Uh, yeah there was? Go dig through the wayback machine for Jensen Harris’s blogpost series about the design of the ribbon, or watch his MIX08 talk on it; he was the design team lead for the change, and the reason they did it was because the old UI was failing their users. There were usability studies done during the ribbon design which fedback into, and changed, how it worked to adjust to ordinary people’s expectations and needs.
> “I would think that it would be easiest for new users to have options sorted into neat menus”
Like many UI related assertions, absolutely no concrete evidence is being provided to support this point.
But power users and ordinary user's needs are world's apart, and the office suites have to cater to both of them. Thus the deep divide.
Top level menus full by Word 95. Office 97 added command bars. Nested menus and toolbars full by Office 2000. Office XP added Task panes, full of features by Office 2003. "the Task Pane was the last attempt to find a way to scale old-style UI to programs as full-featured as Office. Although it was a successful stop-gap measure, it ran its course in only two versions." - https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/archive/blogs/jensenh/new-r...
> "The downside [of nested dropdown menus], however, was clear and eventually terminal: increased complexity. It's much more difficult for people to form a scanning strategy with hierarchical menus: you have to keep track at each moment which levels you've visited and which you've haven't. What was once a simple structure to visualize was now a more complicated, branching structure."
> "As we watched more people use the prototypes, we started to understand more the scanning process that was taking place. Later on, we did eye-tracking studies to watch how people scanned the Ribbon"
> "I was reading a blog entry of someone who was kind of critical and dismissive about what we're doing and our designs. One of his criticisms was "how bad the usability of the Ribbon would be because it's got icons scattered all over of various sizes." What we've learned is actually the opposite. People can scan disparate patterns more easily than homogenous patterns. When we use more toolbar-like layouts--a bunch of equally-spaced, equally-sized buttons, people scan them less quickly than when each chunk has a memorable layout. So we actually try explicitly to vary the layouts between chunks--it helps people find the thing they're looking for more quickly. That's something we wouldn't have known if we didn't have a commitment to watch people work."
> "One of the concepts behind the Ribbon is that it's the one and only place to look for functionality in the product. If you want to look through Word 2003 to find an unfamiliar command, you need to look through 3 levels of hierarchical menus, open up 31 toolbars and peruse about 20 Task Panes. It's hard to formulate a "hunting" strategy to find the thing you're looking for because there's no logical path through all of the UI.
> Office "12" consolidates all of the entry points into one place: the Ribbon. So if you're trying to find a feature and don't know where it is, the scope of your search is drastically reduced. Click on the leftmost tab, and click across the tabs until you reach the end. That it. It's either there or it's not--there are no other "rocks" to look under, no other places we've hidden functionality. We've found in early tests that people find it easier to discover how to do new things in the Ribbon, and they're more apt to explore the UI looking for better ways to get things done."
Testing showed that people found the Ribbon easier, found more things, and were more willing to explore it. - https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/archive/blogs/jensenh/enter...
> "* Back in the olden days of designing software at Microsoft (say, pre-2003), design decisions were mostly supported by guesswork. [...] How much data have we collected? [in the Customer Experience opt-in program] About 1.3 billion sessions since we shipped Office 2003 (each session contains all the data points over a certain fixed time period.) [...] one of the biggest reasons that we decided to do the new user interface for Office 12 is simply that, for the first time, we have the data we need to make intelligent decisions.*"
And that's not even from the design blog, which appears to be offline and not in the wayback machine.
Totally wrong about people finding menus easier, totally wrong about there being no evidence based design behind the ribbon.
Nit pick on this quote: every time I've used the ribbon, I need features that have been collapsed into a "more" list (hamburger menu?) for that section of the ribbon.
> you need to look through 3 levels of hierarchical menus, open up 31 toolbars and peruse about 20 Task Panes.
