31 January 2007

User research helped design a better Windows Vista

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Windows Vista family research
Two mainstream articles on Windows Vista underline the growing importance of qualitative user research in the design and development of technological products.

Microsoft views family input as key to its Vista [Los Angeles Times]

“Vista’s debut today marks an unprecedented effort by the company to solicit the feedback of everyday users. It’s a recognition that computers play an increasingly integral role in daily life and that using one should be simple and intuitive.

To better understand how people use computers in their lives, Microsoft found 50 families from around the world who, over two years, lived with Vista from its early test phase, known as Beta 1. Microsoft created a way for these families to offer daily feedback — by sending smiles or frowns — and company executives periodically dropped by to observe people using the operating system.

This group of beta testers sent 5,000 comments and identified 800 bugs that no one else had found.

Trish Miner, research manager for the Life with Windows Vista family feedback program, said the program offered surprising insights: including how changes to the Web browsing experience had some unintended consequences.”

Families spend two years ‘living with Windows Vista’ [ABC News]

“Microsoft has taken unprecedented steps to make sure that even the most techno-phobic users can get what they want and need out of the software. They’ve recruited 50 ordinary families from around the world to test the software and help the company shape it into a user-friendly and intuitive system that’s as good for grandma as it is for the grandkids.

“We wanted to make sure that our key customers were involved from the beginning,” said Trish Miner, research manager for the “Life with Windows Vista” program for Microsoft. “We also wanted to make sure that everything they wanted to do they could do easily.”

Miner credits the families who were picked from focus groups and through various online methods, with identifying over 800 bugs in Vista during the two year program, but also says they helped make the software what it is today by finding things they liked and didn’t like about it.”

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