Designing a new Microsoft Office mobile app

How we improved the productivity of our mobile app

Now incredible Office functionality in your pocket.

More than 3 billion smartphone owners worldwide use their devices to complete tasks in seconds. With the globalization and increasing use of smartphones, we wanted to rethink the way we do work efficiently and intuitively on a phone or tablet.

We brought together designers and researchers from around the world to learn how our clients are using these micro-moments and to develop a mobile design strategy for the new Office app for iOS and Android.

We studied users of the mobile market to understand how people use their phones to create content and complete tasks. We have observed people who often solve problems on the go. For example, for students, and watched how they use their phones in their studies. We also studied people who never work in an office at a desk, such as production workers, and noted how they do work without a computer.

The new Office app isn’t just about moving your desktop app to a mobile app. We wanted to create an experience that leverages the power of mobile devices and helps you complete tasks in an exclusively mobile way.

Looking at the camera from a different angle

“A picture is worth a thousand words” is a hackneyed cliché, but only because it’s true.

We watched students in the Philippines convert handwritten notes to PDFs to share with fellow students. And factory workers in China would send annotated photos of the defective part to the supervisor. In a smartphone, the camera competes with the keyboard as the dominant input mechanism and is an important part of workflows.

The camera is no longer a tool exclusively used to photograph memorable moments. It became the foundation for creating and editing content on the phone, which is why we added Office Lens to the Office app. You now have the ability to create Word, Excel and PowerPoint documents using your camera.

Prioritize Intuitive Mobile Activities

In our research, we found that being productive on phones and tablets means sharing content on messengers. This type of content is usually short text messages, emoticons, pictures, photos and videos.

Therefore, the home screen now specifically focuses on mobile content creation methods. When you open the app for the first time, you will see a “+” button, with which you can start taking photos, creating notes or new documents. By adopting this interaction style, we have optimized the app for fast content creation.

To make the interface as simple as possible, we’ve combined Word, Excel and PowerPoint into one area called “documents”. In the Documents section, we highlight mobile mechanisms by first showing actions such as scanning text, tables or images. This approach prioritizes productivity on the go.

Designing a new Microsoft Office mobile app

Using Office features on your phone

Users who are already using Office have high expectations for the look and feel of our products. It was important for the app to feel familiar while being designed with mobile UX in mind. We needed to develop the Office brand while moving it forward.

As with other Office applications, we help you find out where you last left off in a document and jump straight to the right place to start collaborating with comments. In addition, we make it easier to create content with your phone’s camera in new yet natural ways.

We have combined Word, Excel and PowerPoint into one application. Therefore, now all your documents are in one place. There is no more need to switch between multiple applications and the amount of memory used on your phone has been significantly reduced. We’ve also added a PDF component with which you can sign, scan, or create PDFs on your phone or tablet.

Designing a new Microsoft Office mobile app
As the Office experience evolved, so did the app icon.

This is just the beginning of rethinking the Microsoft Office mobile app. With the release of an app for iOS and Android, we actively strive to collaborate with our users and want the app to meet their needs. We invite you to share your opinion in the comments below!

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Author: Clark Douglas

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