Do you find yourself wishing that Microsoft Word and Outlook would be redesigned and that familiar commands would be in different positions or completely hidden? No? The designers at Microsoft have been wishing for such things.

Here comes another Office refurbishment whether you like it or not. For those who are prone to panic about such changes, there is the “classic mode” option which will enable you to be in a halfway house for a while until they throw you out onto the street.

Why are the designers forcing this on us? Boredom? Like standing in your kitchen on a rainy day with nothing to do and wondering whether the toaster would be better on the other bench.

Most of us are content with using the 10% of features that we need and having a blind spot for the other 90%. But designers hate clutter. It’s their vocational obsession. They want us to look at blank space instead.

Microsoft has focus-grouped its way to this point to make sure that no designer will lose their job if an uprising ensues.

And now for the official version:

Microsoft Office gets a makeover

New user experience updates rolling out to customers globally over the next few months

Whether you’re writing a letter in Word, managing a budget in Excel or sending an email in Outlook, Microsoft Office is the go-to place to get stuff done for people around the world.

Beginning today, millions of people who use Office at home and work will begin to see some welcome changes designed to deliver a balance of power and simplicity. These updates are exclusive to Office.com and Office 365 — the always up-to-date versions of our apps and services:

Simplified ribbon. A new, updated version of the ribbon is designed to help users focus on their work and collaborate naturally with others. People who prefer to dedicate more screen space to the commands will still be able to expand the ribbon to the classic three-line view.

New icons and color. Across the apps you’ll start to see new icons and colors built as scalable graphics — so they render with crisp, clean lines on screens of any size. These changes are designed to both modernize Office design and make it more inclusive and accessible.

Search. Search will become a much more important element of the user experience, providing access to commands, content and people. With “zero query search” simply placing your cursor in the search box will bring up recommendations powered by AI and the Microsoft Graph.
These design changes are focused on the following:

Customers. We’re using a customer-driven innovation process to co-create the design of the Office apps. That process consists of three phases: initial customer research and analysis; concepting and co-creation; and validation and refinement.

Context. Customers love the power of Office, but they don’t need every feature at the same time. We want our new designs to understand the context that you are working in so that you can focus on your content. That means both surfacing the most relevant commands based on the work you are doing and making it easy to connect and collaborate with others.

Control. We recognize that established skills and routines are powerful — and that the way someone uses the apps often depends on specific parts of the user interface. So we want to give end users control, allowing them to toggle significant changes to the user experience on and off.

Over the last year, Microsoft completed extensive customer research and spent many months working side-by-side with customers to guide design changes. As a result, customers will benefit from a more simplified experience while maintaining the full power of Office and a design ethos that is more inclusive — empowering everyone to create, communicate and collaborate. The team also increased its focus not just on what people think of the product, but how they feel using it.

“Through gathering feedback from thousands of people, we’ve found that people react most positively to feeling in control, productive and secure,” said Trish Miner, principal design researcher, Microsoft.

And to ensure that we continue to listen, learn and respond quickly to customer feedback, the company is including an in-product survey to ascertain how features make people feel. “The good news is that as we better understand these correlations between the design of features and how people feel while using them, we can develop technologies that are more empathetic,” Miner said.

The design refresh will start rolling out to business and consumer customers beginning in June.