MSDN Home and Hub Beta 1

<Originally Posted on 6/28/2010>

In two 2009, I presented a deck to Emma Williams (the head of the EPX organization – responsible for MSDN sites and library) to describe how Microsoft had an opportunity to better connect to its developer community.  In that conversation, I talked about how development was becoming less of an ends unto itself.  Coding is quickly becoming something that people learn in high school or college as part of a pallet of skills they need as part of the modern work force.  With some concrete data about the distribution of pro developers to non pro developers and the iPhone app phenomenon, I presented a really solid case.  Emma loved the presentation and asked me to talk to Nathalie Irvine, the GM of the STO group.

Before I knew it, I had the job of driving change in the way that Microsoft corporation connected with all types of developers through the MSDN websites.  It was the beginning of an exciting adventure and a mission to drive positive business results.




On Tuesday June 29th, we will launch Beta 1 of a new home page for MSDN inspired by developer need and feedback …


The demographics, interests and needs of developers have fundamentally changed since we first launched MSDN in 1992.  At that time Dr. GUI was ushering in a new area of visual computing for people for whom computing was the central part of their lives.  The role of developer now extends to anyone employing code as part of their daily lives at work or at play.  To speak to this broader audience, we need to focus on their scenarios, use language they understand, develop meaningful taxonomies, customize educational approaches, incorporate more samples everywhere and generally build a great experience from search to solution.  The MSDN Home and Hub update is the first step on a roadmap to providing greater value to our customers in a way that is meaningful from their world view and relative to their goals rather than our product centric view.

Why Home and Hub?

MSDN today offers a large number of developer centers focused around Microsoft products and technologies (e.g. VS, VB, Windows, Office… ). From MSDN site surveys, DTS studies, focus groups, usability research, direct customer feedback, blogs and other data sources we hear a number of specific requests from developers; make on ramping easier, improve better search, more sample code everywhere, detailed simple prescriptive guidance, better “how to” directions and more objective, directive feedback about how to effectively leverage our tools/platforms for real life end to end scenarios.

For MSDN Home and Hub Beta1 we are focusing on the following on-boarding scenarios:

  • DiscoverMicrosoft developer platforms
  • Choose APIsthat are right for me to use for each platform
  • Choose Development toolsthat are right for me for each platform
  • Learn(or ramp up on the) APIs and tools for the platform that I select
  • Installthe tools quickly and easily
  • Start coding right away


Why Now?

Developers, how they learn, how they code and the economy have substantively changed over the past few years. According to IDC, there are 8.6 million professional developers, about 39 million academic developers and about 104 non-professional developers.  Some portion of these developers are a significant new customer streams for Microsoft platforms, but they are increasingly pragmatic about their choice of tools and platforms to target, and they want to be productive fast in order to make money. In addition to having a compelling value proposition for the platform, they need a friction free on-boarding experience, a strong supportive community and a great and easy way for them to get proficient through real life “How To” guidance.

<section edited for corporate confidentiality>

A streamlined on-ramp experience

MSDN Home Page

MSDN Home and Hub V1

MSDN Home and Hub V1

For the MSDN Home and Hub Beta 1 release we continue our passion and focus around building meaningful End to End experiences by reflecting on our key design goals.

  • Clarity & Simplicity– Make it easy for customers to identify key messages
  • On Ramp– Create an easy on-ramp experience for key Microsoft tools and technologies
  • Predictability – Pilot a framework for consistency across the network
  • Performance – Simplify pages so that they load quickly and the customer can complete their task expeditiously
MSDN Cloud Hub Page


The four new Hub pages follow the basic template designed to express the simplicity of acquisition.

  1. Industry Perspective – Explain the platform from an objectively and industry perspective.
    Build Trust.
  2. Microsoft’s Perspective – Describe Microsoft’s offering in this space.
    Explain choices and reasons.
  3. One Click Install – Make it very simple (one click where possible) for me to get the tools.  Reduce developer friction.
  4. Code Quickly – Show me the programming options with video and code so that I can start coding quickly.
    Show developers that they can do this.
  5. Make Me Productive – Show me the development centers for each technology so that I can continue learning.
    Show them how to continue to learn


What’s next?

<edited for corporate confidentiality>


Here is a snapshot of customer feedback based on focus groups and early preview of the new pages.

What users are saying

About the new home page versus the current

  • “Obviously I’d click on cloud overview because who knows what the heck Azure or Application Fabric are.”

About the Cloud On boarding page

  • “Now I know I would need SQL, that is good to get up front.”Good to have list of everything I need…so I can see what we need to buy”
  • “Even as just developer, we want to see the big picture not just the SDK.”
  • “ 2 separate reasons to come to this page: Already know – come here to look up specifics. Know nothing – research benefits to my company.”

What the MVPs are saying

  • “I like the new onramps for developers. It should make it easier to find context relative information. Ready when you are!”
  • “I like the new approach very much. The one place where i felt Microsoft lacking was design patterns. There is no proper guidence and sample projects on best practices to use the latest tech stack along with proven design”
  • “Love this idea.  I can finally learn to code the right way with the same tools I use at work.”
  • “I really like the clean organization, images, whitespace, and topography.  The UX is easy to follow and eye-pleasing.”
  • “This all looks GREAT and I love the styling and flow. Looks very natural and intuitive. And looks like you’ve got a designer onboard who understands UX – the icons/thumbnails are PERFECT.”

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