UX Strategy Musings from Will Tschumy, Microsoft User Experience Advisor

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Who am I and why am I here?

January 30th, 2007 by Will Tschumy

This is my third week at Microsoft as our User Experience Evangelist for the West coast. Since I find myself having the same conversation about why I joined Microsoft over and over again, I wanted to explain why I’m here and what’s got me so excited about Microsoft.

A little about me

I’ve been leading design teams for the last 10 years in a variety of different organizations. A lot of my career has been in consultancies – from my own to large management consultancies. I’ve also been in leadership roles in established UX practices as well as built UX groups within companies that didn’t even know that User and Experience could be used in the same sentence.

As many of us are, I’m a Mac user, and have been since I got my Centris 650 when I went to college. I’ve always been a UX junkie, and think I’ve played with or owned just about every major computer platform since the Atari 800. I can actually say I’m an owner of a Newton, and Atari ST (my first GUI), and even a NeXT Station Turbo (I was a big OS/2 fan for a while too). Until very recently, I never felt that Microsoft was able to credibly compete in the UX space.

My Religious Moment

As many of us did in the early days of the web, we learned by doing. I spent a lot of time doing a combination of Producer / Project Manager work and Information Architecture in Siegel & Gale in the early days. When NY started to get to me, I decided to move to SF. Within a week, I’d accepted an offer with Scient, where I eventually became a Director of Experience Strategy.

Scient changed and clarified my thinking forever. There, I was exposed to the “Doblin Trinity.”

Innovation Venn-1

This is the fundamental framework that I use to this day. Innovation comes from balancing these three questions in a way appropriate for a given business. Design isn’t about ‘the pretty’ as I’ve heard some say, it’s about deeply understanding and crafting solutions for user needs.

Ok, so what?

So all of this is well and good, but what brought me to MS? At least initially, what made me reconsider MS was a presentation I saw by Jensen Harris on the new Office UI at BayCHI. For MS to not only spend years developing a new UX for it’s signature product (complete with ethnography, personas, rapid prototyping, and longitudinal studies) was definitely a step in the right direction.  For Microsoft to completely scrap and rebuild the product that’s responsible for a significant percentage of its profits was even more impressive to me.  What sold me was when I heard about Expression.

Throughout my career, greatest challenge I’ve faced hasn’t been the design itself, it’s been getting the cross-functional team necessary to produce the design to work effectively.  As hard as the conversation is, getting the deliverables to flow between the different disciplines in a way that’s understandable, useful and time-efficient is even harder.  Expression is the first time that any of the major tool vendors have ever focused on this workflow.

When I first heard about Expression, I’d been trying to work some kind of prototype-centric process on the Adobe Creative Suite. This didn’t work for a variety of different reasons, both organization and tool. Expression offered real hope for both quality and efficiency across teams.

Enter Microsoft

With Vista, MS has developed a new way of developing the presentation layer for applications. The underlying technology is called XAML (XML Application Mark-up Language) – essentially, it’s HTML for applications – except that it’s highly structured, very rich, and, oh, graphics accelerated.

The Expression Studio has been designed, from the ground up, to enable designers to build better UX in applications and the web. At a strategic level, Microsoft has bet itself that enabling better design is the critical differentiator for next-generation software, services and products. XAML, Windows Presentation Foundation, AJAX.net and the Expression Studio are all geared towards allowing designers do what they do best: Design.

Wrapping it all up

After beating my head against the same problem across a variety of different roles, to see that MS was taking the first real steps towards enabling real cross-functional collaboration, was a really exciting thing for me. Coupled with the platform that Vista provides, and the quality of the tools, I am really excited to join Microsoft as the UXE for the western region.

A lot more to come!

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