CONTENT EXPERIENCE @ MICROSOFT
POSITION: UX Writer Intern
DURATION: JUNE 2017 - SEPT. 2017
It all started when...
I decided that I needed to something impactful during the summer between my third and fourth year of college.
When applying for jobs, I searched for job descriptions with familiar words like “accessible writing” and “passionate about technology,” that embodied everything I wanted to be. On the Microsoft page, I came across the following bullet point in a list of desired qualifications:
“Excellent writer who understands how to use everything from a perfectly placed fragment to in-depth storytelling.”
Fast forward a month to my interview and less than 24 hours after when I received a call from my recruiter that I would be a UX writer intern at Microsoft - and thus began the summer of a lifetime.
The problem Space:
A lot of technology has been optimized for people who learn through trial and error - because of this, other learning styles, or people who need additional support or context, have been overlooked. My intern projects strived to bridge this gap and make Microsoft products more inclusive for people across learning styles.
Conduct an independent research project through interviews with design researchers and content strategists
Create a deliverable for internal design and product teams that translated research insights into actionable strategies and tips.
On the Content Experience Team of the Windows and Device Group, we're responsible for the words. We work on the written and conversational elements of a user interface.
I had three main projects during my internship:
Research: Develop content for a deliverable that will be used by internal design and product teams.
Technical writing: Write scripts for a new feature that will exist in Settings of Windows 10.
Personal reflection: Wrote LinkedIn and Medium articles about the lessons learned from my internship, and how my experience was influenced by my identity as a person of color.
Here, I'll be focusing on my role with research.
The Problem Space
A lot of technology has been optimized for people who learn through trial and error - because of this, other learning styles, or people who need additional support or context, have been overlooked. My intern projects strived to bridge this gap and make Microsoft products more inclusive for people across learning styles, all while ensuring that our written content was accessible and inclusive to all Microsoft user.
For this research project, I was tasked with creating a guide that would empower Microsoft designers and product teams to create products and devices that were inclusive for people with different learning styles. This is important because a user can prefer to learn in a range of ways - through a visual guide, listening to an audio tour, or by trying it themselves.
During my research, my guiding questions were:
How can the Content Experience Team empower customers with different learning styles?
How can Microsoft teams consider guided learning as part of the design process?"
Hypothesis: Providing in-context guidance for customers, and using a set of best practices for designing to accomodate different learning styles, will empower customers and product teams.
A customer-centered approach
During my first week of my internship, we completed an inclusive design sprint with other writers, designers, and software developers on the team. By working with my teammates and meeting potential customers, I got a clearer picture of how we could collaborate to effectively support customers who wanted to learn through visual, auditory, or kinesthetic aides.
Working with customers: The most impactful part was doing interviews with actual customers, and we got to ask them about good learning experiences, past experiences with Microsoft technology. and potential pain points. We also watched them complete common tasks on their Microsoft devices and asked follow-up questions, which helped us come with principles to keep in mind when designing for these customers.
Creating a deliverable for internal teams:
Based on my research, I created a deliverable for internal design and product teams who were creating products for this customer base.
The goal of this guide was to include:
An explanation of different learning styles
Considerations when creating inclusive products that support different learning styles
Self-serve activities that design and product teams could facilitate on their own.
I met with UX researchers and designers who worked on the Inclusive Design team at Microsoft to understand current efforts to make products more inclusive, and the research that was the catalyst for creating this guide! By the end, I wrote copy for an entire guide - here's a snippet from the introduction:
These were the main recommendations for creating a product or device that supported different learning styles, which were developed based on customer interviews, insights from Microsoft research, and the work of the Inclusive Design team.
Iterations on content
One of the most significant things I learned was to make my writing more concise and conversational, so I iterated on the content until I achieved this! Being here has taught me that writing is a form a design and follows the user-centered design process in a lot of ways. The same way that you refine the scope of a research question as you look into it, or iterate on a product design in response to feedback, I had to iterate on my content to make it more concise!
A final word
My summer at Microsoft taught me more than I could have ever imagined - I was a little bit nervous to jump into a big tech company after being fresh off my acceptance into Human Centered Design and Engineering, so I knew that I wasn't the most tech-savvy person in existence and I don't even have a PC anymore– but maybe my mom and my supervisor and adviser and friends were all onto something for believing in me. I've got the Microsoft badge to prove that I was worth taking a chance on.
I'm here and I'm brown and Muslim and a woman, and I deserve to be at the table with the best of 'em (in reference to all the software developers and UX designers and content strategists).