site beta release announcement

clip_image0081This is a copy of the email that I sent to the teams about the updated beta.silverlight site.  As we prepare to move out of beta and into the production release, it seemed appropriate to have some of the background information posted.  My work on MSDN, has really forced me to look at the workflow of many different types of developers.  Broadly, more and more folks are learning to do development as part of their secondary and post secondary education – even though their primary area of focus is not software or computer science.  Increasingly the tools and cost of the hardware make this technology accessible to broader swaths of people.  The more interesting factor, is the set of pro and non pro developers that see (or at least believe) that there is an exciting financial opportunity in writing applications for phone devices.  Given the increased accessibility and motivation to engage in development by a diverse audience, the need for a curriculum that supports diverse skill levels and learning styles is important to any technology owner.  As such, my team and I have engaged in driving curriculum development and platform support in the development centers on MSDN.




<originally posted 4/22/2011>

<edited for corporate confidentiality>

The MSDN developer centers are one of the interaction points where they form their opinion.  Creating an exciting, positive experience within which we increase the efficiency of our audience will substantively improve their satisfaction  and their productivity.

Over the past two months, the MSDN team has designed and built an experience and platform that would address the customer, the product team and Microsoft information ecosystem needs.

Problem Statement

The Customer Problem

From Blogs and Forum Posts..

  • Hard to find the right content quickly (Discoverability)
  • Each developer site at Microsoft has its own look and feel – which makes it harder to find content (Discoverability)
  • Once at the wrong content, few facilities are available for me to get to the right content (Refinement)
  • Difficult to learn a new technology from scratch (Get Started + Curriculum)
  • MS Sites don’t incorporate the community enough (Focus on the community)
  • My primary learning style is {code, articles, books, videos} and you don’t support that type on your site (Multiple Learning Styles)
  • Some of the best content is written off Microsoft properties – but are rarely reference from MS in their overall treatment of any topic (Curriculum)


The combination of the right content strategy, a simplified publishing path for non-and improved experience can drive an inflection point toward increased satisfaction and productivity.

The first iteration of the platform and experience has been delivered in beta form on

Customer Value

clip_image002 Easier to find the right infoFinding the right information is one of the top tasks for visitors to our center.   Having better organization for the material helps folks find what their information quickly and provides better context overall (when well done). clip_image004 Getting Started / On-BoardingThe Getting Started experience provides the step by step instructions for installing the tools, gaining context, learning to use the technology, finding answers/support and getting inspired.
clip_image006 Support different learning stylesFrom user research and cognitive psychology, we know that our audience is diverse and has diverse learning styles.  Sequential learners, Code First learners, Book Learners and Learning Communities.  The design for the centers focuses on supporting each of these learning styles. clip_image008 CurriculumA learning path or curriculum provides the site visitor an order set of information that they can consume either sequentially or randomly depending on whether they are learning or solving a problem.  Content onsite or offsite can be integrated into the curriculum.
  Information UnityMuch of the great content for any given Microsoft or Technology exists offsite.  Curriculum features give you the ability to order, annotate and search off site content which unifies content so that the site the center of an information ecosystem. clip_image011 Highlight Tutorials + CodeNon-traditionally trained Developers prefer to start their learning experiences with code.  Highlighting tutorials that are code focused really support a broad & growing swath of developers.
  News“We go heads down for six weeks or more at a stretch… When we take the time to look up, we want to know what is going on.”

Keeping our audience informed over time is partially a community function, but it also keeps them at the forefront as technical advisors to their org.  Providing that information strengthens their relationship to the site.

clip_image012 Community IntegrationFrequently customers want to see Microsoft’s recommendations.  However, they have a great deal of trust in other expects in the community.  Seeing feedback from the community and connecting to the community substantively improves their affinity and satisfaction with the product/technology.
clip_image014 Modern LookCustomers have told us for some time that our sites look old and are poorly organized.  Taking the time to wipe the slate clean and to focus on the key issues customers are looking for can still yield positive aesthetic results. clip_image015 Consistent ExperienceToday each center is built by hand.  Consistently is currently driven by the top level navigation of the menu.

Using a template driven center, consistency is driven by the platform.  We still need best practices and user research to center on consistent information architecture.

Site Team Site Team

What’s next?

In the wake of the MIX release for Silverlight, we saw 45k visitors by the end of the day and lots of feedback from the community (e.g. “Wow, there’s a lot of content”, “I miss the blue from the old site”, “Community page is great – can we customize it more”).   This, however was only the beta release and we have more work to complete the core feature set (e.g. integrated feedback throughout the site, voting, better video integration and more).  Our goal was to show what is possible and to get your feedback on the site experience so that we could start a conversation with you.


Cyra Richardson
Principal Group Program Manager MSDN
Microsoft Corporation

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