Microsoft projects including MSN and Windows Live and Windows Vista and Windows XP, the Redmond company is not the one to back down from a little in-house competition. And in this context, the Microsoft Download Center is an illustrative example of Microsoft products coming in pairs. The Redmond company is running the old, HTML-based version of the Download Center in parallel with the Silverlight-based, beta variant. In the end, it is not all about the need to expand the reach of its Adobe Flash killer for Microsoft, but also to provide a superior user experience.
The obvious conclusion for the company, presented in the image integrated toward the bottom of this article, is the fact that a dynamic webpage constructed with Silverlight widgets delivers a superior user experience than the static HTML Download Center. This is achieved by delivering a superior volume of information squeezed in the same screen real-estate space, and by keeping visitors on the home page rather than making them go back and forth between pages.
"The OV has quite bit of wasted screen space such as the gray area in the image above. There's a lot of information squeezed into the narrow content column. Since the page is static, many product links are forced to be present on the page and visible all the time, making the homepage became very long. For example, a user wants to browse the products in Windows category. In OV, the user has to leave the current page and go to a new page that has the complete list of Windows products (3857 in total!) to find what they want. In SV, the user can simply click on the 'Browse Download' button on the homepage. A Silverlight overlay panel will appear for the user to choose either browsing alphabetically or browsing by categories", explained Qixing Zheng, UX Advisor Microsoft Canada.
Essentially, the major benefit of the Silverlight-based Microsoft Download Center is the fact that information management is superior to what the HTML version has to offer. This helps to reduce complexity and streamlines access to the resources the users are looking for. In the end, with Silverlight you will end up spending less time navigating between pages. Silverlight also delivers a bit extra when it comes to visuals. The design is user friendly, and the eye candy does manage not to clutter the page and the simple layout. But for the time being, and seeing as the Silverlight-based Download Center is still in beta, there is room for improvement. For instance, Microsoft should focus its resources on the performance of the Silverlight version, as it seriously lags behind that of its HTML peer.
"Wizard guide for downloading. For users that have trouble finding what they need or don't know where to start, a on-demand wizard type of help can guide users to narrow down their choices according to what they want. (...) Support organic growth and scalability of the site. As more and more products are available for download, Silverlight could be really used for creating effective visualization to help users find what they need", Zheng added.Silverlight, HTML, Beta, Microsoft, Download, Center, MDC, Microsoft Download Center, Website