Microsoft Lists for Web

Leading design for consumer and enterprise features

Role & Impact

  • Managed a design team for Microsoft Lists in the areas of views, visualization, and formatting experiences for the web
  • Worked closely with PM and Engineering to create and drive the product strategy
  • Designed modern experiences to elevate Microsoft Lists as an independent product in the M365 suite, for enterprises and consumers.
  • Built and shipped several low-code & no-code features for Lists
  • Delivered a high-quality product through a continuous focus on craftsmanship and accessibility

Work at Microsoft

At Microsoft, I managed a team of designers that focussed on building file experiences in Microsoft Teams, consumer & enterprise versions of Microsoft Lists, and features for the Microsoft 365 suite.

My work involved defining the product UX and strategy by working in close partnership with Leadership, Product Management, and Research teams. As a Manager, I was accountable to deliver high-quality products and building a culture of design excellence & better craft.

During my earlier years, I worked on OneDrive for Windows and mobile devices, and modernized the SharePoint Metadata Admin Center (part of Microsoft Syntex), besides several features for Microsoft 365. A lot of this was foundational work for my team in India.

Beyond my product work, I led the Design Internship program for the Design Studio and several key University Recruitment initiatives, that had a direct impact on our culture and growth at Microsoft India.

Video: My work on list views highlighted in the launch promo video

Microsoft Lists for web

Microsoft Lists is a smart information tracking app, that can be moulded into anything from a simple to do list to a complex inventory management system. The product has a tremendous usage and has existed within SharePoint in some form since 2001.

My focus as the Lead Designer on the product was designing new list visualizations, building formatting features, and driving the product charter. I joined the team, when it was just set up in India and I, as a designer, was responsible to build credibility and be accountable to our global objectives. I started as an individual contributor on this product area, and later transitioned to the role of a Design Manager.

Today, our team drives several key areas that have a direct impact on the 190M SharePoint users.

Related: Read about me building Microsoft Lists for iOS and Android.

Improving UX Fundamentals

When I joined the team, it was early days of modernizing the product, and we were finding avenues to make the product better. After listening to users and looking at feedback, I proposed that we should focus on improving the fundamental user experience.

For example, the action to create a new column in a list was buried deep, and was missed by many users. I designed a simpler way and made it contextual, so that users can find it easily and complete the task quickly. I did a similar exercise with column reordering, where users could just drag columns and drop anywhere on the canvas.

Video: Improving fundamentals contributed to better engagement and retention

These changes and upgraded experiences helped drive more engagement and contributed to the overall user retention in the product.

Low-code and no-code experiences

Lists had a vanilla way to display data. New JSON code-based features helped users to highlight content and find data easily, but this was rarely being used by novice users.

I believed that making this feature easier to onboard will drive engagement. So, I built easy-to-use templates where, users could achieve with just a few clicks, what they did in JSON by writing several lines of code. This feature was loved by users. I made sure there was an interop between the templates and code, so that users can bootstrap on the WYSYWIG templates to write custom code.

Difference between JSON and WYSIWIG editor
My new design for conditional formatting

Elevating Microsoft Lists

In 2021, we launched a brand-new avatar of SharePoint Lists as Microsoft Lists. The product now elevated in the Microsoft 365 suite and surfaced in the App launcher, creating a new funnel and a faster path to reach the product.

We used benchmark studies and continuous engagement with our users to improve the fundamental experience of the product. I engaged the team in multiple review sessions to overhaul and polish the experience to meet the new bar we had set.

Lists in the MS Office App launcher
The new Lists app in the App launcher and the new Lists Home.

I worked with partner teams to create the new design framework, accessible colour palettes, and theming for the product. I spent a lot of time ensuring that the features I designed worked in various contexts and in first-party integration scenarios in Teams.

Video: The new avatar of Microsoft Lists

As part of this, we introduced collaboration features similar to other Microsoft Office products. My major contribution here was to align various design stakeholders from different teams on the visual design and interaction of the feature. This ensured minimal dependencies and faster ship times.

Collaboration features in Lists have been a major retention driver.

New views and visualization

Lists is a horizontal product and serves a varied number of scenarios and verticals. For many users, views form an important part of their business workflows and collaboration.

I have worked on creating many new and novel visualizations for list data over the years. One of the key problems I solved here was aligning the new UX with existing mental models of users. I have always had a high focus on craft and accessibility, and worked with Engineering to calibrate the processes to achieve this.

Gallery view

This was one of the earliest views I designed, and it was valuable collaborating with designers from Microsoft Excel, Bing, and SharePoint to understand different card frameworks and defining a new one for Lists. Beyond the view, the UX I made also has a card designer which gives users control to customize their cards.

Video: Users can customize the card design using a simple editor.

Calendar view

One of my major features was the Calendar view for users with scenarios for event management and scheduling. I worked closely with the Outlook and Teams team to better understand user behaviour in a calendar and designed an experience that worked for List users. I reused many existing and familiar UX patterns from other Microsoft products, to help users onboard easily to the new experience.

Calendar view for users with scenarios for event management and scheduling.

Board view

Board is the latest view, I designed, that caters to quick project and task management. One of my main challenges here was mapping the List mental model to a Board. The feature underwent multiple user testing cycles and I worked on simplifying the content copy to be closer to user expectations. I worked with PM & Engineering to come up with the MVP strategy, where we used user jobs as the criteria to prioritize features.

Video: The new Board view for quick project and task management