Microsoft Casual Games Work Samples

User Researcher, 2004 - 2007

From 2004-2007 I worked as a user researcher in the Games User Research group on Casual Games (aka MSN Games).

MSN Games Web Site Redesign - 2006:

In 2006 we embarked on a major site redesign. Home Page before redesign:

  • I ran an eyetracking study. The results suggested there was no main focus for the page.
  • The entire site also used non-standard advertisement sizes that were more difficult to sell
  • Web tracking analysis suggested that users were not finding their games

eyetracking heat map

Redesign Process

First, as a team we defined key scenarios to guide design:

  1. Where’s *my* game (most specific)
  2. I wanna play some kinda puzzle game
  3. Time for fun - entertain me (most open-ended)

We also constructed four personas from the results of a market segmentation survey conducted for Microsoft. Personas allowed the team to create a shared vision of target users and their needs throughout the design and development of the product.


Then, my process was:

The re-architected site flow to expedited “time to fun” and linked to community/social features.

Home page flow game page flow

The redesigned Home Page more effectively directed players to games and links to community/social features. Shown below are the functional wireframe and with Visual Design:

home page wireframe
home page visual design

Prototype Usability Study Methodology

I ran a laboratory study to assess the prototype. These were the goals -

  • Examine discoverability and intuitiveness for finding and playing games
  • Assess the desirability of the design
  • Evaluate the proposed navigation model

Procedure - Invited 6 participants into the lab to use the prototype.
Tasks were:

  1. Discover a new game
  2. Search for games
  3. Find and play, or download and play a game

Results -
The design was usable and desirable. Those familiar with the existing MSN Games web site preferred the new prototype to it.
Feedback from participants regarding the existing Site:

  • Appeared “Jumbled & disorganized”
  • It “feels like it was added to, and added to, without redesign”

Feedback from participants regarding the proposed Site:

  • Found organized and clear
  • Easy to navigate
  • The “Filters” were easy to discover and use
  • It was “colorful” and “bright”, but could “look more like a gaming web site”

Additional wireframe samples

Old "hub" page

New "game browser" page

comparing old and new HPs


And finally, I was also involved with many small design refinements. For example,

Users failed to see a warning to install Active X controls for playing online games, consistently preventing users from getting to and playing their games. This issue was common and frustrating.

Recommended design changes that made the message easier to find and presented the information in a more logical order.