Software

Office challenge: How would you improve this userform?

This week, test your design skills by improving an existing Excel userform. No coding required, just design an improved userform.

Last week's slide overhaul went so well that we're going to do it again. This week, your challenge is to improve an Excel userform. Now, this challenge offers less opportunity because userforms just don't have the same kind of versatility that slides do. Userforms are very limited objects.

The userform shown below guides data entry for a depreciation spreadsheet. The user inputs values in the Asset Information section; the Purchase Date defaults to the current date and can be changed. Users then provide depreciation details in the Depreciation Information section; each input value defaults to a common value, which users can change. After entering the required information, the user clicks Calculate. The controls to the right of the Calculate button then display depreciation values for Single Life, 150% DDB, and 200% DDB.

Before committing the input values as a new record, the user must choose a method from the Depreciation Method control. The default is Single Life. Choosing an option calculates the Depreciation This Period value, accordingly, and enables the Add Asset button at the bottom. At this point, the user can click Add Asset to add the current values as a new record or clear the form to start over.

It is a bit convoluted, but then, userforms aren't versatile objects. That's why this challenge should be so interesting!

You can create an actual userform and post it online somewhere. Or, you can simply explain the changes you'd make. Don't write code to make the form work. Your concern is layout and design only—is the design efficient, easy to understand and use? Whatever changes you suggest should improve the user's experience in some way.

Last week, we asked…

How would you improve this slide? Everyone did a tremendous job with this overhaul challenge. I am impressed with your skills. One thing is for sure, you all have very strong opinions and I am glad that you voiced them!

The main complaint with the sample slide was the amount of text. Story_Jon was the first to mention that perhaps the slide wasn't part of a live presentation. That's always an option and I didn't specify one way or the other. Boxfiddler didn't like the font and was the first to post a link to a revamped slide. It's sharp, clean, and seriously reduces the amount of text. Perhaps more importantly, the slide displays the bullet points, one at a time.

PatriciaT offered a nice compromise to the text problem. Initially, the slide displays just the title or lead-in. A click hides that text and displays the first bullet point. Subsequent clicks display the remaining bullet points, but instead of hiding all points but the current one, this slide highlights the current point while pushing the others to the background. Everything's still there, but the current point gets all the emphasis.

Story_Jon turned the single example slide into four. All of the design elements in these slides are easily employed—this is a solution most users, even those with limited knowledge of PowerPoint's more powerful features—could put into play. I really enjoyed the graphics.

iArnoutSlooff also created four slides and provided unique backgrounds for each. They're subtle, beautiful and expertly maintain the subject.

I'm impressed with all your efforts, suggestions, and the ensuing discussions. Thank you for a truly great challenge!

About Susan Harkins

Susan Sales Harkins is an IT consultant, specializing in desktop solutions. Previously, she was editor in chief for The Cobb Group, the world's largest publisher of technical journals.

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