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Excel product features

As a UX Designer on Excel from 2018-2020, I had the previlege to work on various product features that accrued to user-delight and product promotability. As our team’s focus shifted to shine on web platform, I had the opportunity to redesign and modernize several core experiences of the product.

Keyboard Shortcuts

We collaborated internationally across Redmond and Tel-Aviv to redesign keyboard shortcuts UX in Excel. This project was initially prioritized to bridge feature parity between dektop and web application, compete needs and cross-product integration with Microsoft Teams. However, we expanded in scope as our group reframed problem space to best reflect customer pain points.  

My responsibilities: Help frame project scope with stakeholders, incorporate user research and drive end to end design process.

User journey today

We talked to 40 customers to develop a better understanding of expectations and current pain-points in their day to day workflow.

Experience goals

🚀 Elevate workflows

People feel masterfull when they retain shortcuts. We want to facilitate curation and sharing around keyboard shortcuts.

🔎 Surface buried features

People find it easy to remember and navigate features from app interface. We want to help users develop a strong connection b/w shortcuts and app interface.

😀 Search in a natural way

People don’t expect to find useful results from a fuzzy query with current state of in-app search. They typically go search browser to find answers.

core capabilities

Quick Commits

Users would be able to not just refer but also immediately commit a certain shortcut. Such can be quite powerful especially for users lacking keyboard dexterity.

Browser overrides

Color communicates override while hover interaction informs user of replaced browser shortcut.

NL Search

Natural language integration is greatly expanding in various core features of Excel. We plan to leverage the same NL and bring the goodness of natural queries to this experience.

Share your favorite shortcuts

No need for a sticky note, bookmark and curate multiple lists of favorite shortcuts. Capability of saving and sharing shortcuts will accelerate individual as well as collaborative workflows.

Hover tooltips

Evincing product features in application interface will help users develop a nuanced familiarity towards Excel.

Max mode

A key part of designing this experience was to work within constraints of Fluent design system. Although by default 65% of Side pane space will be available to content, users will be able to
activate Max Mode to unlock 90% of Side pane for useful content.

Onboarding

We incorporated a simple yet communicative teaching UI bringing attention to core strengths of the new UX.

Learnings & reflections

Advocating for customers

Without a solid understanding of customer needs, I hesitated designing to satisfy metrics in isolation. Consulting my manager and peers helped me articulate the need and implications of research on my process to help get buy-in from stakeholders despite tight timelines.

Progress over perfection

Sharing work among design group and at team meetings can be daunting. I felt I had to bring perfectly baked story to make it worthwhile of people’s time. I have come to realize that sharing often at various altitudes can be used as a tool to open channels of collaboration and diverse feedback.

Collaborating overseas

Besides syncing time zones, collaborating with teams overseas can present interesting challenges. As I was working at headquarters, I had relatively good exposure to partner teams. I was able to connect my enginnering team with broader UX engineering team to help troubleshoot development issues.

Sort & Filter

As we continue to build Excel web-app, design prioritized redesigning ‘Sort & Filter’ UX with goals to modernize and address invaluable customer feedback. This is the first time ‘Sort & Filter’ capability is being redesigned since inception of Excel in 1993.  

My responsibilities: Defining project goals, leading end to end design process, organizing user-research, testing and experimentation.

Challenge: More than 72% workbooks opened everyday use ‘Sort & Filter’ actively. We want to redesign UX respecting mental models users have developed over the years without loosing on performance. Come up with something familiar yet modern and evolved.

User journey today

Current user-journey fails to establish clarity between Sorting and Filtering. Content occlusion mixed with modal and non-modal dialogs trigger user frustration.

Experience problems

😕 What should I choose?

For a new user, Sort/filter UX can feel like a kitchen sink thrown at them. There is lack of guidance and direction in the current UX that presents all options with no specific hierarchy.

🤔 Is this a new dialog?

UX feels jumpy and disconnected due to new surfaces popping up unexpected. Users expect a single surface where they can control sort/filter parameters.

😟 I don’t know what I’m doing!

Custom sort/filter experience is a modal dialog that gives no feedback unless a certain action has been committed.

Experience goals

Users are able to sort/filter with significant ease.

Users are able to use various logics in a continuous experience.

Users can successfully sort/filter faster than before.

Sort/filter as an inclusive and accessible experience.

core capabilities

Sort & filter by multiple colors

Each selected color appears at the beginning of tray suggesting the order of selection. Tooltips are helpful at communicating connection of cell values to cell colors.

Sort & filter by numbers

Users can quickly pick an operation that gets auto-populated in the input field. Users can also manipulate an operation directly in the input box without having to move their cursor by simply typing. Input box tries to communicate state of commits whether successful or not.

Building with users

We refined the design over several iterations, building on our learnings from user-testing. Incremental testing allowed us to tweak design, evolving over 3 iterations.

Learnings & reflections

Deep partnership

Participating in building telemetry, spec reviews and bug bashing can feel dry. However, its a great opportunity to align on goals, focus on quality of designed experience and a foster great team dynamics.

User advocacy is my JOB

This was my project on the job. My process started to drift with business demands and tight timelines. I was struggling to balance process with project demands. By communicating this with the design team, I was empowered to say 'no' to work that didn't appear to add any user value.

Focus on building great relationships at work

Think of it as playing a sport, as an athlete you don't just show up for the match. A lot of time is spent on training with your team, building trust, supporting each other in need and most importantly building empathy towards your teammates.

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