Design guidelines for Office Add-ins

Office Add-ins extend the Office experience by providing contextual functionality that users can access within Office clients. Add-ins empower users to get more done by enabling them to access third-party functionality within Office, without costly context switches.

Your add-in UX design must integrate seamlessly with Office to provide an efficient, natural interaction for your users. Take advantage of add-in commands (Office UI extensions) to provide access to your add-in and use the UI elements and best practices that we recommend when you create custom HTML-based UI.

Core Office Add-in design principles

Regardless of the underlying framework you use to create your custom UI, apply the following principles as you design your add-in:

  • Design explicitly for Office. The functionality and look and feel of an add-in must harmoniously complement the Office experience, including applying the the Office or document theme.

  • Make users more efficient. Help users get one job done without getting in the way of other jobs. Allow for seamless interaction between Office documents and your add-in.

  • Favor content over chrome. Emphasize the add-in's content and functionality over any accessory chrome. Maximize the use of space by avoiding superfluous UI elements that don't add value to the user experience.

  • Keep users in control. Allow users to control their experience, understand any important decisions, and easily reverse actions the add-in performs.

  • Design for all platforms and input methods. Add-ins are designed to work on all the platforms that Office supports, and your add-in UX should be optimized to work across platforms and form factors. Support mouse/keyboard and touch input devices, and ensure that your custom HTML UI is responsive to adapt to different form factors. For more information, see Touch.

Design language

We recommend that you adopt the Office design language and use Office UI Fabric to create custom HTML-based experiences in your add-ins. If your organization already has a design language, you're welcome to use it, as long as the end result is a harmonious experience for Office users.

Add-in building blocks

You can use two types of UI elements to create your add-ins:

For details about how to use these building blocks, see UI elements.

UX design patterns

To help you create a first-class user experience for your add-in, we provide templates that illustrate common UX design patterns. These templates reflect best practices for creating compelling, world-class add-ins, and include patterns for first-run experiences, branding elements, and user notifications. They use Office UI Fabric components and styles and include elements that naturally extend the Office UI.

To access the templates, see the Office Add-in UX Design Patterns repo. The Adobe Illustrator files are also available; you can download and update them to reflect your own designs. You can also copy the code files from the Office Add-in UX design patterns code repo to your add-in project and customize them as needed.

We provide recommended layouts for each add-in type, along with end-to-end examples to help you put everything together. To learn more about how to lay out your add-in, see the following:

See also Interaction patterns for examples of common scenarios for add-ins and their corresponding interaction patterns.

Additional resources