PC Settings, Windows 8.1: Time, Language & Input Settings Experience
I joined the Windows 8.1 user experience team at the onset of the product cycle and was given two responsibilities. First, the limited settings in the PC Settings app were turning Windows 8 tablet users to the desktop environment, which was terribly frustrating to use with touch. I was asked to investigate all international settings—date, time, region, language and input—to design and build the essential ones into PC Settings. Second, airplane mode behaved differently from conventions, leading to a quirky experience. My job was to amend how radio management worked—airplane mode and all the wireless communication switches—so users could confidently use Wi-Fi in flights.
Our challenge was both a design and engineering one. 25 years old, the Windows Control Panel had a vast legacy with tens, if not hundreds, of settings. How might we design, build and ship a quality settings experience—one that is both modern and relevant for tablet users—within a year?
Our work made Windows tablets truly global—enabling personalization based on lingual, typing and regional preferences. Users can change the language seen across Windows and apps UI. Languages that do not ship in-box can be downloaded and installed. To type in a different language, users can add a keyboard; change its layout, and adjust handwriting and spellchecking settings. East Asian users can add and change settings for Chinese, Japanese, and Korean IMEs, which enable typing in languages that have more characters than can fit on a keyboard. Other settings enable the surfacing of region-relevant apps in the Store, and adjusting the date and time on the device. The Verge gave Windows 8.1 a rating of 8.8.
Building our product required relentless prioritization and making some critical calls. During development, a feature was turning out to be more expensive than anticipated. It served as a gatekeeper to other functionality in the platform and partner teams had an interest in seeing it built. But it directly competed for time with top priority features. Persisting with it undermined our ability to ship a quality product overall. What if we didn’t do it? I took a busy afternoon off to find out. Using Python, I hacked a script to consolidate usage data from multiple sources. Yes, we could definitely tolerate the risk of not doing it. The data made a compelling case to our team, management and partners. We agreed to shelve it.
Shipping a product of Windows’ magnitude takes blood, sweat and tears. I did whatever it took to keep our team productive and ultimately ship a quality product. When design resources were limited, I took the responsibility of user experience design—iterating through sketches and wireframes. Our dedicated team built a culture of inclusiveness where each member played a role in defining our product. I learned to appreciate the craftsmanship that makes a product feel premium, and the fact that there are always more things to do than there is time available.
Pro tip: Always, always bring the donuts.
Plan, design, develop and ship time, language and input settings experiences for Windows 8.1 touch tablets
Doing whatever it took to ship the feature at quality including feature planning and prioritization, user experience design, specification writing, leadership and team building, bug triaging, sketching and wireframing, and lots of influencing
Software Engineering, Design, User Research, Content Publishing
UI comps, feature specifications
Pen & paper, Microsoft Powerpoint, Python
Operating System Design & Development