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Every once in a while, you get a chance to push the proverbial envelope, and try to innovate and make a substantive change that has the user’s needs, as best you understand them, front and center. The organizational appetite for change reaches a critical mass, the planets and resources align, and the required budget materializes to make it all happen. But change doesn’t come without a price: what has been, for companies and their customers alike, comfortable and familiar is overturned in favor of something strange and disorienting. This can be upsetting, and can require patience and perseverance to assimilate and accept.

“That’s all very fine,” you may be saying right about now. “But what is the point of all these generalities?”

Announcing a New System Center Website

“Oh, is that all?”

Yep. But this is a big deal for us, at any rate—and we expect that, for many, the change may come as a bit of a shock. We’ve rethought the site’s design patterns and structures, in some areas fundamentally, and it may take some serious getting used to. But we hope that you’ll agree in the end (as the tests we did prior to releasing the new site apparently confirmed) that the change is a welcome one.

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What Our Goals Were

The key objectives we undertook with our redesign are three:

  • Refresh the design of the site and modernize its features
  • Consolidate six, loosely integrated sites into one
  • Improve overall discoverability and organization of site content
What We Came Up With

After 9 months of research, planning, design, migration, production, and review, we came up with the solution (or set of solutions) you see here. You’ll note the following:

  • One site to rule them all:All the product sites, five of them, are now fully integrated areas within the System Center site itself. We hope that this helps you find what you need faster; gives you a better grasp of System Center family relationships; and eventually, once we’ve built out the needed content, defines better the interplay between our solutions and products.
  • A new look and feel:The site sports a bold shift in the color scheme, from white to cool, dark greys and blacks, that subtly incorporates the “dynamic grid” background into foreground elements.
  • Augmented navigation features:To help incorporate the added depth in the information hierarchy, we are providing new, supplemental navigation elements, including “breadcrumbs” or “eyebrow” navigation, mid-level tabbed navigation, and persistent right sidebar related resource aggregations.
  • Integrated social media:Because more and more of you use social tools such as Twitter and Facebook (among many other social media tools), and as these tools are an increasingly important component of the marketing mix, we made sure to build our social media feeds and links into the site, as well as take a few steps down the path to including content from the community. This helps you connect with us better, helps us connect with you better, and helps you connect with one another better. Everybody wins!
  • Feeds galore: We have leveraged feeds of content from as many relevant sources as we could find, including case studies, partners, news, community resources, and more. This serves a dual purpose: it decreases our day-to-day publishing load by allowing us to rely on syndication as much as possible, and provides you, our customers, with a fresher, more dynamic experience. We have also made many of these feeds available to you for subscription in your favorite RSS reader.


A Humble Demo of the New Site

To help you understand these changes better, we’ve put together a little video with a site demo in it, which I invite you to take a look at:

Get Microsoft Silverlight

So … What’s Next?

The first thing is to put the new site through its paces and get to all the little issues (content, structural, or functional) that we needed to put off until after we launched. As part of this, we would like to invite your feedback in the comments section on this blog post or via our Twitter or Facebook presences. Tell us what you think—and if you have any trouble finding things, let us know, and we’ll track them down for you—we had to move a lot of stuff around and it’s possible that we overlooked an item or two, despite our best double-checking efforts.

After that, we want to continue to iterate on the site with your input for we hope the next few years until changes in the business or the evolution of customer needs mandate another overhaul. Hard to think about that now, but in this online business, one thing you can be sure of is that if your website doesn’t keep evolving, its fate will be like that of the Neanderthal.

– dave //

Dave Morehouse, Sr. Product Manager
System Center & Virtualization Outbound Marketing
Web & Communities

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