July, 2007

  • Canadian UX Blog

    Morten Rand-Hendriksen brings an Expression site to life!


    For those of you following this blog, you may know that Morten Rand-Hendriksen is blogging about his experiences using Expression Studio to create a real, live site for a product called Zufall.  His commentary around his experience has been candid, providing insight as to what works, what annoys him and what he thinks is broken in the Expression Studio suite of tools.  Overall, it's an amazing journal of how he brought the site to life.

    His latest post gives some of his thoughts on how the process of creating the site using Expression Web and Expression Design went.  It's a great post on showing the journey including both the triumphs and tribulations.

    Well done, Morten!


    [EDIT UPDATE NOTE:  I mispelled Morten's name - my apologies!  I have updated Morten's name in this post to the correct spelling.]

  • Canadian UX Blog

    Microsoft Visitor Center


    I'm down at Microsoft headquarter at Redmond this week for training. Today, we had a chance to visit the company visitor center, and here are some of the experiences I captured.

    DSCN0464 DSCN0466  
    You get interesting effects when a screen is connecting with mirrors in all four directions. We are testing out how accurate is the face recognition software using a badge and a moving face.  
    DSCN0467 DSCN0469  
    The transition of the tools for information worker. I am one of the original gangs. :)  

    Rolanda is playing "Minority Report" by zoom out Virtual Earth using hand gestures.
    A personality prediction based on my handwriting... Not very accurate but FUN!    
  • Canadian UX Blog

    MIX07 Breakout Sessions Recap #1: WPF in Real World Development


    So, MIX was in April, and sometime has passed since then. However, there was so much great content presented in the conference that one needs time to go through and digest. Also, there were a few sessions that were recommended by others I couldn't go because they were conflicting interests with other parallel tracks. The good thing is all the breakout sessions are available at MIX site and there are different options to download and view.

    Starting this post, I'll recap some MIX07 breakout sessions that I found most interesting. First stop is Window Presentation Foundation in Real World Development co-presented by Frog Design and Yahoo!. 



    This presentation focuses on the workflow of a team of project manager, designers, and developers building a new Yahoo! Messenger for Vista desktop. The team was composed of designers (Design Analyst, Design Technologist, and Visual Design) from Frog Design and project manager and developers from Yahoo!. They had 55 days to create a "almost real" product to demo at CES. In the presentation, they shared the insights how different roles work concurrently with detailed examples and the pain points during the collaboration. Yahoo! Messenger is one of the earlier real world examples of WPF applications, so it's great to hear the team's experience working with emerging technology and tools. Everyone on the team now have more than one-year of experience working with WPF and Expression Studio.

    Key Takeaways:

    • Traditionally, in Frog Design, developers mainly help designers to create high fidelity (HI-FI)prototypes. The new workflow in Expression Studio allow designers to move away from simulating design (e.g. throw away HTML and Flash code) to actually developing their designs.
    • All the team members in the project work concurrently since day 1, which was quite different from traditional workflow. The Design Analyst designed the information flow using wireframing in Visio, The Visual Designer used Photoshop to create visual assets, and the Design Technologist created working prototypes using Expression Blend. They can all work independently.
    • Some creative experience in the new Yahoo! Messenger: using multiple-column view when the messenger window is enlarged, using animated color-picker for easy user customization, "Show and Tell" feature provides great photo sharing experience (e.g. photos can be extracted from online Flickr accounts), and users can drag frequent contacts in Vista sidebar for close connection without having the main messenger window open.
    • The biggest lesson learnt for designer and developer collaboration was that the design should be modulated and save as user controls before prototyping. For example, if the designer is only working on the animated color-picker, having the whole application UI open in Expression Blend would cause a lot of overhead in terms of testing and collaboration with developers. I'm personally very interested in seeing how Expression Blend can be used for fast, rich, hi-fi prototyping. I'll try to gather some best practices on the subject along the way.

