User Experience Engineering

Thursday, August 03, 2006

 

Windows Live ... (?)

I am testing live.com without an account, at the moment. With its' multi-column drilldown, Windows Live.com borrows a page from the Macintosh OS X Finder. The selection feels a bit empty and puzzling at present. For instance, under "Add Stuff" I browsed the "Productivity" directory, expecting to see todo lists, maybe email, project tracking...

Here are the contents of their columns:

Productivity|*Shopping     | There are currently no items in this feed.
            |Safety Center |
            |              | [add]

Drilling down four levels to find "no items" is disappointing. Also, Shopping would be more consumptive than productive... But, I'm here for the user experience, so I clicked "add". Shopping Beta appeared on the page I had created. So, I got shopping beta by selecting it from a list with no items? Huh?

(I later saw that News feeds typically had items, whereas Shopping does not).

I typed "iPod" into the Shopping Beta form, and clicked the search button. Fast but sparse results appeared, with the listings in wrapping lines, which used the available space efficiently. Live.com calls the wrapping lines format "grid", and has an optional format called "text". "Text" eliminates the pictures and produces rather ugly and repetitive-looking result links. It appears to add price comparison functions.

At the top of the results were controls which I took to be for sorting purposes. Each header or label had a downward chevron symbol.

category brand price range seller

Clicking on these, instead of sorting, produced Ajaxy dropdown menus of the brands, sellers, etc. Selecting one narrowed the search results.

Each result bears a link reading "add to list". Click it, and the browser scrolls to the top of the page, where there is neither list nor item. That's because they are using an href that goes nowhere: http://www.live.com/#, instead of an intra-page link such as #list, or a do-nothing href, such as "javascript:;". Scroll to the bottom, and you discover that the item is added to your list.

There does not appear to be a way to check out. I tried clicking on the link at the top of the module, and was startled to find that a new window opened, and took me to shopping.msn.com. Apparently, I had left my page by performing a Shopping Beta search. The only other controls in the module are "Recent Searches", and links to "Travel essentials", "Tech on sale", and "Summer fashion". Each of these also leads to a new window with an MSN shopping page.

There is a colored divider bar that links "back to my page". This is only necessary because the current module, Shopping Beta search results, has replaced mail, slashdot, and my other widgets on that page. So, unlike Pageflakes.com, google.com/ig, and my.yahoo.com, these do not appear to be functional widgets within pages. They are little more than links to existing Microsoft pages, and a little Ajax to make it possible to find the links and drag them around. Some functions take over "my page", the composition of widgets that I made for a purpose. We do have our reasons for mashing together different content, right? Others open in a new window, representing an even greater disconnect.

It would seem that CNET's Ina Fried got it right when writing "Is Windows Live just another name for MSN?" But that was November 3, 2005, a couple of days after Windows Live was announced. Nine months later, I ask, "is this thing live?"


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