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June 12, 2015

How Windows Insider Feedback Influences Windows 10 Development

My name is Samer Sawaya – I’m a Senior Program Manager Lead on Windows Feedback, part of the Data and Fundamentals Team that Gabe Aul leads. Many of you have asked about what we do with all of the feedback that we receive in the Windows Insider Program, and how we’re able to use it all to inform product decisions with your input. With this post, I’m excited to share some behind the scenes info with you on how your input is used to help “co-develop” Windows.

Feedback is exciting!

The days right after we release a flight are very exciting for the engineering teams. We love to see the Insider feedback pouring in. Seeing all your input creates a great energy across the Windows team. We sort through it, figure out what is already known and what is new, and then reshape our product backlogs based on what we learn. In one of our team rooms, we put up a large screen that cycles through incoming feedback. It shows the incoming feedback rate, and highlights trending feedback. Our team gathers around it during our daily meeting. We talk about features we’re building in the Windows Feedback app, and what we’re doing to help all of the feature teams in OSG identify top feedback requests in their areas.

Here’s a look at how our feedback typically flows in after a release. This graph shows the Desktop 10130 flight (released on May 29) and the inflow of feedback over time.

10130 incoming feedback rate

We usually see a spike of feedback in the first few days, and then a slower steady rate of incoming feedback over time.

The goal of our team is to connect teams across Windows directly to the customer feedback you provide, and to make it very simple to leverage your feedback within the code we’re writing—to make it better. Therefore, we track how much feedback we receive, how much we convert into bug reports and work items, and how many of the work items we complete. We monitor these key metrics continuously to ensure we’re acting on your feedback.

Engineers use your feedback

Since our first preview build last October we’ve received more than 3 million pieces of Windows Insider feedback through the Windows Feedback app, plus more than 2.5 million responses to the notification questions the Windows Feedback app pops up (which look like mini surveys). Internally, we call feedback you enter on your own through the Windows Feedback App “User Initiated Feedback” (UIF); feedback through the surveys we call “System Initiated User Feedback” (SIUF).

This is a massive amount of feedback! We use several techniques to get all your feedback processed and understood:

Giving all engineers in Windows access to your feedback

All teams in Windows can access the complete set of raw feedback that you provide, and many engineers go straight to this source. We have a familiar interface (based on Visual Studio Online) that engineers can use to build queries. They can add parameters and filter on specific values to get at specific pieces of feedback.

vso view of feedback

All of your feedback—all of the suggestions you make, “upvotes” you submit, and mini surveys you answer—all of these are stored in our feedback database which engineers can query.

Teams in Windows also receive regular automated emails that highlight for them feedback issues specific to their areas that they have not yet addressed. These emails contain views on top issues by upvotes, but also different views that are not dependent on number of upvotes—like new and trending feedback. These emails help deliver your feedback directly into the product team’s inboxes. Product teams use the emails to dive into the data with a single click, and they can instantly turn your feedback into a work item to code against.

Teams also use our internal web reporting site to look at text analysis to identify trending issues and clusters of data (described in more detail below).

Turning feedback into work items is very easy for engineers

We not only make it easy for engineers to find your feedback, we make it easy for them to act on it.

Each category in the Windows Feedback app collects system diagnostics specific to that team’s feature set. We work closely with teams in Windows to define their categories in the Feedback app, and to define which diagnostics should be collected when a “Problem” feedback is filed under their category.

So, for example, when you file feedback on the Desktop > Action Center category, your feedback will get the Action Center team’s specific diagnostics attached too. This will help the Action Center team debug your feedback if you marked your feedback as a Problem.

Screenshots and diagnostics get attached to your feedback in our feedback database. In addition to the text description you provide this allows teams to better understand your issue or suggestion.

We give teams the ability to easily take action on your feedback with a single click. This one-click capability is in all feedback views we show to teams. Whether they are interacting directly with the feedback database, receiving one of the automated emails we send, or if they are using the internal web reporting site – going from feedback to work item is simple.

How we use the upvoting system

The upvoting system in the Windows Feedback app is especially helpful to allow us to identify and prioritize the issues which are important to the most people. We know that volume is just one factor though so we also ensure that we pay attention to all kinds of problem reports and suggestions, even those which are important to just a few people.

We use an algorithm to turn feedback with a lot of upvotes automatically into product work items, and determine to which team the feedback belongs. The work item lands on the appropriate team’s list of work to do, and they look very closely at the feedback and evaluate how to address or respond to it.

There are many teams that help build Windows. Some teams get a lot of votes and feedback for their areas. Others receive less. Therefore, we don’t purely look at the number of upvotes to assess the overall order and priority of feedback we act on. For example, teams also look for new or emerging issues, issues in particular experiences, or on specific hardware. In these case the number of upvotes is not the most important attribute. In fact, there are many things that would likely have had a lot of upvotes, but we addressed it quickly before it became a top issue.

