Position of icons in customized Toolbars

Position of icons in customized Toolbars

Hi all,

I thought it may be of general interest to discuss where to place icons in customized toolbars.

In my experience the most general structure seems to be the following:

Standard

Edit:
Since the first comments cover also floating toolbars I add the floating resized toolbar:

General resized

However I prefer the following structure:

Commandbar

Edit:
Since the first comments cover also floating toolbars I add the floating resized toolbar:

Reszied floating

Which one is the one You prefer and why?

Kind regards,
Dennis

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28 thoughts on “Position of icons in customized Toolbars

  1. Hi Dennis,

    Interesting question.

    Personally I prefer the Help and About to be at the right hand side of the toolbar.

    I would push the About button once, if that. From then onwards that button is just consuming space.

    And being a bloke I would *never* read the help manual!

    Also, when the toolbar is not floating don’t the items on the right get hidden as you resize the toolbar? Which would mean the functionality would be hidden if Help/About where on the left.
    Or maybe the used infrequently thing kicks in and Help/About would be replaced by the buttons you used.

  2. both hehe

    well here is why:

    if it is floating I do prefer the first one, why?, because send the send buttons are closer to my mouse as I tend to put floating toolbars to the right of my screen.

    if it is docked then I prefer the second one because again the send buttons are closer to where I might be on the worksheet.

    I usually try to place my toolbar buttons by order of access frequency ;)

  3. I prefer the first, but with a small number of buttons I would make them icons only, with tooltips, so as to take up less space.

  4. Of you setups I prefer the first. We’re trained practically from birth to find Help at the far right, and About (Info) should go near it.

    I prefer using menus now, which line up similarly to your floating toolbar example. Here, with About and Help safely down at the bottom, they’re out of the way, but still available for anyone who wants them. Also you can get away with being more verbose on a menu than a toolbar (I thought your buttons are almost overloaded with text).

    To get away without text on the command bar buttons, you need more descriptive buttons. (Alderaic is correct about Help and About.) The built-in button faces are easy to use, but I’d try to design one that looked like what the button does: email + workbook, email + sheet, email + range. So maybe an envelope with the Excel workbook logo (from Windows explorer) for mail a workbook, the same envelope with a sheet and a tab, the tab showing it’s a sheet, for mail a worksheet, and an envelope with the icon you used for send workbook for send range. Big fat tooltips help the user get around.

  5. So far I can’t see any reason to change my opinion ;)

    From a strictly usability point of view:

    >>Also, when the toolbar is not floating don’t the items on the right
    >>get hidden as you resize the toolbar?

    Creating and placing a ‘supersized’ toolbar, not as floating, that include so many buttons per se defeat the purpose of the existence of toolbars in my opinion, i e extremely poor design.

    >>>Or maybe the used infrequently thing kicks in and Help/About would be replaced by the buttons >>>you used.

    Unless the button ‘Settings’ gives an option to choose which buttons to be showed or not. After all, using help may be used frequently in the beginning to learn the tool but later it will be not be used at all. (I suspect that someone will ‘gracefully point’ out that tools that need helpfiles are not user friendly enough *BUT* today user expect to at least have access to a helpfile, especially for commercial tools).

    ‘Access frequeny’ is indeed a good argument. However, in view of what Andy / J K states – ‘never used buttons’ it would be according to my opinion :)

    All the very best from,
    Dennis

  6. Jon-

    >>>To get away without text on the command bar buttons, you need more descriptive buttons.

    I can agree on that and that’s why I use professional icons from VirtualLnk (http://www.virtuallnk.com/) for my professional paid solutions.

    But that’s a sidetrack ;)

    Kind regards,
    Dennis

  7. …Or maybe the used infrequently thing kicks in …

    And then poor Dennis will have designed an adaptive menu like Office uses (that is, if you don’t choose the option to show full menus) and then you’ll never find the command you use rarely but when you need it, it’s crucial.

  8. Dennis
    I’m with Andy.
    I like the most important stuff top right (ie most frequently used)
    If I need the help in any non complex tool then I reckon the rest of the UI has failed. Maybe useful reference for some users though so it should be in there somewhere.
    Likewise the default settings should be good enough to get started so most users shouldn’t need that button either. In your second version the user has to search past loads of stuff they dont need to actually get to the functionality they are interested in.

    What are you bothering with toolbars for anyway?
    You should make them 4 times as big (at least), nice colours and totally inflexible. I heard thats the future of UI design.

    cheers
    Simon

  9. Simon..

    “What are you bothering with toolbars for anyway?
    You should make them 4 times as big (at least), nice colours and totally inflexible. I heard thats the future of UI design.”

    ….. But only if you upgrade…..

