Empowering IT professionals and developers with training and educational content
ChallengeWith two different Microsoft Events search interfaces managed by two separate teams, Microsoft wasn't sure which search interface was helping its users achieve their goals best.The combined teams were due to launch a new Events website and wanted to merge search interfaces to eliminate confusion. Microsoft knew that to settle any internal arguments, they would have to turn to their users for an independent and objective view of the current search user experience. Some of the questions the team had included:
- Which search interface do users like best?
- Which search features are most useful to developers vs IT professionals?
- How easy is it for users to register for and manage or previously viewed saved events?
In order to understand how users were currently accessing and interacting with training and educational content, Experience Dynamics conducted usability testing with Microsoft.com users. In addition, the Experience Dynamics team conducted in-depth competitive usability analysis of the events user experience of four key competitors as well as a Web 2.0 newcomer.First, Experience Dynamics carefully screened and recruited 18 IT professionals and developers, including CIO's and independent programmers. We worked with the Microsoft.com team to develop a usability test plan that would be used to have users walk through realistic tasks, where they would be observed and the site evaluated for ease of use.
The Experience Dynamics team converted a focus group facility into a usability testing lab with our portable usability lab. We were able to quickly set-up the usability test, bringing users into the sessions, where they would "think aloud" and interact with the Microsoft Events website. Next users were interviewed about their experiences with Microsoft Events.
Both the direct observation of users using the actual events website and events registration process, as well as the post-test interviews, allowed Microsoft to directly understand what users needed and what design priorities the team should act on first. Unnecessary or overdone features were scrapped or adjusted to fit the expectations and task flow of actual user behavior.
Second, Experience Dynamics spent time analyzing competitor user experiences, findings flaws and strengths in how competitors promoted events and what features they offered. The expert reviews detailed "do's and don'ts" as well as a benchmarking of where Microsoft was excelling and where they were weak across 15 key tasks.
The competitive usability reviews provided another objective external data point for the two teams to compare and contrast new ideas as well as planned functionality. Moreover, the team was able to gain a clearer understanding of how Microsoft Events performed directly against the competition, and where new innovation priorities should be directed.
- The internal debate about which events search interface to use was put to rest, with user behavior demonstrating that certain aspects of both user interfaces were valuable–with specific elements of each appealing to each audience separately.
- One user interface was able to satisfy both audiences, resulting in one less database to maintain. Moreover, the search user interface was improved dramatically and feature-creep was tamed using the direct insight from the usability testing. It was clear what users collectively needed and why.
- Microsoft's redesigned Events user interface was able to leapfrog key competitors and even future-proof the design with the right targeted "Web 2.0" design elements.
- Microsoft.com users report an improved user experience, with testing showing a 135% ease of use improvement over competitors in the post-launch site over the earlier design.
Microsoft is the worldwide leader in software, services and solutions with annual revenues of $51 billion. Microsoft.com is one of the most popular destinations on the Internet, receiving more than 100 million unique users per month worldwide.
Get in touch and see if we can help you.