redesigns “Help and Support”

For the longest time, I thought almost every single page on was designed to look different on purpose just to play with you, but I guess I was wrong because the newly redesigned Support site is actually partially consistent with the frontpage. In general its a subtle update with a more flexible layout giving more focus to the content.

Maybe even one day, they’ll make it beautiful.

P.S. If you don’t know already, check out the auto-complete feature in the search field on the support site. You have to type at least 3 characters before it kicks in. Try “Microsoft suc”. Apparently very frequent query.

27 insightful thoughts

  1. @Matt Sharpe: I personally think the Apple Support site is something that’s fun and enjoyable to read, whereas the Microsoft Support site is something you have to read because something’s gone wrong.

    For example, there’s lots of nice product images on the Apple site and really shows the attention to detail in layout and formatting. Whereas on the Microsoft site it’s just big blobs of text, like a thick manual.

  2. I like the new one, and I have to say I agree with Matt Sharpe. We’re talking about design here and the word “beautiful” is far from the word “entertaining”, at least that’s my opinion.

  3. I have to disagree with you about the Apple site being beautiful. Neither do I find the Microsoft site appealing.

    Long are you sure you are not biased ;-). Just Kidding.

  4. @Emil: True, agree with you entertaining is probably more accurate description but I still think it’s a better design.

  5. And they are still using Verdana as the default font! Well, Microsoft and good web design is a very special topic. I am regularly shocked how they create GIF images. It is so difficult in Photoshop to get such bad dithering. Not to mention all the official ugly “I-try-to-look-like-a-real-Vista-logo” logos.

  6. @Long haha! out numbered mr Zheng 😉

    Apples web site truly is VERY cluttered. I need the right balance of white space and blobs of text to be able to view the page harmoniously.

  7. Aw, when I searched for “microsoft sucks” I got a “Server is too busy” error message. It must be popular! 😉

  8. Not really impressed with either. Is the Apple site really considered “beautiful”? Are you sure that you aren’t thinking of the product shots, which are nice, rather than the overall design? I’m not sure that having to check twice to make sure that you are a support page isn’t form over function.

    The MS site goes in the opposite direction and a mess and doesn’t provide a single visual aide. Awful. Much harder to guide yourself along. However, in part that is because, probably given the far larger scope, it is focused more on searching for a problem than browsing for one. The one nice thing is that you can just start typing on arrival and have the text fill the search box. You really have to pay attention to the search hints to get it right though because just a straight up search is catastrophically bad! How does, “no internet connection” get you, 1st, “Error message when you try to download the EPG listings for Live TV on a Windows Vista-based computer”? The second message is about not having a tv tuner in mce and the third message is something about, “winsock corruption”. Really those are the most likely situations? How about the guy who just can’t get anything to come up in IE? If your search algorithm sucks so hard why not at least rig the softballs? Also, how do you get your results in a different language? On the Apple site this one of the easiest things to do. On the MS one, I can’t figure it out.

    The Apple site guides you along more effectively but the search takes absurdly too long (google searches the entire web faster!) and delivers results that lamely only differentiate the problem and solution with a link text and not (even a slight) difference in text size. Terrible job – the monotony makes it is easy to start scanning without actually reading. The searches aren’t that good in the results either though the “were you looking for”, effectively the auto complete hints on the MS site, are better but they accidentally give away that overall, the search isn’t very smart. Why would searching for “no internet connection” *under Leopard issues* actually have to be “Connecting to the Internet using Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard” to bring the page you need up on the first link?

    Frankly I think you are better off using google’s domain search.

  9. I actually like Microsoft’s design a bit better than Apple’s support site (the URL you linked to in the post, Long). I think Apple’s is way too “white”. I do think Microsoft’s new design can use a few more tweaks though. Just some of my thoughts.

  10. Notice on the Apple Support, hover over Switch 101 at the buttom, a link helping “Windows” Users to switch to make, The Windows logo…is…a window. >=O Just thought I should point that out.

  11. Another thing I just found when typing in “suck”, is there’s a suggestion at the buttom saying “suck my ****” and when I click on that, I find myself looking at Windows ME results, does anyone get the same thing?

  12. Seems like it goes by common search terms instead of results… which mean we can search bomb the site with searches for “how to uninstall Windows and install Linux” if we want to.

  13. @ andrew:
    apple is a smug company.

    yes I know, if they have a country option it should have been in english because If I never clicked on every link, I couldn’t have found that.

  14. is WAY better visually.

    but, I second what some folks have said before me. when i’m at the microsoft support website, i don’t want distracting product shots, just clean quick text-solutions

    also, Microsoft created the “Guided Help” and “Demos” before Apple’s support videos.

    if you google a KB number, you get fast and correct results, try that with an Apple bulletin…

  15. I was actually surprised when I saw the new design, I am not sure why they didn’t give us heads up before releasing it. Or maybe they did I didn’t notice it. That being said, I do like the new layout and design. It certainly screams out Microsoft with that blue color scheme. Good job Microsoft!

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