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Best practices for designing Word, Excel, and PowerPoint add-ins

Designing an add-in in Word, Excel, or PowerPoint can be a challenging task, but with the right approach, you can inspire users and help them solve problems with a positive experience. This blog post will explore some considerations and strategies to design an effective add-in. Whether you’re a seasoned developer or starting, these tips will help you create an add-in that is intuitive, user-friendly, and valuable to your users. Let’s dive in and discover the best practices for designing an add-in that stands out! 


Name your add-in effectively 

The average attention span for a user to a product or design is 8 seconds. Choosing the right name for your add-in is crucial to its success. Two key tips to keep in mind when selecting a name are: 


1) Reflect the add-in’s core functionality 

2) Be direct and memorable 


If you already have a well-known branding name, don’t hesitate to include your brand first. Also, the name should give users a clear idea of what the add-in does and how it can benefit them. For example, if your add-in is a writing assistant, consider a name like ‘GrammarGuard’ or ‘ LanguageLift ‘ that communicates its purpose. Additionally, the name should be easy to remember and stand out from other add-ins in the same category. Avoid using overly complex or generic names that get lost in the crowd. Don’t forget to check Microsoft Trademark and Brand guidelines. 


Provide a detailed description 

Your description provides a second chance to make a good impression. A well-crafted description succinctly conveys the key benefits and features of your add-in in a way that is easy to understand and memorable. Ideally, keep your description under two lines (less than 60 characters). It lets users quickly understand what your add-in does and how it helps them in under ten seconds. 

To create an effective two-line description, it’s important to include your add-in’s value proposition and the specific tasks it can help users accomplish. If your add-in is an artificially intelligent writing assistant, your description might read ‘Improve grammar, spelling, punctuation, and style in written content with our service.’ 


Design your UI to integrate with Office 

Follow the Office design principles to create a positive add-in experience. 


  1. Design explicitly for Office. Your add-in UI design must integrate seamlessly with Office to provide efficient, natural interaction for your users. The functionality, as well as the look and feel, of an add-in, must harmoniously complement the Office experience. Consider using Fluent UI for the web as your design language and toolset. The Fluent UI for the web has two versions. 
    1. For React UIs: use Fluent UI React, a React front-end framework designed to build experiences that fit seamlessly into a broad range of Microsoft products. It provides robust, up-to-date, accessible React-based components that are highly customizable using CSS-in-JS. To get started, see Fluent UI React Components. (For more resources, see Fluent UI React in Office Add-ins). 
    2. For non-React UIs: Use Fabric Core, an open-source collection of CSS classes and Sass mixings that give you access to colors, animations, fonts, icons, and grids. To get started, see Fabric Core in Office Add-ins. 
  2. Favor content over Chrome. Allow customers’ pages, slides, or spreadsheets to remain the focus of the experience. 
  3. Make it enjoyable and keep users in control. 
  4. Design for all platforms and input methods. 


Onboard inside the app  

A first-run experience (FRE) is presented when a user opens an add-in for the first time. It provides them with insight into the functions, features, and benefits of the add-in. This experience helps shape the user’s impression of an add-in and strongly influences their likelihood to come back to and continue using your add-in.  


Please remember, don’t make users register or sign up first. This can be a blocker for users to try the real functionality. A smooth and easy register experience allows users to complete an action that positively affects their perception of the add-in. For more information, see First-run experience patterns for Office Add-ins – Office Add-ins | Microsoft Learn. 


Choose the freemium business model 

Lastly, consider monetizing your add-in after gaining sufficient traffic. The freemium business model is a great way to attract customers, build a user base, and generate revenue. Freemium is a pricing strategy where you offer a basic version of the product or service for free while charging for advanced features or premium versions.  


By offering a free version of a product, companies can attract a larger audience and build a user base that can later be converted into paying customers. Once users are familiar with the product, they are more likely to upgrade to the premium version to access additional features. Additionally, offering a free version of a product can reduce the cost of acquiring new customers, as users can try the product before they purchase. Finally, the freemium model makes it easier to increase brand awareness and generate buzz around a product. 

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