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Upcoming MSDN Subscriptions website changes

Last week at the TechEd Developers in Barcelona I visited the MSDN booth and spoke with Azam Husain, a Program Manager for the MSDN Subscriptions website. He and his colleagues were conducting an informal usability test for some upcoming changes in the MSDN Subscriptions website. I was eager to participate, since I am one of the maintainers of our department’s MSDN subscription. I often have to explain colleagues how to use the current site and especially the part of getting the File Transfer Manager to work is a recurring problem.

He showed me some screenshots of the new site design and asked some questions about it. The most notable things that they showed me were:

  • Improved search functionality. They’ve included a prominent search box on the start page of the MSDN Subscriptions site. It looks like they want that search box to be the main method for searching MSDN Subscriber downloads. This should avoid searching the downloads using the relatively slow navigation tree.
  • The addition of category info boxes on the start page, that display the latest news for each download category.
  • Cleaned up navigation tree. Currently the tree not only contains nodes for the downloads themselves, but also child nodes for all variants (i.e. Vista Home, Vista Pro, Vista Ultimate and all the different languages). In the upcoming site you’ll only find the main categories in the navigation tree. Further filtering can now be done in a separate filter box which is displayed on the right side of the page.
  • Usage of (ASP.Net) AJAX throughout the site. This speeds up the process of finding downloads, because full-page reloads are no longer necessary.
  • Product keys are now also conveniently listed on the product download page. The separate product keys page is also still available.
  • The download content pages now list product information, product keys and other related info in collapsible panels, which clean up the interface.
  • The whole site is going to be accessible WITHOUT being logged in! Ofcourse you still need to be logged in to perform the actual download of products or view your product keys. But otherwise the whole site can be browsed anonymously. Obviously Microsoft’s reason behind this is that they want show non-subscribers all the goodies they will be able to get when they subscribe. But for me this is also very handy, because now I can let colleagues browse the site and let them select the downloads they want, without passing the MSDN account details.

I was pretty impressed at what Azam showed me. I did have some comments, which Azam took note of. But in general I think the MSDN Subscriptions team is going in the right direction. They are planning on releasing the new site in the first quarter of 2008.

Hello from TechEd Developers 2007 in Barcelona!

Well, a little later than expected, but here it is… my first posting from TechEd Developer 2007 in Barcelona, Spain. In the little time I have between all the interesting sessions I mainly try to keep our company blogs up to date, so until now I haven’t had the time to post to this blog…

Me and my colleagues arrived in Barcelona on Sunday. We had a short sight-seeing tour in a bus an saw all the city’s highlights, like the Sagrada Familia, the Olympic Village on Montjuic, the Gaudi houses (Casa Battlo and Casa Mila), the Christophor Columbus statue etc. I can really recommend Barcelona, it’s a great city!

Monday was the first TechEd day. The keynote started at 14:00, so me and some colleagues decided to do some more sight-seeing in the morning. We went to the Sagrada Familia, Gaudi’s famous church, which we had visited the day before. This time we bought a ticket and could go inside. I was really impressed by the architecture. Also the method used to design/construct the various towers and arches was very interesting. Go see it if you’re in Barcelona.

For now I’ll leave you with the photos I’ve made. I’ll blog about the sessions I’ve attended at a later time.

Attending TechEd Developers 2007 in Barcelona

Just a quick note here that I’ll be attending Microsoft TechEd Developers 2007 in Barcelona next week. I’m currently figuring out which sessions to attend, which isn’t easy. There are nearly 300 of them and unfortunately I cannot attend them all… My main focus will be SharePoint, but I plan to attend some sessions on Visual Studio 2008, LINQ and Silverlight too. And I want to see Joe Duffy IRL, since I like his blog and his book very much.

I plan to blog daily about my experiences at TechEd. However, I’ll also be doing some blogging on my company’s intranet site, so I might not make it every day.

I’m also thinking about bringing my Nikon D80 and shoot some photos of the event. I’m currently evaluating several WordPress plugins that enable the use of photo galleries on this blog. To restrict bandwidth usage for this site I’m thinking about hosting the images on my Flickr Pro account and link to them from here. Flickr Photo Album seems like the perfect plugin for the job. Anybody got some experience with other plugins?