I’m looking at the latest in many of bad experiences found on Microsoft.com regarding the new improved Windows Phone 7. My first thoughts are, I guess the budget was low this year for the website but then thinking on it i’m probably going to wager that around $200-$500k USD was probably spent on this site via some internal global vendor.
Let me deconstruct the site so you can maybe get a sense of what I see (Lots of visuals). I’ll also compare it to the already entrenched and spark of creation for this phone – the iPhone and its respective site.
If you’re taking a product to market, you pretty settle on what you would call the “Value Proposition” in that its your initial promise that you want people to remember the most – it’s what I call the impact / aka upper cut. Windows Phone 7 isn’t clear on what its main value proposition is, its a phone OS which is fine, but what does this phone do that all phones don’t do. More to the point, why did Microsoft spend so much time and energy getting this phone ready for market – what’s the secret sell or sizzle that I'm about to be knocked over in its sheer awesomeness?
The very first entry page of the site (assuming I come in from here) puts me through approx 5sec animation of what the introduction to the phone is. The first parts are a bunch of squares or tiles which overload me with brands ranging from Bing to Zune (care factor, as these aren’t a household name as yet world wide)?
Secondly I'm hit with what I can only describe as Dr Suess style messaging.
…Say hello to Windows phone
the only phone with live tiles.
less stop and stare more glance and go
less out of touch more in the know?..
I don’t even know what that means. Live tiles? stop and stare? is that even a problem? its less out of touch and more in the know? what do you mean?
It’s one thing to open with a question to trigger an action, its another to completely ignore you and confuse.
Looking beyond the animation and assuming you can read the sequences fast enough, let’s assume the user scans down to the bottom, where I can only guess as being the main hubs of navigation.
- Explore my choices.
I’m guessing this is a good start for me to shop for the said phone, important if i already know ahead of time about the phone and i just want to jump straight into purchase mode.
- Make Windows Phone Yours.
Demo area, good, so you have a virtual phone I can play with. I’m liking this, as rather then sit through silly marketing speak, i can just play. I click on this, boom, Facebook.com – guess what guys, most corporations around the world specifically block Facebook as a URL given the ample amount of time waste that goes on there (hey i disagree with this but it is what it is). Furthermore, why am I now on facebook? and why aren’t i able to just play with this inside the same website? what If I want to explore what else you have to say? where are my options?
- The place to shop?
Oh so this is Microsoft’s “AppStore” ok, I’m seeing some potential here, but can we first establish what the phone is first? I’ll get to that a bit later maybe?
Where is the navigation? oh its the small text above in vertical stack formation with poor spacing.
The first thing you see when you visit the iPhone website is a highly impact visible slide show presentation on the value proposition of the iPhone4. Its bright, its impactful and no branding overload. They could of went to town here on Google maps, iTunes, eBay, Safari etc.. they didn’t, they kept it on point and you focused – here’s what the phone can do that we think is important upfront.
They also underpin the value propositions with clear well spaced list and palatable enough read around what the said slide show probably just told you should you still not pay full attention. The point is, they are reinforcing what they think you should be focused on and not distracting you off the site. They are making the pitch to you, and are working hard to retain your full attention.
Looking below this page, notice how they break the navigation into areas of interest. It essentially is attacking the user from a matrix of context as in for those who just want to know what;s inside the phone, features is probably a good bet. For those who are interested in the design of the phone, again, feast your eyes on that link called – Design. OS itself your cup of tea? here you go, here’s whats new and old in the operating system. Apps, Gallery and Technical specs again clearly partitioned and you can at a glance get some deep understanding of what this phone story looks like.
Apple are very good in their website design comparison to Microsoft, but my points above here is that you are immediately left with a sense of both what’s potentially inside this new gadget as well as given a sense of spatial awareness around finding out ways to find more information should the value propositions still not convince you to go into a store and play.
The main important piece here is getting you into their stores, buying online is fine but lets face it, you will most likely want to play with this phone physically first before you buy. Once I have you in my store i can attack you from all points via customer service reps through to convincing you my promise (value prop) is true. Trust.
Less is More.
