Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Inside Deep Thought (Why the UI, Part 6)

Collecting data for the Office 2007 UI ...

"Microsoft is tracking your every move!

Soon after you install Office 2003 on your computer, a balloon pops up asking if you would like to "Help Make Office Better." If you click on it, you are given the opportunity to enroll in something called the Microsoft Office Customer Experience Improvement Program. If you opt-in, anonymous data about how you use Office are uploaded to Microsoft occasionally in the background.

If you're the curious type, you might have wondered where your data goes. Well, today I'm here to answer the question: it goes into an Excel spreadsheet I have sitting on my desktop.

OK, back up. Back in the olden days of designing software at Microsoft (say, pre-2003), design decisions were mostly supported by guesswork. There's a classic Microsoft interview question (that I've never heard of anyone actually using) "How many gas stations are there in the United States?" Many have criticized that type of question as being feckless; personally, I agree and it's not representative of how I choose to spend my interview time with a candidate. But the rough "estimate an answer and defend it" style required to answer the gas station question was at the heart of how many design decisions used to be made at Microsoft."   continued ...   (Via Jensen Harris)


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