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A good definition of User Experience (UX) comes from design experts at the Nielsen Norman Group:

"’User experience’ encompasses all aspects of the end-user's interaction with the company, its services, and its products”.

When it comes to software, however, it has traditionally been the case that developers and designers think of UX simply in terms of how an interface looks. Does it have enough whitespace? Is the font attractive? Do the colors clash? The idea is that as long as an app, website or tool looks good, the UX ‘box’ has been ticked. Yet this view is becoming ever more discredited and cutting-edge software designers and developers are taking a much more holistic approach to UX. Most importantly, this is about bringing a ‘feel’ aspect to apps: making them fit more around how the user works and offering a more personal experience.

And with Microsoft Graph making it easier than ever to call Microsoft APIs and use all of Office 365’s power and data in your apps, you can now incorporate the ‘feel’ aspect into your apps.

I will be speaking about this exciting new opportunity for UX designers and developers this Wednesday (16th November) at the European SharePoint Conference in Vienna (10.15-11.15am, Level 200) – you can find out more about what harmon.ie has lined up at the conference here. The potential of Microsoft Graph to inspire a more holistic user experience is incredibly exciting, and I will be going into a lot more detail during my session.

Why Microsoft Graph is exciting for UX

The major appeal of using Microsoft Graph for UX designers is that it can provide you with a far richer understanding of how users actually interact with your apps. By intelligently analyzing how individuals use the interface, it becomes possible to turn the app from a ‘dumb tool’ to a ‘smart tool’. And this opens up a lot of potential for providing a UX that feels more natural – let me give a couple of examples to explain how.

The workingWith API

The workingWith API is one of the most compelling uses of Microsoft Graph. By calling it in your application, you can analyze all of a user’s interactions across Office 365 – from Word Online to Skype to SharePoint Online or Office 365 Groups. This then builds a graph of the user’s closest colleagues.

What’s the use of this for a UX designer? Put simply, incorporating the workingWith API into your application will mean the end user has a far more tailored experience when using it. Say the user is trying to find a document but can’t remember what it was called: the application will now be able to suggest documents that their colleagues have recently worked on, bringing it directly to them. In this way, the UX goes far beyond just the ‘look’ – it’s also about the ‘feel’, bringing them relevant information even when they weren’t expecting it. It’s about giving the user a more satisfying experience.

The trendingAround API

In a similar fashion, Microsoft Graph’s trendingAround API can also inspire a more engaging and useful user experience. It can notice patterns in the kinds of documents a user’s colleagues are currently working on and then ‘surface’ these and push them towards that user. The user might simply see a feed or a pop up informing him or her that their colleagues are currently working on a certain folder. Again, this would take the user experience way beyond simply looking good and being functional; it would make the technology relevant and tailored to the user and make their experience more proactive.

A new level of UX

At harmon.ie, we are very excited about the possibilities that Microsoft Graph’s many APIs will open up for UX designers and developers. It will be increasingly easy to take UX to that next level—making apps even more personalized and a delight to use.

Developers and designers will be able to build more intelligent apps from two angles:

  • Top-down
    Where you identify key scenarios in your app (document sharing, people finding, setting tasks etc.) and then use the Graph APIs to augment the experience.
  • Bottom-up
    Where you explore the different end points that the Graph APIs offer and create a user experience based around these.

An example of the top-down approach here is Collage, our latest product release and, in terms of providing truly holistic UX, a tool we’re really proud of. Collage incorporates many of the most exciting aspects of Microsoft Graph in terms of UX ‘feel’. We noticed that users were experiencing a lot of disconnect between their various apps and platforms, and so created an app that sits within their Outlook interface and draws in a feed of relevant documents, conversations from social feeds and a range of external sources.

I’ll be exploring the potential of Microsoft Graph APIs for creating awesome, holistic user experiences in much more detail in my session at the European SharePoint Conference next Wednesday. If you want to discuss Microsoft Graph more, reach out to me on Twitter or come speak to me on Wednesday. 

Roy Sheinfeld
Co-founder and Vice President of R&D