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.

personas

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

Refinements

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

Problem:
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.

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