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Is it just me or does the redesigned Windows developer center need work?

Is it just me or does the redesigned Windows developer center need work?

  • Comments 7

I just got out of a meeting with someone who told me they received rather unanimous feedback that the Windows Developer Center, the site I manage, is painful for developers.  I agree with them for the following reasons:

  • There's marketing content all over the center and it's difficult to discern between it and the "developer-focused" content.
  • It's hard to get to the code
  • The links are inconsistent and it's hard to tell which links will get you to good resources and which links will lead you to a cliff

To name a few of my reasons.  When I inherited the Developer center early in 2010, the site had just gone through a major redesign that changed the site from this:

To this:

 

The new UI was cleaner, has some nice graphics in it, and was a refreshing change on what many saw as a bland and boring page. As a result, the redesign was very well received internally and I saw some positive feedback when we launched. I then assumed all was good and went on my merry way.  I think I made a very bad assumption.  Very, very bad.  Why do I say this?

Yeah, that graph looks to me like traffic failure, the redesign ain't working and customers are telling us this by leaving and not coming back.  I have been thinking very hard about those numbers and have been confounded about why they have been going down.  I have been isolating the variables and potential causes that could explain the traffic falling off:

  • Did the redesign pull us off of Google results?  (Yes, it did, but fixing it didn't help)
  • Did the redesign mess up our metrics? (Nope, it didn't, I counted the number of intrumented pages over time and it's consistent)
  • Are our numbers being thrown off by international traffic? (Kinda, but not enough to cause half of our visitors / pageviews to disappear)

The interesting thing is that despite owning the developer center, I have felt somewhat powerless to change the homepage.  The redesign work put into the new layout came right before the MSDN home and hub redesign and as a result we didn't get integrated into some of the revisions that happened from that team.  Assuming things were good, I have been working on getting content consistently integrated into the center, fixing SEO issues, identifying and removing dead content, and highlighting the best Windows developer stuff from around the Web.  What has the effort done for traffic to the developer center? *Points to the "traffic fail" graph again* 

What's really scary to me is that I never was told that my site sucked.  There's a link on the bottom of the page that says, "Site Feedback"  but those emails haven't been getting to me :-( 

Well, in closing, I'm really more coming to terms with what has happened and what I neeed to do: we launched a site with a bad design that I didn't and still don't understand, and it's about time that I fix all the things we broke.  In the coming weeks, the following changes will be made on the developer center:

  • Removing as much of the "marketing" content as possible
  • Bubbling up as much of the code content as possible
  • Coming up with a consistent linking / naming style for content on the homepage
  • .... You name it? 

If you have gripes, wishes, rants, or raves about the Windows Developer Center leave me a comment on the blog, mention it in a Tweet, or heck, email me.  I am paying attention very closely.

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  • I typically only venture to MSDN to download software, so I typically will open up a browser to http://msdn.com and then proceed to the Downloads and Product Keys section. That being said, I'm only going to go somewhere else if something catches my eye.

    Getting to your page from the front MSDN page requires a bit too much detective work. The link is at the bottom of the screen by a bunch of other links. I'll assume there's little that can be done about that, but just sharing that with you.

    As far as the page itself: I'm not sure who the target audience is, but the majority of it screams "marketing" to me. I would rather see recent and notable Windows client articles MSDN blogs being linked to in the main portion of the page (Windows Features section) and not tucked away at the bottom right.

    Then instead of Top Windows Solutions, maybe have a list of the latest downloadable Windows-related developer libraries/utilities/whitepapers or something similar.

    I'd figure that the Featured Content section should have a more notable presence as well.

  • Get rid of bullet points 1,2,3 under Windows Application Development as well. I already either know or have all that information; it just gets in the way of finding what I'm really looking for.

  • @Matt:     That the site is hard to find is very good information to me!  I wasn't involved in the home and hub redesign of the MSDN homepage and had I been able to get more input there, I would have tried to get more prominent placement.  I agree with you, the site just screams marketing and I wonder if having /any/ marketing wording on a developer site can overwhelm the developer content.

    @Robert: Thanks for the feedback! I'm going to fight with marketing to get those taken off.  Great feedback!

  • Over the years I have used MSDN extensively - but not any more. I am working on ASP.NET, silverlight and other technologies. I go directly to the site in question (asp.net, sliverlight.net) and not thorigh MSDN. I use MSDN only for downloading the subscriber content.

    The MSDN search is awful and does not produce results with relevant meaning. Otherwise with site this huge, it is impossible to find the content - without good search. I always skip first (two) pages to get to the answer.

    I have impression that MSDN search is not the same engine like Bing and this shows?

  • @Srdjan Thanks for the feedback, we definitely have it on our radar to improve the search experience on MSDN and there have been recent changes that help to make it clear what the search results will link to.  

    That said, we totally agree with you, it could be improved with more relevant results and much more contextual searching.

  • Look at the first items on both pages -

    A) Why Windows 7 vs B) Why Windows is a compelling development platform

    A - Addresses a hot topic Windows 7, not just Windows in general (Im assuming this is older)

    A - Suscinct - 3 words

    B) Vague

    B) Not a hot topic - Im assuming in general these are already Windows developers and thats as much detail as youve given them

    B) Overbolded, too many distracting graphics, emphasizing unimportant words - Ex. Application Development (no kidding!)

    B) Giant ad at the top

    ---- And this comment box sucks...  Try and use it. Jumps and skitteres around.

    Slag

  • @slag Thank you for the concise feedback.  I feel for you on the blogging comments as I have tried to get improvements added to our platform but this is a limitation of the Telligent system that we have deployed as our blogging platform.

    I do think we should move to promoting Windows as a platform as opposed to specific SKUs.  I think marketing saw previous versions of Windows as the strongest competitor to Win7, an RDF issue (http://ow.ly/63Q1t)

    >Re: Ads, too much bolding, other experience issues

    We're working on it, I promise :)

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