Experience from the Design of Visio

Peter Mullen, Visio

Seminar on People, Computers, and Design
Stanford University May 15, 1998


Visio is a Microsoft Windows-based business drawing product designed for non-computer professionals to create business diagrams and technical drawings for their everyday work. The original premise for the product was there is an unsatisfied market need for this activity and that ease-of-use is critical to satisfying this need. The product has sold over 2 million copies worldwide in its 5 year life.

The presentation takes a practical look at creating and evolving a shrink-wrapped software product by looking at the following topics

  1. The original Visio design goals intuitive for the casual user, familiar interface metaphors, reduced modality, layered functionality, persisted relationships, and adherence to platform standards.
  2. How these goals were embodied in the product.
  3. How the product has evolved since its introduction.

In particular the presentation will cover investing in ease-of-use, business and market pressures on design, and the pitfalls of listening to your customers.


Peter Mullen is Vice President and General Manager for the Visio Business Products Business Unit. Mullen joined Visio Corporation in 1991 as the lead developer for Visio's flagship product, Visio 1.0, and has continued to lead both the development and marketing teams through subsequent releases. Prior to joining Visio, Mullen co-founded Elseware Corporation, and was a software developer at Aldus Corporation (since acquired by Adobe Systems Incorporated). While at Aldus, Mullen worked on PageMaker and Persuasion.


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