What do the authors conclude from that and what can the OOo community, UX specifically, learn here? In short, two things are suggested. First, too few features is as bad as too many features. Second, any company that is interested in a growing number of customers or users should avoid putting features before usability. Why? Dissatisfied users will “return” their product, will look for other products and will, nowadays, blog about their dissatisfaction with the product. Developing open source software is not much of a difference. A development strategy that is almost exclusively driven by features, such as in Open Office for instance, will more sooner than later lead to a stagnating number of new users. It might even turn out worse, users will turn their backs on OO. Hence, we need to get rid of this focus and be more aware of the complexity that is constantly increased every time a new feature finds its way into a release.

Any opinions?


Ronald, T., Rust; Debora, V., Thompson, Rebecca, W., Hamolton; Defeating Feature Fatigue, Harvard Business Review, 2006.