The goal is to address the #1 request from our existing Express customers...more beginner content (more on that below), but we do this with:
- True Absolute Beginner content - True beginners don't know how the internet works, what a variable is, or the difference between an object or a class.
- Provide a Learning Path - There's a million pieces of content, provide a gradual, step-by-step approach to learning.
- Tiered Content - If you already know the basics, you can dive right into the right content level for you
- Offline Learning - Making sure that our learning materials are available for both online and offline use, this means packaging the tutorials, videos, and all code samples in easy-to-use content packs
- Task-Based Snack-Size Learning - We also have a How-To reference library with 5-10 minute tutorials on a specific task (ex: Adding Audio to your application)
- Visual Studio Express Guided Tour Videos - To help users understand the key features of the Visual Studio Express IDE.
- Learning Materials for Kids - Content created by organizations like Digigirlz among other groups designed to teach programming fundamentals.
This is our first big leap in beginner content. We'll continue to add and improve the content based on your feedback, so let us know what's hard, confusing, or missing.
Why we did this
Visual Studio Express launched on November, 2005, since then, we've had 10+ million downloads. Wow! I wonder when we can claim to be the most popular developer tool ever?
Once a year, we send an email to a random sampling of registered Express customers that opted-in to communication from Microsoft. For those of you that get a survey, do realize we take your feedback very seriously. The survey is handled by ComScore Media Metrix and we literally receive thousands of pieces of customer feedback on everything from user satisfaction, product suggestions, skill level, time spent developing and so forth. Jacqueline Russell on our team is our data wonk and helped organize the feedback into key themes to look for trends. This literally meant reading thousands of pieces of feedback, but there is no better place to get feedback on what your customers pain is.
The most interesting data point was the #1 requested content by all customers, from VB Express to C++ Express customers, the #1 request was....More Beginner Content. To give you an idea of what beginner content means, here's the verbatim feedback from an anonymous customer for his suggestion on how to improve Express:
More understandable - "seems like it's written by .NET geeks for .NET geeks. You should take your online documentation to an 8th grade computer class and have them proof it to see if they understand it"
I couldn't have said it better myself 🙂
Huge kudos to Jacqueline Russell for creating the Beginner Developer Learning Center and for refreshing the Visual Studio Express site. She made it her personal mission to make sure we dramatically improve our experience for beginners and the results I think are amazing. I also want to thank the MSDN folks (Amar Shah, Dan Ledrick, etc) and of course our sixth-man that's rescued our team too many times now, Kent Sharkey, for getting our site up and running.