It is the job of a Program Manager to define features of a
product. There are many aspects to this one being user interface. The user
interface is what the user sees, it’s what the user works with and it is how
your feature is judged by many. Good UI design is a difficult thing. Many times
you have conflicting requirements. It should be very easy to use by a novice. It
should be powerful and configurable by an expert. It should be consistent with
the past. It should be new an innovative. It should be discoverable. These are
just a few requirements that a PM must take into account for good UI design.
Fortunately here at Microsoft there are many others able (and more qualified) to
help. There are User Experience and design experts and there are Usability
Engineers. I had the chance to work with the Usability Engineer on our team. The
basic process is that we bring in a few key customers who fit the profile that
we are trying to test. For example a Office developer with C# experience, or an
Office user with no development experience. The PM and the Usability Engineer
meet to come up with scenarios for the user to complete. This could also include
Paper Scenarios. Paper Scenarios are for ideas that have not been coded
yet. The user is presented with some printouts of what the UI would look like.
This is a great way to get feedback into the design before it is coded.
Microsoft has a great facility here. There are two small rooms joined by a two
way mirror. On one side sits the user and other the people who are interested in
the study. The user is video taped and voice and screen recorded. The user is
giving the scenario to walk through. We learn many things from the way the user
try to accomplish the task.