Client: Microsoft – Microsoft Partner Network

Project summary: The ISV Hub was a redesign effort of an existing section on the Microsoft Partner Network website. The project included content and UX strategy to create a personalized experience for the key users, based on where they are in the lifecycle of working with Microsoft.

Microsoft team: Worldwide Small and Midmarket Solutions and Partners

Duration: 4 months (Sept – Dec 2015)

My roles: UX Designer, Interaction Designer

“Born in the Cloud”

The ISV Hub is a personalized, guided experience geared for small (startup) to midmarket Independent Software Vendor (ISV) and Application Builder partners. Whether the partner is “born in the cloud” or wants to transition from on-premise to the cloud, they can discover how Microsoft Azure and other Microsoft Cloud technologies can help them with their business solutions.

Objective
The objective for the redesign was to increase the number of app builders and certified apps in the marketplace, recruit new app builders into MPN and accelerate adoption usage of Microsoft’s platform in their apps/services.
Strategy
Leverage the platform and a clear content strategy to deliver enhanced relevant experiences that takes ISVs on a rewarding, self-service customer journey from planning and discovery, through app building, to bringing it market and beyond.
Outcome
Our team delivered interactive prototypes, worked with third-party user testing vendor with user studies, full design comps and redline annotations. The experience launched FY16 Q3 with great success. We even won an internal award for Team Collaboration!

Personas

In FY15, extensive research was conducted to learn about what ISVs need to be successful (conducted by Microsoft). More importantly, to gain insight into what ISVs want and aren’t currently getting with MPN and on the MPN Portal when just getting started or trying to grow. For example, feedback around satisfaction level were discovered in the areas of: development tools and technical support, ready-to-go marketing assets and assistance and marketplace promotion.

Existing Experience

Here are screenshots of the site “ISV and Application Builder Center” we redesigned. Note the concept of a lifecycle where a partner first joins the Network, then plans their business strategy, and then afterward builds their solution and takes it to market.

Experience Brief

A 67 page experience brief was created using all of the learnings from the persona development and user interviews. We decided to focus the story on one of the key personas (Lenny – the “Born in the Cloud” persona). Throughout the brief is a user story, divided into sections that follow the lifecycle (starting at not being a member yet). The story was used as the aide to guide us while creating the conceptual wireframes. The wireframes act as the visualization to the story text. Below is just a small sample from the experience brief.

Conceptual Wireframes

Here is a selection of wireframes used in the experience brief. We wanted to explore a conceptual approach, where an “intelligent agent” is explored (below hero), a question-and-answer stepped experience.

Prototype & User Testing

Our team created an HTML prototype of the conceptual wireframes, with visual design and Microsoft branding applied (left). We used the prototype for user testing, where we created a user testing plan and script and then a local Seattle user research firm, Blink, helped conduct the qualitative studies.

Study participants: 8 men and one woman, mix of ages from mid 20’s to mid 50’s. Six iOS/Android developers/business decision makers, three existing Microsoft partners who support or manage developers.

One key takeaway: participants liked the concept of the “intelligent agent” but that particular “wizard” pattern may not be suitable for quick, repeat scenario interactions such as these. Perhaps a central space they can go to track tasks via checklists through the lifecycle stages, based on what solution they are building, publishing and/or selling?

Results

When Satya Nadella came on board at Microsoft in 2014 (a year before this project), he pushed the company hard to move to cloud computing, which meant Microsoft partners also had to move to the cloud. Whether they were born in the cloud or transitioned to it, the content and UX strategy our team provided for the ISV Hub ultimately helped Microsoft increase their membership and increase the number of apps in the marketplace.

The “intelligent agent” concept was shelved due to complexity and too many outstanding unknowns. It would later become the “Partner Bot”, a supportive and guided chat bot question-and-answer system which our team also worked on in 2019.

Key Learnings / Challenges

It was great to work with a Content Strategist role – critical to an experience that is so content-driven. It was helpful to have that role early on in the process, when we analyzed the persona research and created the experience brief together.