I'm really dubious that the ribbon is better in this regard. Those menus still exist, and I end up falling back to them with some regularity after searching the ribbons and not finding what I want (perhaps it is hidden in a hamburger menu). Furthermore, each option in the ribbon takes up far more screen real estate than an item in the drop down menu, and there are sub-dialogs still abound.
The desire to keep the document (or whatever it is) worked at on the screen during the "hunt" I consider a mistake. When mixing paint on a pallet the eyes are focused on what you are doing. You might want to look up to the canvas and back down again several times but there is never a need to do both.
I also feel drop down menus are a mistake. There (imho) should be a key on the keyboard to bring up the "hunting" screen (perhaps one that can be panned to the left right top and bottom with the arrow keys) and every "button" on that screen should be visually mapped to a key combination. F keys are great for this. First F key for the "button" group, second F key to pick one or a 3rd for 12 x 12 x 12 options.
When folder trees stop working because you have to much in them you should do tags (in addition) that can hold duplicates of the functionality. Then when tags also fail to scale you need a search feature. Each interface "button" or group should have a lot of hidden text by which it can be found. Typing cursive should highlight the italics "button".
It would definitely become a big mess but my gut says it can be sorted out and be equally accessible to people using it every day and first time or rarely users.
The only reason traditional artists use a palette far away from their art for their paint is because that works in the physical world. Mixing my colors right next to my virtual canvas is a huge speed-up compared to painting a ton of thumbnails with different colors.
I'm watching MIX08 The Story of the Ribbon  and trying to be objective. He is optimizing for 50% who paste with mouse. Essentially it is Microsoft Bob 2.0.
Office was done, "good enough" but some people complained, there was bad press. Microsoft added intellimenus, task pane - acknowledged mistake. Then ribbon. It could work for new users. Not for me. Now I better understand why.
The menu / toolbar / shortcut UI provides progression - from least often to muscle memory. Menu is hidden, fallback, toolbar provides customization, no need File > Save or Edit / Clipboard once I know shortcuts.
Ribbon is always expanded menu represented like task pane. They display text when icon is not enough. And group name ... because something. Information density is extremely low. Actual toolbar moved on the title bar.
Layout demo looks good. But as writer tool it is awful, clutter is still here, just behind a tab. Could be fixed with Firefox-like customization menu, not with their spaceship like-control.
I can see how he applied design tenets but in very specific meaning:
* a person's focus should be on their content - constantly changing UI, "content" is styling
* reduce the number of choices - no way to customize toolbar, select one of the tabs
* increase efficiency - of those who struggle with discoverability
* embrace consistency - among office, not OS
* give features a permanent home - even universally known
* straightforward is better than clever - no hidden controls, more visual clutter
* design tenets has to be religion - stick to decision, do not listen to users
Same tenets produce my layout, which is opposite.
And...search for a menu item is a 2nd class feature on the OS. I wish I could click a text field on the menu bar and find stuff. I wish the actions were indexed with the documentation. Oh—and I wish that the keyboard shortcut for that was standard. Not on my Mac, but I’m pretty sure that I had to type it in from a Mac productivity magazine.
Faster to search for "save" or press Ctrl+S? Faster to search for "save" or click the save icon at the top of the screen? Searching is slower, clearly. Even if searching was always faster, it doesn't refute "bull crap stuff" because there was no claim that the Ribbon is the fastest full stop, it's a balance of discoverable and usable; search requires you to know the right search terms to use, and it suffers the problem of the old Office self-customizing menus - the results aren't always in the same predictable order - and if what you want is not in the top few results, you don't know if the feature doesn't exist, does exist by another name, or is in the hundreds of results you aren't going to read. And it has no way to surface features and make them discoverable.
Not every program implements a Help menu, and not every program that implements a Help menu implements the standard shortcut. But in my experience, a large majority do. (Nearly all native apps do, but even some Electron apps get this right. Visual Code does both, for instance, and Slack at least has the Help menu with the search field in the first place.)