Designing With Customers in Mind

Office 2010 User Research & Design

My name is Shawn Lipstein and I work in Microsoft’s Office Design Group (ODG) as a User Experience Research Lead. I wanted to take the opportunity in today’s post to both introduce ODG and share a bit about what we do. I’ll also give you a peek at future posts we’ll be writing.

Who is ODG and what do we do?

The Office Design Group is made up of both User Experience Designers and User Experience Researchers. Our job is to represent you, the end-user of our software products. We partner with product teams within Office to identify user needs and create compelling experiences. By understanding who you are and how you work we can build better software.

We identify user needs and create compelling experiences in a number of ways. For example, User Experience Researchers work to understand user needs early in the product development cycle using methods such as Field Visits. A field visit is when Researchers visit with users in their own environment and observe how they work with software to get their tasks done. Researchers also utilize methods such as Lab Studies (see image below) where we bring users into controlled lab environments and have them work through real world scenarios. While doing so, we use prototypes as primitive as paper drawings to actual working builds; depending on the phase we are at in the product development cycle.


The above image is a photograph of a Lab Study conducted using an early working build.

As another example, User Experience Designers work to solve difficult design issues in innovative ways by using methods such as Wire Framing where the basic idea of a design is blueprinted. Designers also produce many iterations of a solution using high fidelity drawings and even working prototypes to ensure that all possibilities around the interaction, visual look and feel, and animations have been considered.

The images below show an example of the ‘Office 2010 Backstage’ going from a sketch to a working build (click on the images for a larger version).



1. Early on in the development cycle Designers will develop a multitude of hand drawn concept sketches.



2. Wire Frames are made to explore layout and proportion as we begin to refine our ideas.

3. A high fidelity rendering is created to finalize the look and feel and to clearly communicate the design intent to the rest of the team.




4. A screenshot of the final build shows the accuracy that is achieved in relation to the high fidelity rendering.

As you’ve read above, the Office Design Group - made up of both Designers and Researchers - use a number of techniques to identify user needs and create compelling experiences. I’m excited to get feedback from a broader set of customers as we begin to make 2010 available. This feedback helps to ensure our software is intuitive and usable.

What is the Office Design Group (ODG) planning to post here in the future?

ODG plans to post more topics in a series on this blog about ‘Office 2010 User Research & Design.’ Some questions that my colleagues are planning to answer are:

  • What Research Tools and Techniques does ODG use? Find out about the different Research tools and techniques we used in order to deliver Office 2010.
  • What Design Tools and Techniques does ODG use? Find out about the different Design tools and techniques we used in order to deliver Office 2010.
  • What process does ODG go through to develop Visuals and Branding? Discover the process that we go through to ensure that we have a great visuals and branding story for Office 2010.
  • How does ODG Understand User Usage? The Customer Experience Improvement Program is one way that we understand how users are using the Office programs. Join us as we explain how we understand user usage which in turn helps us make design decisions as we develop Office 2010.

I look forward to reading your comments and questions about this and subsequent posts.