Inside the design of Office for iPad: Developer shares some insights

May 23, 2014
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In a blog post, Han-Yi Shaw sheds some light on the process which led to the recent launch of Office for iPad.

He emphasizes how much the device itself, and how people use it, was a starting point – rather than how Office is traditionally used on desktop and laptops.

His team devised scenarios for the most frequent mobile productivity use cases. These scenarios were called:

  • Packing up for the ride home
  • Starting from scratch
  • Last minute scramble
  • Buttoning things up
  • Collaborating with co-workers
  • Taking notes

By taking a scenario-driven approach, they defined their goal as “designing for iPad” as opposed to “porting to iPad”.

The most crucial decision was to go with a simplified version of the software suite when creating the Word, Excel and Powerpoint apps, so as to offer exactly “the right set of features appropriate for the device”.

Consequently, designers mainly focused on the most used editing commands. But they also included designer templates, so that pressed-for-time users could start new documents faster.

As for the interface, the main goal was to make it simple and flatten the learning curve, so that Office users would feel on familiar ground when launching the new apps.

But designers had to strike a balance between ensuring visual and functional continuity with Office, and optimizing the new apps for iOS platform conventions and touch-first user expectations.

On the design front, the team embraced the “Do more with less” philosophy, with a desire to strip out unnecessary detail and to focus on clear information hierarchy. “Documents should always take center stage, not the UI.”

Office of iPad has received rave reviews (TabTimes gave it five stars) and recently passed 27M downloads.

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