MSDN Updates - and RFC for you
There's a bunch of stuff going on over at MSDN. They're making some cool changes and aren't afraid to break a few eggs to make an omelet. I used to think that MSDN was this static, non-moving thing, but I've been meeting with a bunch of folks on the various sub-teams and I'm seeing a resurgence of agility. (MSDN, agile?! Madness! No, seriously.) Soma blogged recently about some of the changes.
Here's some of the stuff that's been going on lately at MSDN, as well as a Request for Comments (RFC) from me.
Alternate MSDN Views
I blogged while back about alternate views for MSDN, including a Low-Bandwith (loband) view. MSDN includes the Home Page (of course), the MSDN Library, Downloads, Community and Forums. The library experience (LEX) team has updated the loband view as well as the new dev10ide view. They're aiming for sub-1-second load times, small page weight and they are reading all the feedback.
MSDN Forums in ASP.NET MVC
The MSDN Forums have been updated and are now written in ASP.NET MVC. This, along with other changes has made the forums markup much smaller and the site much snappier. This forum upgrade went out to all MSDN/TechNet forums, including the Windows 7 Forums and Windows Client Development Forums.
The Forums are also more answer-focused now, kind of like StackOverflow. You can see how many questions remain unanswered, mark questions answered, and browse by tag. There's also filters like "hascode" to show only Q&A with code, or you can show only "helpful" answers, or just proposed, but not accepted answers.
The Forum Reading view has been updated with AJAXy goodness, so you can expand threads without leaving the page.
Other tweaks to MSDN include, the MSDN Community Center that includes not just blogs, but also tweets, delicious links, Technorati results and Diggs.
What would a new MSDN look like?
Chris Sells told me once:
"If you're not getting in trouble at least twice a year, you're not doing your job."
This statement really changed the way I thought about my job. It's good to push the envelope.
I was in an MSDN redesign meeting and they were brainstorming on some potential designs. I said, hey, let's go crazy here and try some way-out-there-MSDN designs. A bunch of emails have been thrown around and since they never explicitly said "don't blog this," I figured, why not ask you guys, then take the feedback/comments you give directly to them.
This is just brainstorming, to be sure, VERY early on for a potential redesign. I picked a few comps that the designer was working on that were in the same vein, but different in purpose.
First, here's a concept design for a a would-be MSDN Home Page. There's two goals here, and a visual refresh is just one of them. The other is to change the user experience to make it easier to find things. To make it easy to find things you need, but also have enough active content to have "serendipity" moments when you see something you wouldn't ordinarily.
There's a community visualizer at the middle there. It'd be an active widget and clicking on the left site would get you real-time results with recent activity, most popular items, etc from all over the network.
The Developer Centers are called out on the left-side to get you to the top areas in one-click. I pushed them to get you from the MSDN Home page to mostly anywhere in one click, two tops. For example, downloads has the most likely download links. At the bottom, you can get to other sites within the network.
Perhaps a lighter frame?
Darker? Notice the "channel bar" at the top in gray.
Perhaps a compromise?
This potential home page is as a result of me saying, do the opposite of what we'd ordinarily do. Is the MSDN Home page too visually busy? Make it simpler. How simple can it get, and if it gets simple, does it still provide value?
Perhaps without the blue frame? Even simpler?
Please offer your opinions and comments here. MSDN is your site and if you have an opinion, make it heard and I'll pass them out to my bosses. How should the site look? How do you want to use it? What do you think of these designs? What works and what doesn't?
If me leaking designs like this is helpful, tell me here and I'll use them as character references at my Court Martial. All the better if you find it helpful, then I'll have good reason to share even more, even earlier in the process.