Moving beyond the initial sell, let’s go deeper into the site and explore true functionality of the phone. Having a sense of awareness of the depth of the Windows Phone 7 is important but at the same time you don’t want to overload them with excess information. Let them play with the phone in store or virtually if you can will answer a lot of that excess data but the most important thing is to attack them in a way that they will appreciate in that – give me the basics, give me what i get that i normally wouldn’t get and lastly how does this look visually!
If you click on Discover you are given what I can only describe is a list of random points that dont seem to have a sense of grouping and lastly a sudden need to cram branding overload into the pitch.
Why do i care about XBOX Live? Bing? Windows Live? Facebook? and more importantly where is Twitter? hey since we are in the mood for name dropping why stop with these.. point is, it’s Microsoft teams pitching themselves first customers second here. It’s obvious and shallow and unnecessary.
The headings are ok, I’m fine with the three (3) sections of break downs, but keep it simple stupid?
It gets worse, I can’t even click on the phone it’s inviting to me that the phone looks virtual, but wouldn’t this be a great opportunity for me to play around with it? explore it? go deeper? ignore your sales pitch and play? as you’re probably not helping me anyway?
As I click on each of the “Discovery Points of Interest” I soon realize that i am first meet with a tagline followed by another click on reading more? I’m all for white space Microsoft but really, this forces my reading habits to slow down to a pace that I'm probably not as comfortable with. Give me the opportunity to speed read through the areas I think could be interesting vs the ones I probably think aren’t? instead I have to go through a 3 click uninspiring process of both reading text and keeping an eye on animation(s) at the same time – i think this may actually qualify for cognitive overload.
More importantly, what is a hub by the way? (I know because I’m an early adopter and its my job to know) but have we clarified what a Hub is on the website btw? I can’t seem to find out the story behind that? Ignoring the Hub definition if you then click on the Music + Videos Hub you will be meet with the similar looking tagline followed by a more action..clicking on the more action you are then given a fairly reasonable looking paragraph about the story of Music + Video. It however still wants me to click more on finding out about this thing called Zune (living outside the US, Zune isn’t known, so wtf is a Zune?). After that click, I'm now taking to a different area of the site with really what I call a “Well good luck, hope you figure the rest out” purpose. There’s no elegant hand off to this part of the site and more importantly you just broke my concentration.
Shallow experience here in the discovery of this phone. Microsoft are being lazy and not really delving deep into an immersive experience that gives me clear precise clarity around what this phone has or hasn’t got. I can’t skip ahead and i’m reduced to a pace that probably isn’t going to make impact.
Let’s not muck around, Apple are good at their feature break-outs, but the thing I liked the most is you can watch a video on the phone itself (Good entry point to watch that expensive advertisement you put into TV/Online no?)
Furthermore, the page asks one thing of you, and that is “Are you happy to scroll down?” and to be fair its a habitual ask meaning its already baked into all users on the web as part of their day to day muscle memory.
The more you scroll down the more you see what’s inside the phone and its simple, Tagline, paragraph, big visual and a learn more point which takes you to a deeper insight into that feature. They position the phone well, they treat you with respect as a potential consumer and they are working hard to entice you into areas of your interest and less Apple’s.
Apple also won’t burden you with brand overload here and when they do, they do so in a way that is digestible. Constant re-use of the phone and screens within the phone that highlight areas of interest. Clicking on iPod you get a good sense of what Music will look like under the iPhone regime and yes they introduced the brand iPod – but they are allowed to, know why? iPod is ubiquitous around the world its an established brand. Zune isn’t.
Microsoft Marketing need to wake the hell up, get back to basics and find a Don Draper style character to head-up their online presence. Loose the Barney & Friends commercials and treat this product like it was the first time in the world you’ve told people about the story of Microsoft and Phones. Stop playing a game of hide and seek with information and more importantly down-play other brands if they aren’t as well seeded.
Everyone in that team needs to pick up a book “Don’t make me think” and learn usability 101 mixed with marketing 101. Get people to stores to play with the phone, make them promises online but make sure you can back them up world-wide. This isn’t a US focused product, its a world-wide one and you need to entice the consumers in a way that makes sense to them as well as keep up to speed with your competitive issues.
This phone needs to beat iPhone and Android, and it needs to win.