March, 2007

  • Canadian UX Blog

    Blog Content Directions


    Over the weekend, I had a chance to think about what content to put on this UX blog. I want to hear your feedback on what's interesting to you and how we can better share Microsoft UX experience on the blog.

    Here are my possible content categories:

    • Information/Resource: provide links to design method articles, UX related technologies and detailed product tutorials, digital asset libraries, etc.
    • Event reports: announce UX conferences, design camps, group meetings, etc. We will share our experience after attending these events through podcasting, pictures, and documents.
    • Mini-tutorials on upcoming designer tools: as we get our hands dirty with the Microsoft Expression Studio, we will capture our learning and create mini-tutorials to share with the community - a tips and tricks corner. 
    • Design stories: collect and share design stories from the UX community with a focus on the design process.
    • Interviews: interview UX experts to talk about their best practices and wisdom.
    • General contents: general thoughts about user experience that do not belong to any of the previous categories. For example, what does a User Experience Advisor do at Microsoft? A lot of people has asked me the question. :-)

    So, what do you think?.... and do you have any stories/experiences you want to share?

  • Canadian UX Blog

    Aggregating Design News


    I just found out this great website called "" It makes designers happier by aggregating design news into one place. Won't you just love it? Here's the official description:

    Design-Feed is a design feed aggregator. We hand-pick the most interesting design related RSS feeds and present them in an easy-to-browse format. This means you can get all the latest design news in one place, rather than trawling through hundreds of sites a day. Every post aggregated is also searchable by keyword.

  • Canadian UX Blog

    Do you know about MIX07?


    Go to MIX Homepage

    "On the frontiers of the Web, boundaries are blurring—developers and designers, advertisers and publishers, software and services, media and technology, TV and PCs, PCs and mobile devices, producers and consumers. The old order is getting a little MIXed." Do you know about Microsoft's MIX conference? It's a conference targeted at the web ecosystem. This weekend I had a chance to look at MIX more closely and find out what's in it for UX professionals.

    • Great Breakout sessions

      On the "Sessions" page of the MIX homepage, you can filter on audience (e.g. "designers") and session types to find out exactly what you are looking for. There are so many interesting sessions. I can't wait to hear about how the web designers in China worked with Olympic organizing community to build a rich web experience for 2008 Beijing Olympic Games.

      Other sessions immediately attract my attention as a designer are: Blending Up User Experiences, Designing with AJAX: Yahoo! Pattern Library, Lessons Learned: Designer/Developer Productivity in WPF, and IE7 Past, Present, and Future.

      Designers can learnt about how to use WPF and WPF/E to design highly interactive websites, how Expression tools improve designer-developer workflow, how to extend web experience beyond browser and onto TV and other devices, and much more.

    • Heavy weight keynote speakers

      The keynote speakers are all heavy weights at Microsoft: Chief Software Architect - Ray Ozzie, president of Entertainment and Devices Division - Robert Bach, and General Manager - Scott Guthrie. They will be covering topics like future of the web, how do web, gaming, TV and mobile technologies impact our lives, and Microsoft latest tools.

    • Freebies

      Finding ways to get free stuff was and still is a graduate student "survival skill". :-) I always enjoyed conference freebies, and MIX offers serious freebies. All conference attendees will receive a Commemorative Edition of Expression Studio, complete with the first version of Expression Studio and one-of-a-kind artwork. In addition, they will receive a free copy of Windows Vista Ultimate.

    • Party at Caesars Palace

      MIX is also a big social and networking event. Web rock stars will be there and so are the pussycat dolls. I heard they are searching for the next doll on their team.

  • Canadian UX Blog

    My First TorCHI Meeting


    I went to my first TorCHI meeting at Autodesk Toronto office last night. I was also my first time driving to Toronto downtown. Although the driving was a little challenging, the presentation was worth the adventure. The presentation titled "Unnatural User Interfaces" is by Gordon Kurtenbach, director of research at Autodesk. One of his key messages of the talk is:

    Accelerating the rate at which novice users can perform at expert level.

    In other words, we are trying to minimize users' learning curve with a new application or tool. I like how he broke down the learning process into "Novice Component," "Transition Component," and "Expert Component." Both novice and expert components are relatively easy to understand and design in my opinion. A lot of applications have a novice version (usually with fewer features and a simpler interface) and a complete version for power users. An example would be Vista Home Basic edition vs. Vista Ultimate edition.  I think the real challenge is to design the transition component. How can we (i.e. designers) provide a bridge so that novice users can become experts in a short period of time? In the "Marking menu" example that Gordon gave, the system let novice users make menu selections first and provide assistance when they cannot quickly make a selection. So, next time, the novice users will be able to make the same selection much faster like experts. It's about guiding novices to behave like experts.

