What is Cortana?

Cortana is Microsoft's digital, personal assistant. For a quick glimpse of the product, see the video below.

Working on the Cortana design team means defining the Cortana experience from the principles all the way through the pixels. We set the interaction and visual patterns that are shared and leveraged both within and outside of the company. Some days we are doing blue-sky, envisioning work, when other days we are sitting down with on of the developers to make sure every pixel is in place.

We partner closely with PMs, Researchers, Developers, Marketers, and more. 

 

 

What's it like designing for Cortana?

 

01. When we design Cortana, we design for endpoints and interactions on variety of devices.

What may be a tap on a screened device, may be a full voice flow on a headless device. We do design work for mouse & keyboard interactions, voice-only interactions, touch screens, haptics, and more.

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02. We design for 40 million active users.

This means that even small changes take time and extensive systems design work. We have to take into account all needs and abilties. How do we make sure all of our design decisions support our diverse population of users? 

 

03. Generally, our work falls into one of three categories:

1/3 Future envisioning projects Looking into longterm goals of the product: what does Cortana look like 5, 10, 15 years from now?

1/3 Future envisioning projects

Looking into longterm goals of the product: what does Cortana look like 5, 10, 15 years from now?

2/3 Next shipping cycle features Responding to customer feedbacks and requests with new features and capabilities. 

2/3 Next shipping cycle features

Responding to customer feedbacks and requests with new features and capabilities. 

3/3 Maintenance and updates to current UI Updating current experiences due to visual changes in the system or small needed tweaks due to bugs.

3/3 Maintenance and updates to current UI

Updating current experiences due to visual changes in the system or small needed tweaks due to bugs.

 

04. Sometimes we are designing for user needs and sometimes not.

Sometimes we use design to solve business needs and meet legal requirements. 

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05. Designing for Cortana means using design thinking to answer a variety of questions:

  • How do we rationalize Cortana (an inherently personal product) on a communal device?
  • How do we design user experiences that start on one type of device and end on another?
  • How do we design for accessibility? What if someone is blind and users a screen reader?
  • How do design for a user who is distracted? How do we know they are distracted?
  • What happens if a users asks a to see multimedia content on a headless device?
  • What does voice as an interface mean?

 

 

What have you worked on while on the team?

Most of my current work in under NDA and cannot be talked about publicly online. The bulk of my time has been spent working on the recently announced Harman Kardon Cortana-activated speaker. 

For a bit more of a look into my projects, click here.

 

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