    Further Reading:

  • Canadian UX Blog

    BC Ferries Virtual Earth Mash-up


    Check this out! I've ridden on the ferry route (e.g. Swartz Bay - Tsawwassen) couple of times going between Vancouver and Victoria. BC Ferries is using Virtual Earth not only for maps, but when you click on the arrow icon, you can see the destination, heading, and speed!



  • Canadian UX Blog

    Computer-Mediated Living


    Neat design trends were published during the week at the Trends Blog. The trends blog is a service of Microsoft Research’s Computer-Mediated Living team, based in the UK at the Cambridge Research Lab. To just highlight a few trends...

    Fashion for the blind

    Talking Web Site eyes Fashion for the Blind
    “The sound-activated www.whitecanelabel.com Web site, due to go online in the fall, will ask users what their fashion likes and dislikes are and recommend clothes ranging from casual to evening wear based on those preferences. A braille tag that includes the designer’s name, type of clothing such as a “blouse” or a “t-shirt,” size, color and symbols to help in piecing together certain look like “business casual” is attached to the clothes ordered and then mailed out.”

    Insect robotics

    Water-skimming robot will probably attack you
    “Researchers discovered that the 1-gram bot could carry a 9.3-gram payload without breaking the surface by utilizing a sculling motion for movement. The robot is 10-15 times slower than the actual insect and 10 times larger, but the engineers hope to lower the bot’s size and increase its speed by downsizing its build, along with expanding its capabilities by harnessing technologies such as sensors, wireless communication, and autonomous control.”

    making virtual meetings not equal real meetings

    2nd life meeting visualization
    “avatars are positioned depending on their agreement of a particular topic being discussed. the meeting space provides a visualization of an avatar’s complete movement & chat history in the space. as avatars move in the space, their paths are traced out in the sky above the space, showing any change in opinion.”


    See The Unseen: EyeClops Magnifies Anything 200x, Sends Images to TV Screen
    “The EyeClops is a handheld microscope that looks like a grotesque eyeball, but can help you see that strange world that’s teeming with life right there in front of you, right under your nose. It magnifies everything 200x , but its design is about 800x as goofy as a typical microscope.”

    Personal alarm

    Design Concept: Ring, The Vibrating Alarm
    “Here’s a design concept that’s long overdue: It’s a vibrating alarm that you wear on your finger, bypassing all that morning racket for a gentle jostling. Each of the two rings can have its own separate wake-up time, designed for comfort with an elastic band so you’ll hardly know you’re wearing it.”

  • Canadian UX Blog

    Podcast: First Experience working with Expression from Dustin Sampson


    Last week I talked to Dustin Sampson, who is a Technical Lead at Momentum Interactive Solutions. We chatted about his experience working on the SickKids Donor Hall Application using Expression Studio. I asked him about his role in the project, how he collaborated with others in the teams, and the challenges and good surprises of using the tools for the first time. 

    imageListen to my interview with Dustin. 


    Here is a description of the project:

    The SickKids Donor Hall application was developed as a proof of concept for the SickKids Foundation. Currently, SickKids has a Kiosk located in the hospital’s Donor Hall which performs the single function of helping visitors locate their donor’s plaque in the hall.

    The goal was to move from a single function application to a rich interactive brand experience. The key is to bring to life the donor process in order to engage visitors to experience the patient stories, the breakthroughs, and the donor’s commitment to supporting SickKids. These three high level requirements set the framework for the application’s creative interface, rich user experience design and architecture.

  • Canadian UX Blog

    More information on the Microsoft Canada Development Centre in Vancouver


    As Qixing mentioned in a previous post, Microsoft is opening up a Development Centre in Vancouver.  This presents an amazing opportunity for many talented designers and developers to join the Microsoft team and have an impact on the products we deliver to businesses and consumers.  The announcement has generated a lot of press and some readers of our blog have been commenting on their excitement about this news.

    For those of you interested in learning more about the Microsoft Canada Development Centre, I invite you to take a look at Microsoft's great blog called JobsBlog (specifically the posts labeled All About Vancouver (Part I) and Vancouver (Part 2)).  It sheds some light on what we have planned and the processes we are following to get the Centre up and running.  

