Listening to you on Hotmail

Listening to you on Hotmail

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How we make decisions about new Hotmail features

At Hotmail, we feel a strong sense of responsibility to the over 360 million people who use our service each month to provide them a high quality and consistently performing email experience so they can stay productive all day, every day. From a development standpoint, our goal is to deliver solid, scalable improvements that make “doing email” more efficient.

Our challenge is that Hotmail serves just about every type of user, from busy moms to young professionals, from kids to grandparents, and we do so in nearly every country around the world. In fact, 85% of our users are outside the US. With all this diversity, deciding what to build can get complicated.

Some people like change, and some hate it. Some people want advanced features, and some just want things simple. And if we build one thing, that sometimes means we can’t do another. We're running a business, so we have to factor in how much it will cost, how it impacts revenue, and other tradeoffs.

So, to help us decide what to build, we ask lots and lots of people from around the world what they want, and then analyze the results to find meaningful patterns. We look at factors like:

  • How people approach email and other online communication and sharing services
  • Where people usually use email – home, mobile, school, work, or Internet cafes
  • Cultural and socioeconomic differences between users
  • The changing landscape of technology
  • Security and privacy needs
  • Balancing the chance to solve a known user problem against the possibility of delighting users with new benefits they hadn't thought of before

The video below features members of the Hotmail team involved in product planning and gives an overview of our planning process.

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Understanding our users first

We start our user studies by selecting specific groups of people who represent our broad user base: if Hotmail meets their discerning needs, it will work well for others too. We talk with them to find out what is most important to them in email, their likes and dislikes, how they work, how and when they check their email, that sort of thing. Throughout our planning, development, and product launch cycles, we invite their opinion and feedback into the process to help us deliver changes that aren’t just changes, but real improvements that the majority of our users will appreciate.

But we don’t just look at features that the greatest number of people are requesting. We try to strike a balance between features that just about everyone will find useful – like 25 GB of free storage on Windows Live SkyDrive – and those that our more advanced users are looking for, like keyboard shortcuts or filtering rules. 

Here are a few ways that we get input and feedback from people around the world:

  • Quantitative surveys to thousands and thousands of people on a regular basis
  • Field trips around the world to interview and observe people of different cultures using web communications services like email
  • In-person focus groups for more direct conversations and an intimate understanding of people’s opinions and preferences
  • Fast turn-around panels for quickly double-checking specific concepts and ideas using video, images, text, and audio
  • Direct feedback from our in-product feedback link and customer support forums
  • Tracking peer-to-peer recommendations to provide clear evidence of what people value and will talk about
  • Internal beta testing because with 90,000 employees around the world there is a lot of diversity right in Microsoft
  • External beta testing with various populations throughout the development cycle, both with prototypes and real code, to get fresh feedback from people who aren’t watching the product as it evolves.

Our ongoing conversations with users help us to make wiser decisions, spawn new ideas, and keep us on the right track. It actually allows us to be creative and push new ideas, knowing that people will tell us when we’re not on target.

So, thanks for all of your feedback so far – you’re really what makes Hotmail so successful.

Mike Schackwitz
Program Manager, Windows Live Hotmail team

13 Comments
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  • Hi Mike.... I'm not sure if i will get a reply, but here goes :-)

    I was also wishing for the IMAP feature but for the past couple of years have been using the Outlook connector which works fine for me.... But for one thing.... Sub folders in hotmails inbox, at present I'm up to nearly 50-60 folders, Im starting to miss place emails..... Sub folders please!!!   Thanks

  • @Eric, @Uriel, we have heard some of our customers ask us “Why don’t you have IMAP?” When we dig a little deeper, what we’ve learned is that our customers want to keep their email, calendar and contacts in sync across all the devices that are important to them – including their PC and their phone. IMAP actually doesn’t solve the whole problem – it works only for email – not calendar, contacts and tasks. Today, you can sync all this information on your PCs using either Outlook or the Windows Live Mail client. We are working to provide a solution that will let you keep your mail, calendar, contacts and tasks in sync across all the devices you care about, including your phone. You’ll see announcements coming soon – stay tuned, keep the feedback coming, and keep using Hotmail.

    Get the Outlook Connector here: office.microsoft.com/.../HA102225181033.aspx

    Get Windows Live Mail here: http://download.live.com/

  • @Bartz.. Surely I will! But no this time!!!!

  • hplusf
    1 Posts

    I really hope subfolders will be implemented soon.

  • @pikablu0530

    Thanks for the info on SSL... great to hear its finally coming!

  • @Eric Hutcheson, Uriel Dan Nudelman:

    Exchange ActiveSync is coming for Windows Live Hotmail, Contacts and Calendar Wave 4 - proof that MSFT has listened to us.

    @James Bond:

    Full session SSL is also coming for Hotmail Wave 4.

    That's according to this website:

    www.liveside.net/.../windows-live-hotmail-wave-4-to-get-exchange-activesync-support-full-session-ssl-and-more.aspx

  • "security and privacy needs" was mentioned.

    Where is SSL ?????????

    isn't this a basic security and privacy need? especially for an online focused email service!

  • barts2108
    65 Posts

    @Mansoor

    We know that you not complain about anything regarding MSFT.. A bit (positive) criticism would be good

  • I don't have any complains regardign Windowd Live Mail. Windows Live Mail owns, I just love it!

  • All I know is my children love using Hotmail to stay in touch with school friends, mates use it as well. Keep up the good work and don't change it too much, as the old saying goes " if it ain't broke, don't fix it"

  • UriNud
    1 Posts

    IMAP is a something basic for today’s mail. Gmail has successfully implemented Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync Protocol which Hotmail doesn’t support too.

  • Svart
    2 Posts

    Hi,

    I'm a hotmail user since last 12 years or more. and my account stopped working on 23rd April(so its about 15 days or more) I'm payng for Hotmail plus, MSDN premium and Windows Azure, Office live and OneCare.

    Windows live support are not replying to my queries and MSDN support says it's not their problem.

    We have a huge exibition in UK next week and I can't even deploy new version of our web product to Azure!!

    This is link to my support query on live support forum. can anyone help??

    windowslivehelp.com/thread.aspx

    Thanks

  • Microsoft has not been listening to users who want IMAP because there are many of them and so far Hotmail has only POP which for iPhone users like myself makes it frustrating to use Hotmail on my iPhone.