New-look MSDN Launches with Community Focus

Microsoft quietly rolled out a revised MSDN Web site on the weekend before the Visual Studio 2010 and .NET Framework 4 Beta 2 release. The updated MSDN site includes a new logo and background, along with a reorganization of site elements via new templates applied to the over 11,000 pages across the global Developer Centers.

According to a blog posting by Chris Dahl of the MSDN UX/Design team:

"The new colors largely reflect the color scheme associated with the new MSDN and Visual Studio brand changes. As we look forward, the goal is to move the Dev Centers to a closer alignment with Microsoft products, since the centers are really an extension of these products."

But the site redesign is about more than updating appearances. The new MSDN attempts to bring the information developers need most into focus. According to a blog posting about the redesign by Microsoft’s Principal Program Manager Scott Hanselman, the revised site "is the beginning of a more agile, community focused MSDN."

Of course, the MSDN Dev Centers are featured on the main page, allowing developers to dig directly into whatever technology interests them.

You’ll also find more focus on community such as recent posts from featured bloggers, along with direct access to recent and popular Forum threads, screencasts, MSDN Magazine content, and Visual Studio Gallery downloads.

The Dev Centers have also been redesigned, and getting started guidance is now front and center. There’s a highlights section that shows the latest news, Channel 9 videos, and downloads. Essential Resources gives you instant access to team blog posts, MVP blogs, more videos, and code snippets – or entire projects – in the Code Gallery and CodePlex.

Delving deeper into the SDK and reference topics that have been a mainstay of MSDN, the MSDN Library now has the ability to switch views between classic, lightweight, and script-free views. The lightweight view (currently in beta) shows language-specific versions of SDK pages and includes Visual Studio-style code coloration.

Taken as a whole, the MSDN redesign brings a welcome consistency to the site, and also makes the knowledge base of the greater development community – via MSDN blogs and Forum thread – easier to find alongside the familiar downloads and articles.

Expect to see the MSDN team continuing to tweak the design, which includes Silverlight controls, in response to feedback from users. "We’ve received feedback from some folks that the animations are distracting," says Dahl. In response, the team turned off the video scroller animation and "autoplay" mode for the Community Activity control. These are slated for further updates with new default playback settings.

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About the Author

Terrence Dorsey is a technical writer, editor and content strategist specializing in technology and software development. Over the last 25-plus years he has worked on developer-focused projects at ESPN, The Code Project, and Microsoft. Read his blog at or follow @tpdorsey on Twitter.

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