    JobsBlog is also a great resource in general for those of you who are interested in pursuing a career at Microsoft outside of the Microsoft Canada Development Centre.  I highly recommend you read the posts if you are interested in a career at Microsoft anywhere in the world.  The blog is authored by recruiters and offers great tips and tricks to keep in mind throughout the interview process.  It certainly was a great resource for me as I went through my interviews with Microsoft.


  • Canadian UX Blog

    Visual Studio 2008 has an official launch date...and why it might be important info for you


    Microsoft is officially launching three major products on February 27th, 2008, namely Visual Studio 2008 (formerly codenamed "Orcas"), Windows Server 2008 (formerly codenamed "Longhorn") and SQL Server 2008 (formerly codenamed "Katmai").

    This is likely going to be the largest launch event in Microsoft history and I can tell you that our extended team is very excited about this (check out the other team blog posts about it here and here). 

    While this news may not necessarily seem important to most people who read this blog and those who are focused on designing great user experiences for software in general, I think there is a lot about this announcement (Visual Studio 2008 in particular) that will impact how you create these great user experiences in a positive manner.

    Off the top of my head, here are some of the things supported in Visual Studio 2008 that will be important to readers of this blog:

    • Silverlight
      • Visual Studio 2008 has a number of enhancements that allow developers to code the functionality behind Silverlight applications much more easily.  This is important to Design professionals because Microsoft has taken great effort to improve Designer / Developer workflow in creating Rich Interactive Applications and Silverlight is an important platform for creating compelling RIAs.
    • Integration with Expression Studio
      • You've probably seen/read/heard/used Expression Studio by now.  Visual Studio 2008 really adds to the experience and process of handing off design assets to developers for coding (and vice versa) by providing built-in integration of Expression Blend into Visual Studio 2008.  Whether you're building Silverlight RIAs for the web or WPF-based RIAs for desktop applications, Visual Studio and Expression Blend will allow you to do asset hand-offs between designers and developers seamlessly.
      • Expression Web allows you to create compelling, visually attractive websites using technologies such as ASP.NET.  Because the project structure in Expression Web is compatible with Visual Studio, you can hand off web design work easily to developers who can then code the functional components of the web application in Visual Studio 2008.
      • One of the main components of Expression Studio that makes Designer/Developer workflow much more seamless is XAML (eXtensible Application Markup Language).  The assets you create in Expression Blend and Expression Design can be exported to XAML.  Visual Studio 2008 fully supports XAML for WPF applications as well as Silverlight applications.  This is key to enabling the effective workflow between Designers and Developers

    You may never touch code as part of your job as a designer or User Experience specialist but if your job involves handing off design assets to developers to implement the functional component of your software solution, the introduction of Visual Studio 2008 can greatly increase the productivity of your team and overall make your lives a lot easier. 


  • Canadian UX Blog

    Looking for Silverlight Applications?


    Here is a nice list of 50 Silverlight Applications gathered by Tim Sneath. Try them out at your coffee break. Have Fun!


  • Canadian UX Blog

    Driving Customer Loyalty Through Design


    Jesse James Garrett from Adaptive Path gave an very inspiring webinar today at Design Management Institute. He talked about how to drive customer loyalty through elements of user experience design. He first made the connection that "Products are people too." We may not realize that we act quite differently when interacting with responsive products.  For example, when people have bad experience with digital products, they tend to blame themselves (e.g. think they are not smart enough to use the products). The experience of feeling bad about themselves doesn't help to build loyalty towards the products. On the other hand, if one has great experience using a product, s/he will likely to recommend to a friend, use it repeal, and would buy again. Jesse concludes that "experiences build relationships, relationship build loyalty."


    I really like how he categorized the elements of UX design: Strategy, Scope, Structure, Skeleton, and Surface. He talked about each element in detail and how tie into customer loyalty. Strategy is the big ideas behind the project consists of a balance between user needs and product objectives.Scope is a checklist of functional and content requirements. Structure determines the flow of user experience. Skeleton includes information, interface and navigation design. On the very top of the stack is sensory design, which closely ties into customers' emotions.


