Where do the Smiles go?

Over the last month, you've sent us thousands and thousands of comments about Office 2007 Beta 2 using the Send a Smile tool. For taking the time to install our beta and writing down your thoughts (positive and negative) I am very grateful.

A few bloggers have posited that "it's not worth sending feedback because Microsoft doesn't read it anyway." Even among a few people who aren't quite so cynical, I've seen it insinuated that the comments don't end up being read by the product team but instead go to some ineffectual "feedback team" or some database somewhere that no one looks at.

To try to set the record straight, I thought I'd take a few minutes today to explain exactly how the Send a Smile comments are handled, all the way from downloading the tool to a comment landing in my Inbox.

The first step, of course, is you taking the time to install the Send a Smile tool and clicking the Smile or Frown icon in the taskbar to give us a comment.

Click on these cute faces, you know you want to.

There's a text box to type your comment, and optionally you can include a picture of your screen and your e-mail address (so that we can contact you if necessary.) The screen capture is a really interesting and useful part of the feedback... especially where the UI is concerned--I know I love seeing exactly what people are experiencing on their screens. But, of course, you can just send the text if you'd rather.

OK, so you type your comment and click the Send button. The comment goes into a database here at Microsoft.

When they first enter the Send a Smile system, all comments are "untagged," which means that they haven't been looked at yet to determine which team should read the feedback.

Our usability engineers are what we call the "first-level taggers." They use a web site where they can read every comment and then tag it according to the groups to which the comment is directed.

For instance, a smile about the Styles gallery in Word would get tagged for the user experience team (my team) and the Word team. This tagging process ensures that someone from the usability team reads every single comment submitted through the tool.

Once the comment has been read once and tagged appropriately, "second-level taggers" from each group read the comments again. For example, for the UI, there are three program managers on my team who read every comment and further tag them according to exactly who owns each of the features.

The comment (along with screenshot if available) is then sent via e-mail directly to the people who make decisions about the feature with a link back to the database. The second-level taggers often include additional people on the feedback e-mails as well; for instance, they usually include me so that I can read every UI-related comment that people send.

The Send a Smile internal tagging UI and comment viewer
(Click to view full picture)

So, by the time your feedback has been through the entire system, it has been read by at least one usability engineer, representatives from each of the teams or areas referenced in the comment, and then the person or people directly responsible for the feature.

Once it's been through this process, the life of the comment isn't over. We also have the ability to search comments by area or content, so if we want to put together all of the Send a Smile feedback about the Mini Toolbar, for instance, we can do that in a number of seconds.

This feedback mechanism has already had a big impact on the product. Specifically in the user interface, we've been able to spot a few significant trends in the data that we're using to help make improvements to the product even as we speak. And of course, the many positive comments we receive help us not to tinker with the things that it seems we've gotten right.

The long and short of it all this: please install and use the Send a Smile tool and help us let other people who are using Office 2007 Beta 2 know it exists.

And then send us feedback, telling us what you like and what you don't (and why!). This is the most direct way for anyone in the world to get their feedback heard by the right person, with none of the barriers usually associated with trying to give feedback to a big company (phone trees, "customer service representatives", etc.)

I can't guarantee that we'll act on every comment (which would be impossible anyway since many of the comments directly contradict other comments), but I can promise that we read them, consider them, and use them to help make decisions about the product.

Comments (26)
  1. BradC says:


    Great article, once again.

    I don’t have the beta or the Send-a-smile on the pc I’m on now, so I’ll leave some feedback here:

    The floatie is flaky.

    Specifically: If you highlight text in Word, the minibar works as advertised: drift toward the highlight, it fades in, drift away, it fades out.


    If you move your mouse up and hover over the ribbon, however briefly or inadvertantly, the MINIBAR NEVER COMES BACK. The only way to make it come back is to unselect and re-highlight the text. Of course I could have right-clicked or something, but its still pretty frustrating.

    Other than that, I’m really loving Word 2007! Table styles and the new graphical widgets have been very helpful!

  2. LGFN says:

    I’ve send quite a few comments already (which are very important to me), is there any way to know if the feedback went through successfully, because even when I’m not connected, it shows the same "Thanks for your feedback" (or whatever), and if there’s any problem with the connection on that moment, I’m falsely satisfied with my feedback which actually never went through!

  3. Ryan says:

    In less than a month, I’ll graduate with a Master’s degree in HCID.  This blog has single-handedly restored my faith in Microsoft’s ability to do user-centered design and great usability work.  It sounds like an absolutely great environment to work in.  I believe I will be giving Microsoft a second look now.

    (Not an Office-related smilie per se; but definitely "please keep blogging" smilie!)

  4. J.Marsch says:

    Great Article.

    Regarding some of the more cynical comments that you wrote about in your article:

    For what it’s worth, I’ve been a developmer since the early 90’s (I don’t work for MS though), and I can remember being very cynical about Microsoft’s responses to user feedback.

    Over the past 3 years or so, I have seen a remarkable difference in Microsoft’s response to the user and developer communities.  In fact, I’d almost call it a transformation.  When I report bugs to the feeback site, someone answers.  The issues are actually investigated, and sometimes even corrected!

