I am building a Microsoft Outlook VSTO addin and I am trying to figure out the best way to lay out the UI and from looking through the office apps i can't seem to find the right layout pattern that matches the decision tree i want the user to take and avoiding any confusion.

Basically the logic flow of the addin is

  1. User need to decide if they want to do simple or advanced inputs. Depending on the answer, they get to see the simple form or the advanced form popup (see mockup below).

  2. After making their selection on that form, there is a little label on the ribbon that shows a summary of what their current state is (so its clear what they have selected on the popup form).

  3. And then basically one other button that says "Place Order" that takes the inputs given and goes and runs some action.

I put this mockup as an example but I just feel like there might be a more elegant way to represent this using expected Office ribbon UI behavior.

Any suggestions for a better way to support the decision tree above in a more clear layout on the Office Ribbon?

enter image description here

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    Why is "Place Order" on the toolbar, rather than on the popup form? – peterchen Feb 19 '13 at 18:04
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    ...If you put "Place order" on the form, choice between simple and advanced can be on the form, "little preview" isn't necessary, and you are back to a single button. – peterchen Feb 19 '13 at 18:10
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    @peterchen - thanks . . i wound up migrating to a single button and combined forms and that seems much simpler – leora Feb 20 '13 at 0:39

For starters, I recommend reviewing the official Ribbons guidelines.

In general, though, I think the intent of the ribbon is for use as a space to expose commands, not for things like confirmation data.

  • Agree . . i removed that and migrated to a single button – leora Feb 20 '13 at 0:50

You probably figured this out by now that the only difference between your simple and advanced displays is one column (city). Hence no need to have two separate displays. The whole thing looks over the top anyway and could probably be replaced with something much more unobtrusive. People tend to immediatelly translate requirements into a big UI without good thought into how the whole thing looks and behaves to an end user. This is the thing, people actually don't want more gizmos and things to work out how to operate, no matter how much supposed UX appeal you put into it right at the end. Unobtrusive design and minimal input should be the goals. If more time was spent thinking about the application as a whole and the user interaction as discrete data input/output process, then you wouldn't end up with this layout question. It's no good for your client and end users if you design and code the application structure around a particular pre-conceived visual layout.

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