     For more information on the topic, check out Jesse's book: The Elements of User Experience.

  • Canadian UX Blog

    Microsoft Canada Development Center(MCDC) in Vancouver


    Microsoft Canada and our corporate head office will be opening a software development centre in Greater Vancouver, BC. The Microsoft Canada Development Centre will open in the Fall of 2007 and will be home to software developers from around the world.

    This fantastic news was announced earlier today. I think this is such a great move for the company and for the Vancouver Hi-Tech industry. Vancouver has always been branded as one of the best places to live on earth. The living environment will definitely attract a lot of IT workers. At the same time, Vancouver is very multicultural, a true global gateway. Thus, the development center will attract international talents as well. International students can also leverage the BC Provincial Nominee program to become Canadian Permanent Resident and work and live  in Canada for long term. EA, IBM, and Nokia (see David's list for more) all have development or R&D centers in Greater Vancouver area already. I'm happy to see MCDC is one of the handful development centers outside of the States.

    Cheers, Qixing

  • Canadian UX Blog

    [Guest Blogger] What I learned at MIX07: Microsoft cares about Designers!


    Bernie Aho, Product Manager and Co-Founder of ConceptShare Inc.

    Some time has passed since MIX 07 in April and a lot of us have had some time to digest the mountain of new announcements and try out some of the new software. One of the most interesting things to me was that Microsoft has really started caring about designers.

    I have served as a Product Manager for several years however; I am also a multimedia designer and have always seemed to take on the user experience and core look and feel for each of the companies and products that I worked on. I have worked for 3 great companies and worked with over 100 developers in different capacities ranging from PhD’s to young whiz kids. The consistent thing has always been a Microsoft development environment on either Windows or in the last few years ASP.NET web development. That is at least from a development standpoint.

    Design and user experience has always be done in my experience using professional graphic applications, rich media tools and professional web design/development tools that are targeted to the designer workflow or at least a designer mode. These tools were almost always not Microsoft tools which made workflow difficult and almost impossible to ever share projects properly from a web standpoint. The designer had their tools and files and the developers had theirs. Expression seems poised to change that.

    Designers will probably always need their “own” tools but what if they could use the same project files and things that the designer needs to update get updated and vice versa from the developer. What if you could layout using a tool and the developers could add code to the layout easily. Both could and are able to produce and manage rich content with the same code set. This is the promise of the Expression suite of tools.

    Some of the best moments from MIX 07 were in the self demonstration area where people could experience the all the tools loaded on the using tutorials and receive guidance from the people that built the software themselves. There were usually hordes of designers and developers alike and you could literally sit and watch things being created by pro designers using Blend that have never seen it before after a very brief tutorial.

    I think everyone who develops already on Microsoft Platform should let their designers and developers give the new tools a whirl as we are doing. The workflow potential is worth it alone.


    Bernie Aho is the Product Manager and Co-Founder of ConceptShare Inc., a web-based design collaboration solution developed in ASP.NET and Flash. Bernie is the lead user experience and interface designer for ConceptShare and has over 10 years experience designing around Microsoft platform development for PC and web applications. Bernie is a frequent speaker and panelist on the topics of design, usability and entrepreneurship.

  • Canadian UX Blog

    User Experience and Design on Microsoft Homepage


    As a UXA, I'm thrilled to see the culture change that has been going on at Microsoft - from very engineering driven to focusing more on user experience and design process such as the design of Vista desktop and redesign of Office 2007. Here is another example that just makes me smile... :-)

    "User Experience & Design" is now a top tier product category on Microsoft homepage among other flagship categories such as Windows, Office, and Servers. Inside the category, we have Expression, Silverlight, Design, Windows Media, Vista, and Surface. Check it out: go to www.microsoft.com and choose Products & Related Technologies on the right-hand side navigation bar.

    Happy Canada Day Weekend!


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