Client: Microsoft – Microsoft Partner Network

Project summary: This project consisted of a redesign of the Microsoft Partner Community (MPC) site, built on the Khoros community platform (formerly Lithium).

Microsoft team: One Commercial Partner – Digital Engines & Digital Communities

Duration: 3.5 months (mid Sept-Dec 2018)

My roles: UX Lead

Revamp, Rebrand, Relaunch

Since the MPC site was off-platform, many elements were different from its sister site, the Microsoft Partner Network (MPN); the navigation, color palette, font stack and grid system were all different. Our job was to make improvements to the overall experience and better align MPC to MPN.

Objective
There were many objectives for the redesign but the primary ones were to: better align with the MPN site, improve accessibility, increase user adoption and admin functionality and reduce overall user confusion.
Strategy
The UX strategy consisted of upfront discovery and analysis of their current state as well as other community sites across the Microsoft ecosystem and also outside the ecosystem. The analysis findings then helped inform our recommendations.
Outcome
We iterated on the designs and worked closely with the stakeholder and engineering team to discuss on feature impact and feasibility and scope. Our team delivered a discovery deck, interactive prototypes, full design comps and redline spec documentation.

Discovery & Analysis

An 89-page discovery & analysis deck was created to help understand the current state of the site as well as other sites. The analysis criteria consisted of 7 topic areas that I used when doing the UX research. Those areas were: IA/Navigation, Page Types, Search and Filtering, Registration, Ideas, Community member incentives (gamification, features, recognition, events, etc.), Mix of content with both Microsoft and Partner voice. Our visual designer also analyzed those sites from a visual design perspective.

Sites Analyzed

Analysis Findings Summary – UX

Analysis Findings Summary – Visual Design

Heuristic Analysis

What is shown below is a small sample of pages from the analysis deck, specifically the analysis on the site’s then current state, across the analysis criteria (list of 7 items on left).

The Revamp & Rebrand

The following are just some of the recommendations we provided the Microsoft team, organized again by the analysis criteria topic areas, with Page Types fleshed out. You can visit the Microsoft Partner Community site here to see what features have been implemented compared to what’s shown here.

IA/Navigation

The existing navigation was using the outdated, “stacked” navigational model (as seen above, dark grey) but in order to align with MPN they needed to update their IA strategy to move to the new Microsoft corporate standard called “UHF” (Unified Header and Footer), which MPN had already adopted.

Page Types

After analyzing the page types within a Lithium community site and saw how the other sites were using them, we made recommendations on those trends and industry best practices and standards. Other pages not included here are the Ideas page (shown further down this page), Registration pages, or the Open/Closed Groups.

Home Page

For the anonymous experience, there were visual design updates. Once the partner signs in, the Latest Posts section would show posts from the Groups, Communities, Forums or Topic Discussions user has bookmarked and/or subscribed to, with unread posts in bold.

Communities Page

The existing site had multiple communities pages, which were organized and linked to from the top navigation, which was very confusing. We proposed a similar concept seen on another site, the Microsoft Tech Community, which we thought was more scalable and easier to find and explore the different communities. The addition of filters to narrow results helps partners quickly find what interests them.

Ideas

Taking cues from some of the other experiences I analyzed, we proposed a delightful revamp of the Ideas experience and all of the pages it entails. The site hadn’t turned on the Ideas capability of the platform yet (it was still in staging), and were waiting for our recommendations before starting that engineering effort.

They specifically asked for simple UI updates, ones that wouldn’t change underlying functionality. That’s why we created mappings and clear annotations to show how elements evolved in our solutions.

Key Learnings / Challenges

This was my first run at redesigning a community platform, so I definitely learned a lot. I had to heavily familiarize myself with the platform and what it could do in order to make the most sound and logical recommendations. Since I have a natural learning mindset, this was not a challenge for me!