For many years, Microsoft had the reputation of being a lumbering, deaf giant when it came to improving its products. Long-time PowerPoint users can look back and wonder why it took so long to add no-brainer features and fix glitches. It was one thing to have to wait three years in between product cycles, but it was in some ways more frustrating to feel as though your voice as a user was just not being listened to. If you had a great idea for PowerPoint, would anyone in Redmond even care? Further, could you even contact the product team?
That was the old Microsoft, and the new more nimble Microsoft, believe it or not, is actively listening to the average user and making changes based on user input. For real.
See that picture above? That is an always-on screen in the main hallway of the PowerPoint product development team. On the right-hand side is Twitter—yes, hashtag #PowerPoint and the engineers are going to see your post. But even better is the left-hand side which is a feed of powerpoint.uservoice.com, a site dedicated to wishlist features for PowerPoint that allows anyone to vote on proposed additions and to add your own requests for others to vote on.
Okay, but is this just a feel-good marketing ploy? No, it’s real, and the product development team is actively listening. I was reminded of this the other day when I dashed off a feature request to the product team directly (as a Microsoft MVP, I can get a little closer than the average user), and was gently reminded to post requests on uservoice. While Microsoft will always have final say, there is a legitimate sense of democracy afoot these days. Case in point is the just introduced game-changing feature called Morph. After years of begging for a PowerPoint answer to Keynote’s Magic Move, Microsoft finally instituted a similar feature that promises to ultimately trump Apple’s. Here’s the uservoice post on Morph.
The dev team not only actively reads requests, but often provides updates and comments. Notice the “completed” badge on the Morph request and the “Started” one on the below request.
In every presentation training I give, I always ask people to tell me their PowerPoint gripes, wishes and things that take longer than they feel they should. In some cases, I can show them a little-known feature to fix their problems, but other times, it will be up to Microsoft to make life easier for them. And uservoice is how to make that happen.
Oh, and always send crash reports to Microsoft. It helps everyone!