Job One: Improving Usability

By Don Reisinger  |  Posted 2009-08-12 Print this article Print

Speed as a differentiator

Microsoft should focus its efforts on ensuring that the new Office Mobile app for Symbian will appeal to users' desire for speed and efficiency. In a matter of seconds, users should be able to download a document from e-mail and open it in Office Mobile. From there, the software's focus should be on fast response times. It also should provide easy access to features that reduce the amount of time users spend editing documents with a small keyboard and a tiny display. The less time it takes for users to complete a task, the more appealing the software.

Work with the menus

One of my biggest problems with Office Mobile is its poorly designed menu system. It's too difficult to find basic features. Perhaps that's partly an issue with Windows Mobile, but then again, it might just be a flaw in the Office Mobile software.

Microsoft needs to work on its menu systems. Office 2007 was a prime example of Microsoft understanding its users. It kept the most-used features close by, while maintaining usability. It worked. Microsoft should follow that plan with Office Mobile on Symbian. The menus should be easily accessible. The most common options should be readily available. All those options that most people don't use shouldn't be given the same weight as those that are used more often. Remember: It's about speed and simplicity.

Perhaps more than anything, Microsoft's focus should be placed firmly on beating the competition; namely, Google and RIM. What can it do with Office Mobile to beat Google? How can it innovate to make Google Docs look obsolete? These are questions Microsoft must answer if it wants to be successful.

Luckily for the company, it will have plenty of time to ponder all these usability and market issues. Neither Nokia nor Microsoft expect more than an instant messaging platform to be made available by 2010. Office Mobile apps will probably hit Symbian OS in 2011. That should give it more than enough time to improve its offering.

Don Reisinger is a freelance technology columnist. He started writing about technology for Ziff-Davis' Since then, he has written extremely popular columns for, Computerworld, InformationWeek, and others. He has appeared numerous times on national television to share his expertise with viewers. You can follow his every move at

Submit a Comment

Loading Comments...
Manage your Newsletters: Login   Register My Newsletters

Rocket Fuel