Website Usability

I love Windows Live Writer.  I’m using it to write this post.  But, the website for Writer is terrible!

To see what I mean, search for “windows live writer” on any of the main search engines.  Click on the first search result, which takes you to the home page, called “Writer Zone”.  Now, try figure out how to download the product.  You can’t.  There is no download button!  There are some buried text links, but that is about it.  It’s a pretty frustrating experience.  Before anyone comments, “oh, you can find it over here…”, that isn’t my point.  I know the content is out there – my point is that it isn’t made easily found.  Show me an ISV with a product that doesn’t have a massive, oversized download button, and I’ll show you a pink elephant.

Fortunately, Google’s search has figured out the navigation for Writer Zone.  Just do the search, and the download link is in the search results directly.  Phew!

But why does this problem exist?  Let’s speculate.

I think the big problem is that the Writer team has inappropriately decided to use Spaces technology as a product home page site rather than building a real site.   In other words, they decided promoting other Microsoft technologies was more important than the lost usability for navigating the web page. 

As a second example, consider the header navigation.  In my case, I landed on the Writer home page.  I didn’t know (nor care) that this page was hosted on Spaces.  So naturally, I’d expect the buttons on the header to be the primary ways to navigate the Windows Live Writer page, right?  Wrong.  Here is the header.  None of these buttons have anything to do with Writer, and will in fact take you away from the page!


Since I was actually looking for the system requirements for installing Writer, I typed “system requirements” into that header.  The results had nothing to do with Writer!

Finally, I did find what I was looking for, but only by consulting Google again.  The search for “windows live writer system requirements” was exactly what I should have done in the first place.

2 thoughts on “Website Usability

  • December 28, 2007 at 4:42 pm

    Hey Mike, we actually intended our product homepage to be (which redirects over to–the Writer Zone is our team blog. Of course Google seems to think the blog is a lot more relevant than the homepage, so all of your criticism is still perfectly valid. I’ll forward it to the rest of the team.

    Thanks for the feedback, hope things are going well at Google.

  • December 28, 2007 at 7:29 pm

    Hey Joe –

    Glad to see you found my blog entry; couldn’t find your email addrs, so I couldn’t contact you directly.

    I don’t really think the counts as a product homepage – its missing all the key features (except it does have the download button). But all the news, discussions, and activity around writer happens at the other page. So, it’s no wonder that Google thinks the other page is the home page.

    And it’s not just Google – all 3 of the search engines (google, yahoo, live) bring up the spaces page first when you search for ‘windows live writer’.

    None of this detracts from it being a great product, though!


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