Monday, February 12, 2007

Vista's International Test Families

Amid all the news on the recent Microsoft Vista release, one story was of particular interest to me. That was the angle outlining how Microsoft had utilized 50 families of “regular users” to help refine Vista. By “regular users,” we’re not taking about the self-selected power users normally invited to beta test pre-release software. These were regular folks with regular hobbies, giving Microsoft daily feedback on areas of confusion or undue complexity. Microsoft stated that these users’ input was invaluable, yet the cost was relatively minimal -- new computers and a few small incentives such as pizza coupons.

All too often clients cut corners on user research, or cut it out entirely, because they feel that it is too time-consuming or costly. Yet fundamental product breakthroughs often come with this kind of in situ research (meaning in the environment of the user, for example their home or office). Even more exciting is the fact that Microsoft chose families from across the globe from the very beginning of their research, ensuring global relevancy. We salute Microsoft, and wish them the best with Vista.,1895,2081624,00.asp

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