Microsoft Teams Redesign (1/4)

Áine O'Neill
3 min readNov 7, 2020

This blog will track my progress and learning on the MSc UX Design course in IADT.

Team: Our team consists of Ultan O’Broin, Niamh Kearns and myself. Ultan has a background in User Experience, Niamh in fashion design, and mine in graphic design, so between us we are bringing multiple perspectives for collaboration, and should bring the “potential of many more ideas being generated, new methods developed…creative and original designs produced.” (Who Is Involved in Interaction Design, 2019, p. p12)

Stanford School of Design outlines the five different ‘modes’ of design thinking. (Scott Doorley, 2018) I will apply these modes over the course of these blog posts to outline how our team used this method to solve problems at each stage of our design process. We’re analysing Microsoft Teams, with the goal of designing a paper prototype for a specific task completed in the application.

Stanford School of Design- Five Modes of Design Thinking

Mode One-Empathy

Empathy is the ability to understand and share feelings with another person, the foundation of human centred design. Through a process of ‘observe’, ‘engage’ and ‘immerse’, our team were able to empathise with the users of Microsoft Teams in a genuine way. This allows us to see issues from the users point of view, feel their struggles, know their motivations, and ultimately, design the right product for the right problem.

Mode Two- Define

The ‘define’ stage seeks to specify exactly what the problem you’re trying to solve is, using insights gained through empathy work. “More than simply defining the problem, your Point of View is a unique design vision that is framed by your specific users.” . (Scott Doorley, 2018) We define through a problem statement because it focuses on the user issue at hand, which on review at a later stage, helps us see if we’ve created the right solution.

We conducted a heuristic evaluation of Teams, to examine its usability so we can ‘immerse’ ourselves in our users experience. Nielson’s ten heuristics was used as a guide to better understand the pros and cons of this app. (Nielsen, 1994) You can see what we discovered here and here.

One of two Heurisitc Analysis our team conducted

We wanted to ‘observe’ how a first time user would react to the application, so conducted a usability test. I completed it with my mother, asking her to complete a task (send a message), and watched as she spoke through her process. Watching someone who isn’t as literate-in-computers as our team struggle across the interface illustrated the many issues of this app. The next goal is to showcase the results from this in ways that retain the sense of empathy developed.


As a method of critique, the ten heuristics allowed us to put a structure on the struggles we experienced as a user of the app. I can now see that sharing my screen accidentally on a video call is a shortcoming of ‘error prevention’, and not entirely a result of my own ineptitude. I realise how important it is to understand who you are designing for. No matter how much you think you’ve understood a product, seeing a different kind of person to yourself use it will bring a greater understanding. I could see flaws in the app from using it myself, but seeing it from my mother’s perspective changed my initial evaluation of the app, and helped build empathy for the students who have to suffer through Teams.

One of two Task Models completed of Microsoft Teams

Challenges Faced: It is worth noting that we are starting this process in the middle of a pandemic. This has implications on how we will approach our work, particularly in terms of face to face research. Often, the methods of research we will choose will be due to the restrictions we face, but it is my intention to always keep sight of best practice, and what we would be attempting in an ideal world.