Keith Combs' Blahg

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TechNet 2.0 – Episode 1 – Core Scenarios and Branding

TechNet 2.0 – Episode 1 – Core Scenarios and Branding

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The TechNet team at Microsoft is planning some big changes to the website over the next few months – they call the project “TechNet 2.0” or “TN20” for short. John Martin leads the TechNet team, (he’s also my boss!) and he and I decided to partner on a new blog series to introduce all the new things the team has planned and get feedback from the IT community.

So, each Tuesday and Thursday in February I’ll post a new episode here that covers some important aspect of this project.

Last week I sat down with John to record a podcast on episode one of this series.  In this episode we are going to go over the vision for TechNet, the core customer scenarios we think are important, the TN20 project, and some new things we are doing with branding. 

Here’s the podcast on those subjects and below is a summary of what we talked about. You’ll also noticed at the end of this post I have provided the podcast in .MP3 format for podcast subscribers.

Episode 1 Podcast

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What is TechNet?

TechNet is Microsoft’s site for IT professionals, here to make you successful with Microsoft products and as a technical professional by providing the best technical content, essential tools for the job, and connections to Microsoft product groups and the technical community.

What are we trying to do with TechNet?

We are on a mission.  We want to make TechNet the best possible online experience for IT Professionals. As you can see, our mission goes beyond just providing product documentation and whitepapers. Sure, we still want to provide the essential architecture and planning guidance for our products and technologies, but we also want to connect you to people inside and outside Microsoft and enable you to actually participate in the TechNet experience. 

And, in order to do that, we focus on five key scenarios.

  1. Help Me! - Help me find technical content and solve technical problems, quickly
  2. Keep me Smart - Provide me with content and resources to increase my technical skills and stay up-to-date with the latest developments in my area
  3. Connect me with the product - Show me your future plans and let me provide feedback
  4. Connect me with people - Help me find and engage smart people at Microsoft and in the community
  5. Downloads - Make it easy for me to find and download the bits, tools, and resources I need to do my job

Across all five scenarios, we invest in:

  1. Content quality, relevance, and timeliness
  2. Ease of discoverability
  3. Opportunities for community participation and contribution

John does a great job in the podcast of describing each and what we think they mean.  Is he correct?  Feel free to comment below.

What is TechNet 2.0 ?

TechNet 2.0 is a broad initiative kicking off this month to increase your success with the core scenarios above. We especially want to make sure to improve the way you discover information. 

This of course includes site navigation but as you’ll see in other parts of this series, we have a few tricks up our sleeve I think you’ll like, that go beyond just navigating the site. 

TechNet 2.0 project goals also include better content quality and timeliness, and new opportunities for you to participate in the site.  I am not going to steal the thunder from all of those key areas right now. We’ll describe those more fully in future episodes of this blog series.

Now that you have an idea of the strategy and mission, let’s take a look at one of the new features of TechNet 2.0 since it’s going to be immediately visually apparent.  In fact, you don’t even need to wait to see some of the changes I am alluding to.

Stacked New TechNet brand and Product-branded centers

As you can see in the screenshot at right, the TechNet brand has been updated to a new look-and-feel and the TechNet home page reflects the new design and color scheme. But, as you can see in the picture (click the pic to see a much larger version), TechNet will no longer be a vast sea of blue – TechCenters are changing.

When we launch TechNet 2.0, you’ll see each major product TechCenter will be “themed” with its own unique brand elements.  For IT pros, TechCenters are the online face of each product and each product will have its own unique home on TechNet.

The most striking example of this will be Office with the orange theme, but all centers will share some important common elements in their design. This will provide a consistent experience across the TechCenters which should make the site easier to use and the content more discoverable. 

I like the product oriented branding.  The color and theme immediately registers with me and helps me determine if I am looking for information in the right place.  For instance, check out the Exchange TechCenter.  Their logo is there, theme, and versions.  We will dive deep into versioning, and other changes to TechCenters in later blog posts.

Summary

TechNet 2.0 is a broad initiative to make you more successful with core scenarios on TechNet. The TechNet team focuses on Content, Discoverability, and Participation across five core customer scenarios. One major change to TechNet will be how TechNet and TechCenters are branded. But that’s not all. We will dive deeper into all the new features that make up TechNet 2.0 release in the next seven parts of this series.

Please comment.  We would like to know in each part of the series what you think.  We take your feedback seriously and it helps us frame and prioritize what we do now, and in the future.  It’s one of the reasons I went to work for the TechNet team.  Where else could I have a more measurable impact on the IT Pro customer base than technet.microsoft.com?

I’m also part of the v-team already thinking about TechNet v.Next so it’ll be important to get your feedback on what you like and dislike over the next few weeks and months.  We look forward to that conversation.

On Thursday I’ll post TechNet 2.0 - Episode 2 – TechCenters. In that episode we’ll talk about the new TechCenters design and how they help you find what you need, quicker. See you Thursday!

Attachment: http://msinetpub.vo.llnwd.net/d1/keithcombs/podcasts/tn20/episode1/TN20_Episode1.mp3
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  • I'm glad TechNet is getting a well overdue revamping. Based on your comments I think you're on track for what needs to be refined. However, one feature I'd like to see developed is guided simulators for installing and managing Microsoft software, particularly the server-based applications. Most IT people have had their budgets cut to nothing and we cannot afford to attend costly week-long training sessions that are more aligned with getting certified than learning a new product. With virtualization becoming more ubiquitous, Microsoft has an opportunity to help IT staff learn how to install and use their products in a safe environment and practice the skills they need to deploy Microsoft's products in a real-world environment. Something to consider as part of your TechNet 2.0 experiment.

  • I hope you intend to stick with long lists of dynamic menus with submenus and even subsubmenus. Some of the revamps on the retail sites have made them almost impossible to use.

    I see from the few screenshots that it uses Silverlight. Please, please please, make sure we don't suffer the ever soooooo long delays that the retail sites suffer from. I, and I believe many people, will get bored waiting if whole pages or chunks of Silverlight code are constantly reloaded (ala aspx).

  • When I log into technet, I want to be able to find the required information quicky, easily, and completely.

    It would be nice to get the Technet Plus subscrition dvds in the month they are for. They are not very timely.