Internally there are times when teams will use feedback you’ve filed to validate an issue that is hard to reproduce, for example if a team sees an issue with a particular device, in a particular configuration – they may actively filter feedback to try to find if Windows Insiders have hit the issue (since they can search for feedback based on device type or device model, etc.). This helps them understand the root cause or helps them validate whether it really is an issue that our Windows Insiders are hitting as well.

Our localization teams who are responsible for translating Windows into many languages, often will search for feedback from Windows Insiders using a particular language of Windows to try to identify translation problems. Again this is not purely based on upvotes (for example, feedback from Windows Insiders whose OS language was Brazilian Portuguese and who gave feedback on a particular Settings page). The localization team is very active in trying to find and correct poorly translated UI based on your feedback.

So while we do make use of upvotes as a key indicator for what needs to be addressed, we use many other methods to search out and find feedback that should be acted on.

How we make use of text analysis to spot themes

We’ve designed analytics to figure out which clustered phrases are popping on particular flights. We can zoom out to look at the overall set of topics in a word cloud view, and from there dive into your specific pieces of feedback. This allows us to see broad themes of feedback.

We have an internal web reporting tool we call Gestalt, which teams use to explore feedback. I used it to produce a word cloud showing feedback we’ve received from Windows Insiders in the Build 10049 for PC flight. Remember, this was the flight in which we introduced Project Spartan. Engineers can filter the set of feedback that appears here in a variety of ways, for example by build number, mobile vs PC, device model, date filed, language, Windows Insider Fast ring vs. Windows Insider Slow ring, etc.

gestalt word cloud porject spartan

Your actual feedback builds this view—and in a few clicks, engineers can dive to your original feedback submission. This allows us to zoom out and identify broad issues, then zoom into your specific feedback to ensure we understand the specific issues.

In the next screenshot you can see what happens if an engineer drills into one of the topics like “Project Spartan.” She or he filters the word cloud on that topic and in the details pane on the right she can read all of your feedback that contributed to that topic. There’s a link next to each piece of detailed feedback that allows her to convert it into a work item so teams can begin working on it.

gestalt word cloud porject spartan 2

Another way engineers view your feedback is directly through the Windows Feedback app. Not only do we ask Windows Insiders to use the Windows Feedback app, but we also use it as a primary method to gather input from internal users. All Windows engineers are expected to test the internal-only flights before the builds go out to our Insider rings—both on PC and on mobile. Engineers use the Windows Feedback app to file feedback on our internal builds, to vote on each other’s feedback and issues, and we can also see your feedback and turn it into a work item. That way before we file a work item on an internal build we can quickly check if Insiders have already reported it on a previous build.

Why we ask you questions

If you’ve been using a build for any amount of time, you’ve noticed (and hopefully responded to) questions that the Feedback app asks you in the “mini surveys” we call SIUF.  Since October 1, we’ve popped 13.5 million of these surveys to our Insiders, and you’ve responded 2.5 million times (an 18.5% response rate). Teams have authored hundreds of these questions for Desktop and Phone – and they are eager for your responses! On Phone we’ve noticed a lot of enthusiasm from Insiders when it comes to responding to these mini-surveys, so be on the lookout for more of those.

The reason we ask you questions in this way is that:

  • It helps us get “in the moment” feedback from you, since you just performed the action for which we’re interested in your feedback.
  • By using both rating scales and free form text input, we can easily compare progress on a feature flight over flight to gauge if we are improving.
  • We can ask more granular targeted questions that improve specific aspects of the experience.

The free form text responses that you enter (in addition to the rating you provide) are very useful for the teams asking the questions. They mine this data and often get good suggestions on how to evolve the experience going forward.

An example is the Print team, they created a mini survey asking about the print experience on Windows.  When they looked at the text comments you provided, they saw that many Insiders had commented on PDF support. Digging further, they felt there was enough write-in comments talking about PDF support that they should increase the priority of doing the print to PDF feature so that users could directly print to PDF from Windows. Because of your feedback, this functionality appeared in the Build 10041 flight for PC.

So please keep responding to our questions!

How we treat international feedback

The Insider community is truly an international community, we have Windows Insiders from all over the world, and that diversity is what makes the Windows Insider Program so valuable to us. There are only 4 countries on the planet that don’t have a Windows Insider running Windows 10!

Here’s a look at what languages our Windows Insiders are providing feedback in for Build 10130 on PC. The numbers in the squares are unique pieces of feedback (not upvotes in that language).

gestalt langauges desktop 10130

And here’s the corresponding view for Build 10080 for phone.

gestalt langauges phone 10080

We use Bing Translator to automatically translate your feedback in our feedback database so that engineers in Redmond can understand your feedback (we keep the original feedback text as well since our engineers speak a variety of languages and often like to look at your original text). This enables our engineers to act on feedback that you provide us in your native language.

Starting a two-way conversation in the Feedback app

We will continue to evolve these feedback tools, seeking to enable more of a two-way conversation between engineers and Windows Insiders.

