We have certainly heard a lot over the last year or so about telemetry and how Microsoft collects it from users to improve its Windows 10 operating systems and related services.
While the discussion around telemetry data and the control of what we share with Microsoft continues to be a heated one it is very challenging to see the big picture around its use when privacy concerns grab all the attention.
Today, thanks to the Microsoft OneDrive team, we have a new real world example of how data can show Microsoft when a feature in one of its services is now working well. Once the issue is identified through the data the next step is to devise a solution - again - from the data - and then test whether or not a simple UI change related to that data improves that experience.
In today's example it is about the sharing experience on OneDrive.com.
Previously, choosing to share a file from your OneDrive collection via OneDrive.com presented options to either Invite people or Get a link.
According to Microsoft's data most users in this scenario wanted to just get a link and as a result of clicking Get a link users would be offered several options to get that link for sharing. However, data showed that most of those choices were only used 0.01% during the process of getting a link to a file and that the confusing process typically ended in broken links to the file being shared.
Thanks to that data Microsoft opted to modify the Share dialog for files on OneDrive.com and only present the two most used options, Get a link and Email, instead of the convoluted sharing options from before.
Now, it is one thing to make a change but modifications should be tested to make sure they are resulting in the intended outcome, in this case, less confusion and more successful links being created.
Microsoft does this through what is called A/B Testing.
This is a process where the feature is released for a small subset of users, 28,000 for this change according to Microsoft, and that telemetry is measured to validate that the change has had its intended impact.
After the testing showed it was working as expected Microsoft shipped that modification so that all users could have the new sharing experience on OneDrive.com.
Telemetry can be very useful in improving the overall experience of many services and interactions and this is a good example of why Microsoft collects this anonymous usage data from our system and during the use of their services.