    If you dont… we just have wait for 2010…

  10. Maybe the sarcasm didn’t make it through.
    I definitely prefer the Excel 2003 UI to the 2007. (although its not really the UI, just that ribbon, all the other dialogs are pretty much the same as Excel 97)
    In fact I find 2007 too frustrating to use at all, and am genuinely relieved that my clients are slow adopters.
    Cheers
    Simon

  11. As mentionned above; I think that the position should respect the user : give him direct access to what he use often so Help should be one of the last and, moreover, About shouldn’t be directly accessible (why not a submenu in Help?).

  12. Well Simon…
    AFAIK there are 4 people…well make it 5, in the world outside Microsoft who have mananged to do something with the ribbon

    XL Dennis… All his Excellent posts have gone in to my library for “future” reading

    Tushar….ditto…

    Mike

    Stephen….

    ….There’s another person…..a professor in a university…. cant get his name right away….

    ….Aplogies to any other person I missed out..

    So I guess 2010 is a fair wait…before Clients start demand something from the Ribbon…

    Sam

  13. Simon –

    “all the other dialogs are pretty much the same as Excel 97?

    The dialogs they’ve left alone are just fine. They’ve completely redone the charting ones, and they’re for the most part just awful. You need more tabs to get things done (line color and line style on different tabs!), more clicks (the tick option buttons, all visible at once, are replaced by dropdowns which must be clicked to find the options). What’s nice is that they are modeless, so you can select other items and format them in the same visit to the dialog, but then things that once were on the dialogs are gone. For example, data labels are no longer on the Format Series dialog.

    I was beating up on B2TR last night. The good news is that most of my existing code for working on charts is safe. The bad news is, that leaves out at least 10% of my funkier stuff, like dealing with shapes on charts. The new shape objects have an object model with subtle differences from the old, so even things like .Line.Weight and .Transparency break. The use of shapes as custom markers has been severely compromised. The other bad news is, I’m not really getting any more familiar with the UI.

  14. Dennis,
    I’ve spent a lot of time designing UI’s and I’ve found that it’s generally best to follow the style guide for the specific platform that your application will run on. I’m pretty sure that the Windows style guide indicates that the help menu should appear on the far right side of the menu, and the About information should be a sub-menu on the help menu (hat was true as well for Motif way back when I was writing X Window applications).
    In the case of toolbars, I don’t personally know of any standards. That doesn’t mean they don’t exist, it just means that I don’t know about them :-) My guess is that most people would prefer to arrange the buttons to suit their own personal needs – probably some arrangement that supports the most-frequently-used paradigm.
    So I guess that means that I would prefer the first option in your post. In general, I don’t like floating toolbars because they either cover something I want to see on my screen or I’ve moved them so far out of the way that I can’t find them again :-)

    Alan

  15. Jon
    fair point, I should just keep quiet, I spent an hour of pure frustration trying (and failing) to do simple stuff, confirmed all my add-ins are now broken and then went back to 2003 to get my work done. That makes me pretty underqualified to describe the new user experience in any detail. (although I did pass on my first impressions to the Excel and UI teams)

    Sam, 2010 is when I expect to have clients on a later version than 2003, so I have no plans for 2007 for a long time.

    Cheers
    Simon

  16. “That makes me pretty underqualified to describe the new user experience in any detail.”

    On the contrary, it qualifies you very well to describe the new user experience. What it doesn’t do is qualify you to write a How-To book about it.

  17. Dennis: I disagree on the docked issue. The buttons on the right WILL get hidden if your user is going to dock your toolbar in a spot that is smaller than it needs for all of its buttons. And then the ones on the right get hidden first.

  18. This proves that Ribbon is very good to substitute only menubar, not to menubar and toolbars. All toolbars could come hidden as default but never and never completely removed. I’ll wait for Excel 2010 too.

  19. If all the icons are going to have text-equivalents beside them anyway – then why bother with icons?

    Is there something I’m missing here?
    What was wrong with being able to hover-tooltip to find out what a forgotten icon did?#

    Will there be an “icon only” setting in Excel 12 for those of us who already recognise the print, file, help etc icons?

    Just a thought

    M

  20. Mpemba…

    Excel 12 you must rember is for the large base of “dumb” customer that Mircosoft has decided to help…. I recently read on the UI Blog that the new UI was a result of a “marketing” survey which said only 2% population customise the UI

    So what if the Print Icon can only print… Microsoft doesent want ambiguity to creep in

    Sam

  21. “a “marketing” survey which said only 2% population customise the UI”

    Cold survey that wanted to know what users are doing not what they hope to do, maybe 98% dream one day to do what the other 2% already do. MS thinks that is doing a favor for 98% but it is breaking their dream. And maybe 98% hear someone before to do an upgrade and only 2% do by themselves. The revenge of 2% can be malign :)

  22. Completely off the main point and maybe too far down the track.
    How do you get the floating menu to tile vertically as in Fig 2 and Fig 4 – I’ve been trying for hours, it can be manually done by altering the height but I can’t get this to happen in code!

    TIA

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