    Another great way to speedup a novice performing like a expert is to design interfaces based on using transferable skills. Gordon gave the tape drawing example. Many car designers can outline the shape of a car using physical tape, which allows them to draw real-sized car outlines. However, theses outlines are physical objects and cannot be transferred digitally and shared. Gordon's group designed a digital interface ( a large screen display) for the car designers to outline car shape. Although the interface is totally unnatural to the designers, they were able to use their old skills on the new interface and perform like expert very quickly. I think by calling "unnatural UIs", he really means innovative and easy to adapt UIs.

    Other interesting topics include easy 3D navigation systems, tracking menus, and fluid tablet drawing programs. I found the talk was very informational and inspirational.

    To see upcoming TorCHI events, go here.

    Thanks, Qixing

  • Canadian UX Blog

    UX Roundtable Comments


    Ever since John told me about the UX Roundtable event at Redmond last month, I’ve been really curious about what designers think Microsoft can do to reach out and help support the UX community in Canada? As user experience specialists (IAS, IxDs, UI designers, web designers, etc.), we have compassion for users. Often times, in order to help the users be successful, we need to know them better than they know themselves. However, the purpose of the UX Roundtable is to explore what we as designers need to feel connected and to be successful in what we do.

    I want to share with you some the comments I gathered from the UX Roundtable discussion notes. I should mention that what I refer to "community" below, I mean all the UX professionals involved in the creative design process including IxDs, IAs, visual designers, usability analysts,...)

    • Showing the community more of the creative process behind UX projects such as the User-centered design for Office 2007. Jensen Harris' talk on Word 2007 design was very well received at the VanUE event in Vancouver. However. past MS product talks were focused too much on the technology and not on the design process.
    • Sharing Microsoft’s design processes (e.g. activities, timeline, design documents) more and creating an open/transparent reputation in the community. For example, open APIs for design patterns for others to improve and leverage.
    • Helping designers show the business value of having an elegant user experience to business decision makers (CEOs and CFOs)
    • Making an effort to connect to the academic UX community such as design schools and digital design/ HCI programs at universities
    • Hosting design events to share best practices in design
    • Improving developers’ understanding of UX and providing tools to support designer-developer workflow

    Jay Goldman from Radiant Core has a very detailed and insightful write-up of the UX Roundtable event.



  • Canadian UX Blog

    TorCHI Meeting


    After settling in Toronto for two weeks and starting my role as user experience advisor at Microsoft, I’m excited to attend my first community event – TorCHI meeting at Autodesk Toronto. I can’t wait to hear about the exciting research from Autodesk. Gordon Kurtenbach, director of research at Autodesk, is going to talk about “unnatural” (innovative but easy to use) user interfaces. Sounds very interesting! I hope to meet many people from the Toronto UX community at the event.

    Details of the event:


  • Canadian UX Blog

    Microsoft Canada's first User Experience Advisor: Qixing Zheng


    I'm proud to announce the newest addition to our team and Microsoft Canada's first User Experience Advisor.... Qixing Zheng!!!  I'll let her tell you more about herself below, but firstly I wanted to thank all those in the community that helped along this journey.  I know without your insight, input and passion we wouldn't have found the right person.  As well, I've learned so much from each and everyone out there!  I really appreciate all the assistance.   Qixing will be in Toronto next week as she is relocating from BC and I am really excited to get her connected to the UX community in Toronto as soon as we can.  So with out further ado... please join me in welcoming Qixing!


    self portrait

    Hello Canada's User Experience Community!

    I'm so honored to be chosen as the User Experience Advisor. My full name is Qixing Zheng (pronounced as "Chi-shing Jeun"), and some people call me Xing ("Shing"). I'm a recent Masters graduate from the University of British Columbia, in which I specialised in Human-Computer Interaction. I was born in China and while growing up, I only experienced computers through complicated and unintuitive command line interfaces. It wasn't until I moved to North America that I first experienced a graphical user interface and I was impressed with how easily I could interact using visual metaphors, drag&drop, and mouse clicking exploration. Since then, my passion has been helping people improve their user experience with technology they rely on everyday.

    I'm extremely excited about this opportunity to share with and learn from the design community about how user experience can impact the technology we deliver today. Through this blog, I'd like to discuss the next generation of rich user experience, the business value of great designs, and the exciting new tools that can speed up our design process and enhance designer-developer collaboration. I will share my own learning stories as I go on this UX advisor journey and would love to hear your feedback.

    You can find more information about me on my website:

    The video demo I did for this role application can be viewed at:

    Finally, I want to give BIG thanks to John for believing in me and making this great opportunity possible and all the people who interviewed me or helped the interview process.

    Go CanUX!


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