Microsoft Dynamics – the unfamiliarity of Office

Call me picky but this little Microsoft web advertisement has been bugging me all week. For some strange reason, it’s popping up all over almost every website I visit. Either Google’s contextual targeting algorithm is seriously buggered or has a secret agenda to sell me Microsoft Dynamics.

The advertisement in question is a 300×250 Flash animation for the new Microsoft Dynamics suite. There’s nothing wrong with it except it’s sole and entire selling-point is flawed. Take a look on the right and see if you can spot the Achilles’ heel. Refresh this page if you have to get it to replay.

If you see it, congratulations, you win an iPhone. For those of you that don’t see it, try to focus on the animation, then look at what applications they’re comparing and maybe do a little comparison with a copy of the same application on your own computer.

Microsoft Dynamics

Excel ribbonsThat’s right! They even make the same mistake again on their website. They imply Microsoft Excel 2007 has toolbars and menus, when it doesn’t. Their whole “familiarity” – taking icons from A to B – argument falls apart when you compare the Ribbon interface in Excel with the traditional toolbars and menus interface in Dynamics, they’re two completely different interfaces. How’s that for cross-application consistency.

Looks like your business goals aren’t going anywhere whilst you re-train your staff for two different user interfaces.

Update: A number of Dynamics applications does feature a portion of the Ribbon interface in some of their interface screens. The interface is still a far cry compared to Office. It’s got back and forward buttons, a hybrid breadcrumb navigation bar and a sidebar. It’s amazing to see how acceptable messy business applications can be.

9 insightful thoughts

  1. Interesting, and silly. They should know what excel looks like.

    Almost as stupid as the two Windows Updates for Vista I just installed on my laptop, which apparently fix network connectivity and desktop refreshing.
    After rebooting, the sidebar has rendered as a massive block of grey, and I can’t access the Internet. Woohoo!!!

  2. Or just as stupid as this new Windows Explorer that can’t remember a single folder display setup…

    Or, perhaps, as Media Player 11 that locks some library views just because it doesn’t like them above a certain number of items…

    Or like the moronic Ultimate Extras…

    My goodness, where is their QA? On vacation?

    (I’m just glad that at least the Office team usually performs better.)

  3. jeez, talk about getting your panties in a wad over absolutely nothing.

    there’s rants about minutia… and then there’s this rant.

  4. The whole design and marketing departments at Microsoft can’t manage all their own products really well. The screenshot you have linked shows that Dynamics uses a Windows Mobile 6 like menu bar! And the new Windows Live Photo Gallery (stupid name!) looks half like a Windows Live website and half like a Windows Vista app even on XP. It’s a designers hell and they talk the whole day about user experiences…

  5. I think the companies using this product cares way more about what it does than how it really looks. You are also most likely to get it through Volume Licensing than off the shelf. For someone who has never used the product, you will have a rant like this. I’m just saying, businesses are not as wowed by UI as they are by the solution the product offers.

  6. @Andre Da Costa: Businesses should care about the interface. A well designed software can save their money and I think thats why MS decided to redesign the Office System.

  7. Excluding performance and stability, UI is the most important component of all.

    Sure, Features and what they provide is very important.

    But as you can see with Office,
    It doesn’t matter how many cool things it can do, if the UI is a bitch to navigate, and has features placed in illogical locations or if a feature/function is hard to use due to poor UI design. It might as well not even include the features in the first place.

  8. CoLD-Fire – I think the ability to build an amortization table or whatever business specific functionality the company cares about… is more important than the tint of a button or the dis-similar look of a ‘click to email’ button. Not to belittle UI too much, but AndreDaCosta is correct… enterprise customers rank this much further down the list. In fact, I’d go as far as to say they don’t rank UI at all… unless its so utterly horrible (think command line versus GUI, not centered tooblars versus left-justified.)that its unusable. MSFT Dynamics obviously isn’t in that camp.

  9. @tek: UI design isn’t about the pixels but about the usability. It doesn’t matter what it looks like but where it is (or even more simpler: IF there is a button). Even a command line interface needs a good user interface design. Call it language.

    I think Long’s point here is, that the Office team did understand that there is a need for good design (even in business) where the Dynamics team seem to not know what a designer should do 😛

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