Welcome back to another installment of our podcast series on TechNet 2.0. As you’ll recall from Episode 1, we discussed some of the core scenarios that drive many of the services and features we are putting into the technet.microsoft.com platform. You may think of the TechNet website as the library of information on Microsoft products, or the forums area for asking questions. It’s really much more than that and I asked John Martin some probing questions via interview and captured that here for Episode 2.
As before, I have created and attached an .MP3 version of this audio in case you want to download and listen offline with your Zune HD or preferred portable media player.
Episode 2 Podcast
What is a TechCenter?
There are many services provided to IT Pros in the TechNet platform. A couple that probably come to mind are the TechNet Forums or the TechNet Library. But TechNet is actually a network of sites – and TechCenters are special sites on the network that are dedicated to specific products and technical topics.
Product TechCenters are the online face of Microsoft’s IT products. In the Windows Server TechCenter you’ll notice a number of areas an IT Professional would be interested in. Get started by grabbing a download, or watching a “How To” video, as well as other content areas like Featured Downloads. In short, all of the relevant information on Windows Server.
With TechNet 2.0, we have a lot of new things planned for TechCenters.
Big visual changes are coming. I don’t know about you but sometimes I get a little lost on what section of technet.microsoft.com I might be on. John calls this the “vast sea of blue” because today everywhere you go on the current TechNet site you’ll see the same logos, colors, fonts, etc. It’s time for a face lift. You can see that in Episode 1 from Tuesday, and the picture I created with some product-branded TechCenters stacked on top of each other.
Product-branding gives each product a unique home on TechNet. You can certainly see that in the Windows Client TechCenter screenshot below. The color is vibrant and unique to the Windows Client.
Almost all of our products have two or more versions that are currently being deployed, used, and supported by our customers. But we have been inconsistent and ineffective with providing easy access to version-specific technical content on TechNet. That is changing with TechNet 2.0.
The first place you’ll notice version scoping is in the navigation bar (or masthead) for the TechCenter. In the case of the Windows Client screenshot above, you can see three generations of desktop operating systems.
Here is what it will look like in the Office TechCenter:
In the Office image above, the selected page will display Downloads for version 2007 only – simple. This organization of content is based on the mental model of information-seeking technical people. Product -> Version -> Version-specific content.
Another way we “scope” the center experience is with Search. Based on customer feedback, new centers will offer center-scoped search from the Bing search control in the masthead. This means that when you are in a center and use the search at the top of the page, the search results will be scoped to product area of the center, instead of searching all of TechNet. More on the actual search experience in Episode 3.
We’ll talk about fonts and layout in minute but first things first. Our TechCenter page needs to be relevant and useful for the tasks you face every day. From Episode 1, you know we are focused on several core scenarios like learning, troubleshooting, and downloads. Our goal with TechCenters is that our home pages and version pages provide easy access to the best tools and content for those tasks. On the new center pages, you will see prominent features for news, How Do I videos, troubleshooting tools, and top downloads, to help you quickly find what you need.
The Windows Client TechCenter above is a good example of this, with a commitment to news, tools for troubleshooting, learning resources, and product group bloggers all on the home page of the center. This is one way we are trying to make it easier to find the most useful content and resources.
And finally, in order to make the pages easier to read, we are improving the style by going to a fixed width template and making the font sizes larger. John makes fun of my vision but fonts and styles are an important part of the online experience. I really look forward to these changes so I can reduce the amount of printing I do and reduce eye strain.
As you can see, the visual elements of TechNet 2.0 continue to play an important part in the overall experience of the site. But we are going beyond visuals to change the way TechCenters are organized and how we design our pages – so that you can find things faster and be more successful.
So far, we’ve only talked about improvements to browsing for content – what about Search? I get a lot of feedback on why people use Google and how they’d like TechNet search to improve. We are going to tackle the subject of Search and the search experience in Episode 3 next Tuesday, so come on back!!!