Do you want a sneak peek at some ideas we’re working on?

Then please sign up to participate in a user experience study I’ll be running from the Edinburgh office next week. On Tuesday 31st July through to Thursday August 2nd, I’m looking for five JavaScript developers who can come in to the Microsoft office in Edinburgh, Scotland to put some prototypes we’re working on through their…

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New features for the next release of Visual Studio

One of the new features of Visual Studio that Cameron Skinner demonstrated at Tech Ed recently was the provisional tab. This is a feature that I’ve been working on for a couple of years so I’m delighted to see it in the product. Some of you might remember taking part in a usability study a few…

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Usability study in Edinburgh last week

Just wanted to say a big thank you to the developers who came in to the Edinburgh office last week for a sneak peek at some of our ideas for the next version of Visual Studio. Each of you gave us incredibly insightful and useful feedback and it will be used to improve the product enormously….

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Blogs are no good

…for understanding who you are designing for. I’ve been involved in too many discussions about a design (either after a usability study or a review or during the design process) when we are discussing something that doesn’t work or doesn’t feel right. Maybe we ran a usability study and observed that nobody could complete a…

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Bricolage, tinkering and gender differences in programming

There’s a great essay at http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703989304575503730101860838.html describing how great ideas often don’t come from “momentous ideas transcending their surroundings, a gifted mind somehow seeing over the detritus of old ideas and ossified tradition”. Instead, many great ideas come from a process of tinkering with the materials or ideas at hand and combining them in interesting and novel…

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How can you make a better measuring cup?

Nobody complains about how measuring cups work. But the OXO measuring cup was designed after careful observation had identified a problem that nobody had really ever noticed before. It’s well worth watching this video for more details about the product development process at OXO: http://goodexperience.com/2010/08/a-product-development.php. I haven’t seen a better demonstration recently of identifying unmet needs…

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Making effective use of personas in design

 I’ve created and worked with a number of different personas during my time in the Visual Studio User Experience team at Microsoft. I’ve learned a lot about how to use them effectively, and, contrary to what others have recently written about the use of personas, I believe they are still indispensable in product design, when…

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Searching and skimming code

Came across an interesting paper today: http://www.chrisluce.com/doc/icsm2009.pdf It describes a study in which 10 developers were asked to fix two bugs in a software system they had no experience with. The system consisted of 70 thousand lines of code. The paper describes how the participants used search to orient themselves to the code. There are…

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Do developers have culture?

There are many descriptions of how developers work, think and act. For a long time, we’ve distinguished between opportunistic, pragmatic and systematic programmers (there is an old and short description of these here: http://blogs.msdn.com/b/brada/archive/2003/11/18/50737.aspx). A more up to date description is here: http://drops.dagstuhl.de/opus/volltexte/2007/1080/ Researchers at the Stanford HCI Group have seen similar workstyles and have focused a…

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Most IDEs offer poor support for many common development tasks

According to numerous studies (Thomas Latoza has done many of them) developers spend most of their time either debugging code or determining the implications of a proposed change to code. While today’s debuggers have allowed us to be more sophisticated than sprinkling println statements throughout our code, it can still be difficult to debug code. Andy Ko…

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