For example, the Windows Feedback app has recently started to show feedback tags. To the feedback you’ve submitted, Engineers will be able to add tags visible to Insiders. The tags will at first indicate simply that we received and processed your feedback. You’ll notice the RECEIVED tag in the Windows Feedback app. This is our way of letting you know that your feedback is in our systems, available for engineers to look at, ready to be promoted to a work item, and is actively contributing to the word clouds and trending charts that we use to asses our external flights.

RECIEVED feedback tag

A few pieces of feedback may include a “More info” tag. This means an engineer has more info to share with you – and will link out to a blog post or Windows Insider forum page that relates to your feedback.

We are in the early stages of exploring this and expect to evolve this concept (with your feedback of course). Longer term, we’d like to use this to allow you to have more insight into how we treat your feedback and build the product.

The Windows Feedback app also recently added the ability for you to filter on feedback you’ve submitted. That way you can keep an eye on how many upvotes you’re getting on your feedback. In the future this will be a useful view to see if the engineering team has applied any status tags, or more info links onto your feedback.

Filter list in Feedback app

Engaging in the Windows Insider forums

Another way we are trying to engage with our Windows Insiders is through our “Community Champions” program. We have about 80 engineers from teams across Windows who have been having conversations with Windows Insiders in the Windows Insider forums. That is another way that we collect and respond to feedback. The goal of that effort is to have a back and forth exchange with you in order to better understand issues and how you’re liking the latest changes we are making. Community Champions are real engineers and they take their learnings and experiences from interacting with you back to their teams to “champion” your feedback!

Your feedback has made Windows better

Windows engineering teams are changing how they develop Windows to incorporate feedback into what they do. Here are a couple examples of how teams are already using your feedback.

The Cortana team is one example of how we incorporate user feedback into how we build Windows features. Each week a Cortana engineer writes an e-mail to the entire team, focusing on new or still-unaddressed customer feedback from UIF, SIUF, the Microsoft Community Forums, and other sources. The team groups similar issues together and then go investigate those issues. Often the engineering team will engage directly with Windows Insiders, answering questions in the forums, offering workarounds for known issues, and capturing more conversational Insider feedback in order to take back into their feature-planning process. Members of the team read through SIUF responses and create work items to track needed fixes. Frequently the team uses SIUF responses to go deeper into UIF input that Insiders have submitted with the Windows Feedback app. “Hey Cortana” is a great example of a feature improved based on your feedback. Windows Insiders told us that the timing of “Hey Cortana” was confusing (in the initial flights that included Cortana). An Windows Insider had to say “Hey Cortana” and the desired action all in one phrase. This could be confusing, since people tend to pause slightly after invoking Cortana. The team thought this may be an issue, but your feedback was important in helping confirm it. This lead to a change where the Hey Cortana timing is more forgiving in recent flights.

The Modern Desktop Apps (MDA) team is another example of how our teams are using Windows Insider feedback. In early builds, Windows Insiders expanded an app window to be full screen by touching or clicking its charms “…” button.

title bar 9841

The MDA team thought this might be difficult to discover, so measured it with a SIUF question. You might have seen this mini survey:

title bar siuf-modernapps

As our MDA team pored through feedback responses to this question, we learned that full screen mode was indeed difficult to discover. Here are two typical Windows Insider responses:

  • “I dislike the shortcut offered to fullscreen the window. The ellipsis ‘…’ menu seems like it only inspires confusion. A better way to do it would be to have a fourth, fullscreen, window control.”
  • “A button for the fullscreen near the minimize button would be spectacular.”

Armed with this feedback, the MDA team did some additional internal testing and moved the full screen option out of the charms menu and onto the title bar. This is the experience that the team shipped in the January flight (9926) for Desktop:

title bar 9926

The MDA team wanted to continue to follow up on their design and ensure that the full screen option was really more discoverable. In the January build, therefore, they asked this mini survey.

title bar siuf-modernapps

When they compared the data between earlier flights and the January flight, the MDA team found that—while most Windows Insiders appreciated the addition of the full screen button to the title bar—many asked us to change its position, retaining the original positions of the standard set of caption controls (minimize, maximize/restore and close).

  • “The ‘fullscreen’ button on Modern apps should be in a different place, so that the traditional ‘Minimize,’ ‘Maximize/Restore,’ and ‘Close’ buttons appear in the regular order.”
  • “I personally would like to see the expanded to full screen button moved away from the standard three window buttons.”
  • “While I like the fullscreen button, I wish that its placement was to the left of Minimize. I am used to the buttons from the right being (Close, Maximize, Minimize) for so many years, I accidentally press the wrong button due to muscle memory.”

Based on this Insider feedback, we made the change below which showed up in build 10041.

title bar 10041

Keep the feedback coming

On behalf of all of us here in Windows, I want to thank you for all of the effort you’re putting into providing feedback.  We take your feedback seriously, we make sure it is a key part of design decisions, and we use it to make a better Windows. So please keep the great feedback coming!

Thank you for your feedback! – Here’s the team that works on the Windows Feedback app.