Innovation on User Research Methods during the development of Windows Vista

Gayna Williams   Gayna Williams,   Microsoft

Seminar on People, Computers, and Design
Stanford University November 17, 2006

To create compelling user experiences it is essential to incorporate user feedback into product development – this has been known for many years. There are standard methods utilized by user research practitioners; however, to deliver a user perspective in large scale software development has required an expansion of the toolset. Because of short time frames and finite resources it is essential to integrate research approaches to provide a holistic user perspective and deliver a high return on research investments. And for the outcome of the research to be utilized it is critical to have created a product team environment that is empathetic to users, and deliver results in a way that blends with development practices. This talk presents innovation on research methods used during the creation of Windows Vista to insure that users were considered at each stage of the development process. The methods highlighted will include: personas, benchmarking, desirability, instrumentation, and ethnographies.

Gayna Williams has been involved in user focused research at Microsoft for 12 years. Before moving to her new position as Director for Product Customer Partner Experience, she was the User Research Director for Windows Vista. In her user research role she managed a team of researchers that comprised usability engineers, ethnographers and data miners who pioneered original approaches to understanding users and impacting products. These include persona use, wide-scale real-time consumer data collection, and exploratory ethnography. During her tenure at Microsoft Gayna has worked on a broad range of products including Windows, Internet Explorer, MSN, NetMeeting, and consumer products. Her new role at Microsoft allows her to leverage her user research experience and also have an even broader view of what it takes to satisfy Microsoft customers and partners. Her undergraduate training was in ergonomics at Loughborough University of Technology, England; her undergraduate project on the use of video to support teams was presented at the 1997 European Computer Supported Cooperative Work conference. She earned a MS at the University of Minnesota in human factors, conducting research on advance traffic information systems for use by general and aging driver populations. She has presented research papers and methods overviews at several conferences and universities.

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