Their Office Engineering and Experiences teams created the first version of Fluent 3-4 years ago. Over the the past 2 years, they have been hard at work on the latest version, Fluent 2. Astro was the best framework for the Fluent 2 website due to performance gains with island architecture. They were looking for something lightweight that fit in with their existing workflow and tools. Astro allowed Microsoft to be agile, helping content editors create and edit content pain-free.
Microsoft made several attempts to build their design docs using other frameworks and CMS. They found that these tools were either too rigid, hard to maintain, or migrating was painful. Others did not integrate well with their Figma workflow and the design stories they wanted to tell.
The team took a step back to reassess their priorities and determined that they should focus on the design system and what architecture they actually needed. It turns out their content and designs weren’t suited for a CMS because they had a lot of custom components that they could not reuse. They were unique and required engineering input.
The team wanted something lightweight and low maintenance on the DevOps side for the Fluent 2 website. This tool would have to support their design system library, which had a React version published. Extensibility was also important i.e. they wanted to be able to add CMS or DocSearch e.g. Algolia later on if they wanted to. Lastly, they wanted to be able to support legacy Storybook iframes to share code examples but be able to migrate off them eventually.
Solution and Implementation
When asked what was the most advantageous part of choosing Astro, Tudor said the following:
Astro also made it possible for Microsoft to continue supporting legacy Storybook iframes until the team was ready to migrate away. This allowed Microsoft to maintain a good experience for external and internal users while they changed their technology stack under the hood.
Microsoft designed and built the new Fluent 2 website with Astro over the course of 10 months, including over 200 pages of new content.
Use of the Fluent 2 design system has since been used across many products in the company including Office products, Windows, and Teams. With this setup, Microsoft is able to implement Figma designs for a simple page in 20-30 minutes.