Helping Microsoft gain traction in an increasingly competitive space
Microsoft wanted to improve registration and viewing of events to the communities it serves. They wanted to eradicate the confusion around events and gain a competitive advantage over industry peers and new 3rd party websites. Upon launching a new site redesign, they wanted ease of use and, therefore, higher conversion. Moreover, Microsft wanted to be the “go-to” for events for IT professionals and software engineers specifically.
Microsoft had several directions they were conflicted about taking. It was critical to get some outside, objective direction about the best (most usable) path. The initial thinking was that the team could support both interfaces (and separate databases) for their two audiences.
Learn from the mistakes of your competitors: Experience Dynamics began by conducting competitive benchmarking on five key competitors, including Apple. We identified flaws and strengths in how competitors promoted events and the features they offered. The expert reviews detailed “do’s and don’ts” and a benchmarking of where Microsoft was excelling and where they were weak across 15 key tasks. The competitive usability reviews provided objective external data points for the team to compare and contrast new ideas and 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.
Next, Experience Dynamics recruited and moderated 1:1 user testing with 20 IT professionals and software engineers who regularly attend events online and in person. 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. Language and labeling ambiguities, eg.”virtual” vs “on-demand,” were reassessed to avoid confusion we observed when users interacted with the event search tool.
Experience Dynamics usability testing and competitive research revealed areas of opportunity that helped us build a winning product. As a result of Experience Dynamics usability study, our team was smarter and stronger going into our redesign and launch”.
The internal debate about which events search direction to use was quickly put to rest. Our usability testing showed which UI elements were valuable to users.
Our study showed that one user interface could satisfy both audiences, resulting in one less database to maintain. Moreover, the search user interface was improved dramatically, (see mock-up design recommendation from Experience Dynamics left), and feature creep was combatted using direct insights from the user testing. It was immediately clear to Microsoft’s cross-functional team and Program Manager 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 UX design elements. Microsoft.com users report an improved events user experience, with a 135% improvement in ease of use and 9% increase in customer conversion after launch.