    I just wanted to say that the efforts that you and your collegues have made to reach out to the user and developer communities and to be more responsive to our needs have not gone unnoticed.  Keep up the great work!

  5. Lim Jun Jie says:


  6. technochrista says:

    I am glad to hear you read our comments. The Smiley program was a super idea.

  7. CG says:

    I’m under a funky proxy and I don’t think my comments are getting through. Perhaps if there was a web-based version of the feedback tool.

  8. Rick says:

    Can we be similarly assured when using the "Report Rendering Problem" button in Outlook, which sends emails that rendered poorly to wordmail@microsoft.com?  I hope so, because I’ve been using that a lot in lieu of reporting them as bugs.

    The rendering issues for HTML mail in Outlook Beta 2, in terms of speed and looks, have a very, very long way to go. The transition from using IE to Word as the engine apparently is frought with complications, if even at the relatively late stage of Beta 2 something as important as rendering is in such bad shape.

    It’s too bad general Outlook isn’t really being blogged. There are a couple for niche portions of it, however.

  9. Brant says:

    I would like to give my impressions concerning the usability of Word here, because I wouldn’t be able to illustrate it with the Send a smile tool.

    I constantly work with documents which mix English and cyrillic sentences on the same page or even in the same paragraph. I extensivley use keyboard shortcuts which is of no problem when your default layout is Qwerty.

    But if you use Dvorak layout, that becomes a usability nightmare. You have to remember two sets of shorcuts. One for use with Dvorak layout, and the second – for use with, for example, russian layout (which uses Qwerty shortcus). So if I want to underline a word I have to constantly check which layout is active. If it is Dvorak I press Ctrl+G, but if it is cyrillic I press Ctrl+U. This mental juggling is quite taxing. And many Dvorak styl shortcuts are located in the most inconvinient places. Would it be possible for Office 2007 to introduce some language options which would force Qwerty style shortcuts irrespective of the active layout when the user presses Alt+, Ctrl+ or Shift+ combinations? It exists on OSX, where you have "Dvorak-[Cmd]" layout. It temporarily reverts to Qwerty when the Cmd key is held down.


  10. William says:

    I know it works – someone from the Office team emailed me about one of the issues i encountered – I was suprised, but pleasantly. Ill continue using it, for sure 🙂

  11. Perry says:

    I’ve been using the smilies, well the frownies, specifically, to report bugs that I come across.  Is there a better process I should be using?

  12. Anas Hashmi says:

    I installed comments tool and then shutdown my computer some time later.  Then start it up again. I now no longer have a way to report feedback.

    The smilies are gone.

  13. Borek says:

    First, smileys are great!

    Second, they should be an integral part of Office. If you really want to hear our feedback, make it as easy as possible for us.

    Third, the bad thing is that I’m not sure that my comment has been sent. Directly after I click "Send a feedback" button, there is no network activity so I’m not sure that everything went right. When are comments sent? Are they queued and sent together? This is confusing…

  14. Ananda Sim says:

    The Send A Smile is a great tool, but sometimes, parts of the screen are private. Could you enhance it by allowing us to grab a portion of the screen rather than the whole lot and even highlight portions of it?

  15. Mi area de trabajo ha pasado de ser Windows XP SP2 a Windows Vista Beta 2 con Office System 2007 Beta…

  16. Bob schild says:

    My Smiles don’t have an area to enter an email address.  Should I enter it in the text area?

  17. Stephen Mok says:

    Just like LGFN, I’m worried that the smiles/frowns aren’t actually getting submitted.

    When I compose one and hit send when I’m on the road and not connected to the network, it still says it’s been sent. I also notice that my firewall has never prompted me to allow the smiles tool to have outbound network access.

    How do we know that the smiles/frowns are really getting through? I’ve composed a whole lot of them now and I’d hate to find out that the feedback never reached you because of a technical issue along the way!

  18. Francis says:

    The smiley tool is a great idea. 2 points:

    1. Why doesn’t the Windows team use it? Why are they so hard to reach?

    2. For version 2, you could mingle the smiley tool with the Snipping Tool from the Experience Pack for Tablet PC. It would let users show exactly what is troubling them (by drawing circles or rectangles around the trouble spots), thus providing more clearer screenshots and saving development time.

  19. Steve says:

    Any chance that you might have a future post that talks at all about what’s behind Send a smile from a technology point of view?  

  20. Mirko Mandic - Office User Expereince Program Manager says:

    I am a Program Manger on Jensen’s team how has been helping coordinate Send a Smile project.  

    Couple of you have expressed concern about whether comments are actually getting submitted if you don’t have Internet connection.  I just want to assure you that we get those comments as well.  

    If there is no Internet connection, all of the comments that you send us are being queued up until they can be sent our way.  Subsequently, as soon as you get on-line, all of the buffered comments are transmitted to us.

    Thank you for sending us your feedback and keep those smiles and frowns coming our way!

  21. pcgate says:

    not so bad

  22. jeffreywsmith says:

    Just testing my signature code … please ignore.

  23. First of all I would like to say thank you!  Many of you are submitting bugs and taking time to let us…

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