I face a hard decision when designing an interface for a windows fat client.

Do you have any good articles or answers to the following question:

  • When having a lot of options for a certain context - would you present all or most of the options as a one click solution, following the microsoft outlook Ribbonbar scheme - or would you rather make most of these functions accessable in dropdown menus, providing a cleaner UI. When using the second option, it can be frustrating for power users that have to find their option with an added click in a dropdown menu.

  • Microsoft uses a lot of icons for their actions / menus etc.. Is there any good guideline, until what number on a single screen/list/menus icons provide an navigational advantage and when it´s simply too much to comprehend?

2 Answers 2


I do not have an article on this topic. What I can say is 'it depends on the users'. Maybe in helps if you ask your self (or better your users) the following questions:

  • What is the purpose of the tool? Should it be very efficient? Should it be very self-explanatory?
  • Who is using the tool? Professionals who use it every day all day? Someone who uses it only every now and then?

Questions like these will help to decide whether to go for a solution to show more or less options.

But there might be other solutions as well: Is it possible to group the options in to digestible chunks (as ribbons do in different tabs). Is there a way to visually delimit them? Are all options in every situation available (as an example MS-Word does not show the table ribbon if no table is selected)?

Both variations have pros and cons. If you show all options users might be overwhelmed but if you hide them users might not be aware that there are options available. If they theoretically know all options they might search for them, but otherwise the do not know what to search for.

I know, this is not the answer to your question, but I hope it might be helpful.


Your question is basically about how to answer both the needs of your average user and your power users when it comes to balancing the number of options/features available versus having a clean and easy to use experience and user interface.

I tend to look at how other successful apps approach problems like these. One example is of a complex app is Figma. They seem to address this problem with three approaches.

  • Categories: First, the core UI is kept clean, and then actions are categorized under easy to understand abstractions (Design, Prototype, Code, etc.).
  • Search: Second, to prevent the issue you mentioned where power users have to go through many menus, they've introduced a power search feature. Once familiar with a power action, they can simply search for it the next time. The search input can always be opened using a keybinding (Command + /).
  • Hamburger menu: Finally, as a last resort, a hamburger icon is used to hide less frequently used actions. This has the downside of being less accessible, but for most power users this issue is resolved with the search feature.

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