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Windows 7 engineers: how feedback shaped the final release


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Last night, we had the pleasure of talking with three members of the Windows 7 product development and planning team: Bernardo Caldas, Group Product Planner; Steve Scallen, UX Research Manager; and Cameron Turner, Group Program Manager for Telemetry. We had a lot of questions we wanted answered, but due to time constraints and a handful of other factors, we stuck to the topic of how feedback shaped Windows 7. That being said, they still had quite a story to tell.

What each employee does

Caldas started off the discussion by explaining that the planning process for Windows 7 took priority compared to the development of previous Windows versions. The data gathered by the development and planning team had a much more important role to play when other Windows 7 teams had to decide what they found most compelling for the release. Caldas also explained that "feedback," around which the majority of the planning process is based on, is a very broad term for Microsoft: it comprises of all the data sources that the software giant has going into the project, including primary research that takes into account traditional market research, surveys, and other tools good for drilling into a specific area, as well as secondary sources like the general press, blogs, and overall commentary on the product.

Caldas saw the registry discussion that popped up when we asked our readers for questions. While he didn't explicitly answer every question, he did use it as a jumping point to detail how Microsoft approaches user concerns. He said discussion at Microsoft would start off with a statement along the lines of "Clearly the registry is a solution to what people may or may not like." Once it was brought up, the group would take a look at the consumer view, the enterprise view, how other vendors do it, and other perspectives. He emphasized that once an issue was brought to the table, it was heavily scrutinized before any decisions were made. "As you can imagine, for every idea considered for Windows 7, there are tons of points of view," he told us.

Once the beta feedback starts to trickle in, the initial phase of planning is over, and Microsoft takes an opportunity to act on what beta testers are saying, depending on the scope and impact the potential changes would have. "When we think about the input of the project, we look at a very diverse set of datapoints," Caldas said, and then started listing them: enterprise customers, quantitative panels, telemetry data… and then Turner jumped in.

Telemetry is responsible for a lot of the automatically-collected data, such as crash information, details sent through the feedback tool, and so on, according to Turner. He went on to explain that telemetry data lets Microsoft understand how well users are succeeding at certain tasks, how they are failing at others, and how these users would be able to complete their task more efficiently. It is the quantitative data that extends, supports, and lets Microsoft quantify the initial hypotheses made in the early planning stages. Data comes in a variety of systems and formats, but its most important role is "checking that the product we have is the one that market really wants," Turner emphasized. Then the process starts all over again.

Scallen is part of larger team of designers whose task it is to answer three simple questions for every UI decision: "Does it return the value that it's meant to return? Does it return the correct emotional value? Does it get the job done for the customer?" He works to leverage all the information collected by customers and make sure to understand how customers use and feel about the product. In short, Scallen makes sure Microsoft knows why people are doing what Turner's team sees. Scallen described Windows development as a constant cycle of planning, testing, and iteration. "It's how we get a good, consistent view of what we need to do and what we need to change," he said.

Continues at source...

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