The Windows Insiders Program Has A Huge Blind Spot, International User Feedback
What is the Windows Insiders Program?
Launched in 2014, the Windows Insiders Program positioned Microsoft to better harness user feedback while developing and releasing updates to its Windows 10 operating system. The program enables direct interaction with Windows engineering teams by encouraging users to report and upvote issues and features that they would like to see addressed in future releases of the operating system.
What type of feedback did we find in the Windows Insiders Program?
The primary user feedback that is summitted to Microsoft is centered around performance, stability, and critical errors that are preventing users from completing certain tasks. In some respects, this is expected assuming early adopters are more likely to provide feedback on builds that may be half baked.
What about international user feedback?
Plain and simple, very little if any international feedback is available on the Insiders hub... leaving Microsoft with a huge blind spot. International or multilingual user feedback is categorized as anything that has to do with enabling users the ability to naturally apply their input language of choice, regional currency, Date/Time formatting, and or functionality parity on localized builds.
Why is the lack of international user feedback concerning?
Feedback is used by product teams to gage user satisfaction, continuously improve feature usage and map future resource investments. When no feedback is provided the teams may deprioritize certain investments and or attempt to justify lack of resource allocation to international support. A Catch-22 situation that ultimately produces a very poor experience for multilingual users.
Proof that no feedback = Poor UX for international users
We designed three test cases to examine the hypothesis that lack of feedback will translate into a poor user experience for multilingual users.
Experiment #1: Identify multilingual bugs and match them to reports on Windows Feedback hub
I went thru a simple process of accounting 102 issues that were found in my series of Windows 10 focused Globalization walkthroughs and categorizing them into four main groups. I then mapped them to any existing reports on the Windows Insiders App, and the results were astonishing... only a single match.
Experiment #2: Monitor international bugs fixes after a substantial milestone update
I went thru the process of regressing the 102 bugs that were found in my series of Windows 10 focused Globalization walkthroughs against the latest updated build that was released to the public 1909 (Build: 18363.476) and the results were disappointing... only a single localization bug was fixed. This was very surprising given that some of the bugs identified in my report were functional issues that are preventing users from completing certain tasks.
Experiment #3: Measure engagement on LinkedIn
After hundreds of views from Microsoft employees on LinkedIn only a single employee reached out to collect additional feedback on one of the bugs. This may indicate that the responsibility for internationalization is being passed along across the different disciplines. This is producing a poor user experience for multilingual users because no one is taking ownership of driving international bug fixes.
The Windows Insiders program may be just the tip of the iceberg
Ultimately it's the product quality that counts, the localized Windows build that was reviewed in our walkthroughs shipped with a substantial amount of serious international bugs many of which were regressions... Microsoft can take the reports and fix the bugs but that's only going to solve things in the short run.
In the long run the engineering system that produces Windows will need to invest in updating the way products are designed, developed, and localized. This includes everything from staff training to tooling.
Here are a few of the ideas that may help push the engineering system forward...
Advocate for an inclusive design and development environment that eliminates unconscious cultural bias when integrating multilingual support across the development lifecycle. Allow every engineering discipline an equal seat at the table and maintain an even quality bar across localized products.
Invest in a rich and diverse culture, take the guess work out of internationalization by providing mentoring opportunities with dedicated internationalization experts.
Hire dedicated internationalization staff to support the R&D process from end to end. Internationalization experts can look at the bigger picture, map investment across the product and drive a cohesive strategy that makes accurate use of development resources.
Develop design systems that enable UX designers to clearly integrate multilingual support and localization into their prototyping.
Identify and fix any elements within the development environment that may be producing a substantial amount of internationalization bugs, UI Mirroring for BIDI languages is a great example.
Looking to create a more inclusive multilingual experience?
Check out my recent articles on the topic of multilingual UX:
The World Ready Guides plan to engage with the world's leading software producers by publishing product reviews that focus on software globalization, our goal is to raise more awareness within the design community by providing practical real-world examples sourced out of today's most popular software products. We offer software Internationalization services including UX walkthroughs, functional reviews, and education.