“Our previous project on the Microsoft.com user behavior revealed overall needs, but we didn’t yet have a clear picture of our potential communities users. We wanted to take a deep-dive into this area and determine how best to facilitate and support them, in a community setting” shared Doug Pyle, Usability Manager.
After evaluating the data, the InContext team developed recommendations and design ideas for the Microsoft.com team to improve the online communities and create an environment people would trust and want to participate in:
The project delivered the results that the Microsoft.com usability team was looking for:
“Now, our designers can immerse themselves in the data and extend InContext’s recommendations with their own ideas.” – Doug Pyle, Usability Manager
InContext designed a research project using Contextual Inquiry to study users participating in newsgroups, web forums, wikis, Open Source communities, and user group meetings. The detailed field data from these interviews were merged with the previously collected data to inform the final results.
From this data, InContext was able to reveal users’ real needs and desires — what they look for in a community and what they need to trust the information they find. The team used this understanding to make recommendations for improving Microsoft-sponsored communities, including improvements to the sites and new marketing directions.
“Now we know what direction to take our involvement in communities,” Pyle said.
The team learned that users go to online communities for information but judge the community by a sense of personal interaction and relationship building: