October, 2007

  • Canadian UX Blog

    Silverlight Briefing Summary


    Over the past 3 weeks, I have been touring across Canada giving a half-day briefing on Silverlight.  It was an incredible experience as it certainly opened my eyes to what types of things are being done with Silverlight today and the buzz it has generated among web designers and developers.

    In those briefings, I promised you a number of things, so this post is meant to provide the post-briefing materials I spoke of.

    First, the actual briefing presentation I delivered can be downloaded here in PowerPoint 2007 Format.  If you have a Windows machine but don't have PowerPoint 2007, you can download the Office 2007 Compatibility Pack to view Office 2007 file formats in Office 2003 or lower.  If you have a Mac, you can download the presentation in PowerPoint 2003 Format here.  You may notice slight differences in the presentation as some of the content was catered to specific cities.  For example, we had a guest speaker (Peter van der Zouwe, my manager) present an introduction in Toronto as he was in town for that briefing.  I have also included slides for each stop of the Fall Partner Tour at the end of the presentation.  If you're interested in learning more about the various new technologies coming out in the next 3-6 months, this may be a very good investment of your time.  And it's free to register!  The tour stops for this year are Halifax, (October 30), Vancouver (November 6), Edmonton (November 8), Montreal (November 13) and Toronto (November 21). 

    I also promised the code for programming demos I did.  The code for each can be found below:

    In addition to the demo code, I promised to provide links to all the public-facing demos I showed demonstrating Silverlight.  Those demos can be found below:

    I was very happy with the feedback I received on our new Silverlight product.  There was excellent information on your perceptions of the product, where Silverlight 1.0 fits into your plans as well as where Silverlight 1.1 fits into your plans.  I have forwarded your feedback to the product teams and the response to-date internally has been great.  They have taken your feedback and are analyising it as important customer feedback into the product.  This includes everything from the install experience of the plug-in to performance of Silverlight applications in general.

    One of the things that was a concern to a few of you was the plug-in install experience.  There is an interesting blog post here about the install experience and how it can be streamlined.

    There were also a number of questions you posed as well that I said I would provide answers for since I didn't readily have the answers for you at the time.  Some of these questions do not yet have an answer (answer is "TBD"), so I will try to find those answers for you and I will edit this post with new answers as they become available.  Below are some of the questions that were asked:

    • Q:  Can the Silverlight Install Experience be modified to be more streamlined?
      • A:  YES!  This post by Tim Sneath details some very important information on the install experience and how to improve the install experience for your customers.
    • Q:  Will Expression Media Encoder be available as a separate SKU?
      • A:  As of right now, the Encoder will only be available as part of Expression Media.
    • Q:  Is there any guidance from a Patterns and Practices standpoint for Silverlight?
      • A:  I have no information stating there will be, but this may be something that is added to Microsoft's Patterns and Practices library at some point.
    • Q:  What version of DRM will be used in Silverlight 1.1?
      • A:  TBD
    • Q:  How does the Mac handle right-click behaviour in Silverlight code (like a MouseRightButtonDown event, for example)?
      • A:  TBD
    • Q:  Can a Silverlight application be served locally from the C: drive?
      • A:  A requirement for serving a Silverlight application is that it needs to be served from a web server.  There is nothing stopping you from serving up a Silverlight application on a locally installed web server, but a web server is required.

    Finally, I wanted to provide you with information on a new book called Introducing Microsoft Silverlight 1.0, written by Laurence Maroney published by by MSPress.  I just found out about this book this weekend, so it is very new but by all accounts I have heard from Microsoft personnel, this will be an excellent resource on building Silverlight 1.0 applications.  I know a number of you are waiting for Silverlight 1.1 to come out to leverage the power of .NET, but this book shows you what you can do to build out Silverlight applications using technologies that are out today, including simple JavaScript, text editors as well as Visual Studio 2005, etc.  While the power of .NET is certainly enticing, there are no technical barriers to building extremely compelling Silverlight applications with the 1.0 platform today!

    Are you building a Silverlight application?  Let me know - I'd love to see it!

    Happy coding!



    • 29/10/2007:  Added the link to the plug-in install experience discussion as well as the Silverlight Chess Demo
    • 01/11/2007:  Added important information regarding the Silverlight Install Experience.


  • Canadian UX Blog

    DesignThinkers 2007 Thoughts 2


    In my previous DesignThinkers post, I gave an overview of my experience at the DesignThinkers 2007 conference. In this post, I'll highlight some of my favorite sessions from the conference.

    How do we adapt to the shift from a push to a pull economy? Keynote by Patrick Whitney

    DSCN0734 Patrick talked about the push and pull economy model and how companies can use innovative design and adjust business strategies to adapt the new economy model. On the traditional Push model, the producers are in power and consumers had little choice. In the Pull model, consumers are asking "Give me what I want, when I want it, and way I want it and much cheaper..." In the past, business focused on operations, efficient use of factories, and economy of scale; and design focused on styling, segmentation, and design for manufacturing. Now, we have more advanced technology and highly structured business models, many companies are capable to make anything. However, they are unsure about what to make and how to win. Design shifted from manufacturing products to user experience, speed, and systems. The image on the left shows the innovation gap that producers are facing today. Patrick offers suggestions on the business strategy: when future is not clear and changes fast, options are more important than optimizing. In terms of design, we need to develop methods as rigorous as those in the rest of the company.

    Patrick Whitney is Director of the Institute of Design, Illinois Institute of Technology and a Professor of Design.


    Can culture trump consumer? by Colin Drummond

    In Colin's talk, there are great examples of how smart advertisements can change consumer culture. In the IKEA furniture example, the creative group tries to change people's view about furniture and encourage them to buy new furniture. The ad captures people's emotion of feeling sorry about a lamp since it was thrown away and left alone in the rain by its owner. Then, the famously IKEA spoke person comes out points out it's silly to feel for a lamp since it's just like old clothes you throw away without hesitation. Smart and funny. Not sure if I'll throw away old furniture as easily as my old clothes, but I'll definitely think IKEA when I buy furniture and remember the ad. The second movie below is a Burger King you've probably seen many times on TV like me, but I didn't know the creation story behind the ad till the talk. The main theme of the ad is Burger King's tag line "Have it your way!" The ad was created when there was a big diet culture/perception shift in the US. Fast food is bad, and Burger King is among the worst fast food you can buy. A lot of people were buying more and more organic food. Burger King were losing many customers. In the ad, the creative group tries to show that Bruger King is comfort food, you can eat the way you want it - freedom, feeds the hungry man - satisfaction. Interestingly, the ad did very well in multiple cultures (Japan, Germany, and England).

    Colin Drummond is Group Director, Cognitive & Cultural Studies, at Crispin Porter + Bogusky.

    Can design effect change? by Chaz Maviyane-Davies

    DSCN0757 A picture worth a thousand words. This is definitely true for Chaz's work. His presentations is a visual essay of his creativity and belief. He uses images and ideas to raise people's consciousness about an array of social issues including human rights, health and the environment. Very powerful post illustrations! I highly recommend you to check out his website: www.maviyane.com.

    Chaz Maviyane-Davies has been described by the UK’s Design magazine as “the guerrilla of graphic design”. He is presently a Professor at the Massachusetts College of Art.

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  • Canadian UX Blog

    Explore Design – Bringing the Design Triangle under One Roof


    guestblogger Majid Mirza, Academic Advisor, Microsoft Canada (Digital Arts Communication Co-op Student, U of Waterloo)


    Got what it takes to be a designer? This was the question being addressed on October 10th and 11th at the Explore Design Education Fair. Held at the Metro Convention Center, downtown Toronto, this design education fair gave students a multi-dimensional insight into the world of design. As a co-op student I felt myself being a member of two audience groups, student and professional, and judging from that, I would label this event no less than fantastic. Scores of students, mostly from High School and some from Universities and Colleges filed in to absorb inspiring key notes, participate in engaging workshops and probe the richly designed academic booths. There were a few amazing things about this event. Firstly, the general set up of the venue as well as the specific booths all displayed true design aesthetic. Each corner of the environment was brimming with pleasing design that gave the attendees a genuinely good feeling about being involved – everything felt in place. Secondly, the quality of the presentations was very high. It seemed like there were some serious brains involved in selecting the speakers. Each speaker was an expert in their own area and remarkable at conveying the right message while relating it perfectly to the young audience. Personally, having done 8 months of college tutoring as part of my co-op career, I understand the difficulties in capturing the interest of a younger audience. During the whole event, I never experienced a moment where people were bored. In addition, we got to know the speakers a bit better through interviews we conducted after their keynotes. The third amazing thing about this event was the flow that the organizers had created – it was truly an ‘exploration’ of design. Participants were able to drift in from Keynote presentations, to individual booths, to interactive workshops in a very natural way. This way, people who were not able attend from morning till evening, were able to get previews of each category and package it together into a whole experience.

    One of the biggest questions we find ourselves asking these days is regarding the roadmap to being a successful designer, whether its graphics, fashion or user experience – Explore Design is a pioneer event in sharpening the blurry lines when defining this roadmap to design.

    Some notable presentations from each of the three categories and photos from the event can be viewed here:


    Sebastien de Castell Head of Digital Design, Vancouver Film School & Mark Miller Senior Art Director, Happy Corp

    Video: Explore Design 03 - Sebastian de Castell on Specialization vs. Diversification


    World House Project
    Luigi Ferrara, Institute Without Boundaries, George Brown College


    Interaction Design Workshop with Ron Wakkary of SFU


    Seneca, School of Fashion and Merchandising



  • Canadian UX Blog

    World's Best Design Schools: BusinessWeek



    Check out the list of World's top 60 design schools complied by BusinessWeek if you haven't already. There are two Canadian schools made to the list:George Brown College and U. of Toronto, Rotman School of Management. Congratulations!

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  • Canadian UX Blog

    [Guest Blogger] MVP Award Program – What is it all about


     guestblogger  Sasha Krsmanovic , MVP Lead, Microsoft Canada

    Hello all,

    Thanks Qixing for inviting me to be a guest blogger at the designer blog. By the way of introduction, my name is Sasha Krsmanovic and I am the MVP Lead for Canadian MVPs. Qixing asked me to publish a few posts here in order to introduce the MVP Award Program to Canadian Designers. She thought you guys may be interested, so here I go....

    There are, of course, exact definitions of what the MVP Award Program is, you can find them on the official Microsoft MVP Website. In a nutshell, here is how I think about it. Think of very few community members who are absolute community super heroes –those who dedicate their own time and technical expertise to the community. Personally, I think this is quite unusual, especially in the IT field; where people generally keep their IT skills “to themselves as their knowledge IS the only competitive advantage for the next job, contract etc. But not these guys. They are in the community after their day jobs, helping people to accomplish their goals – all of that for free, and on their own time. You can find this type of behaviour in virtually any online or offline community – newsgroups, forums, user groups, blogs, YouTube – you name it – they are there. 

    They do this for the benefit of the community and don’t expect any type of compensation. This is where Microsoft steps in and awards these individuals, who help Microsoft product oriented online/offline communities, with an MVP award. Think of it as the “Oscars” – it is an award given to exceptional individuals for the achievements they had in the past year. They don’t have any obligations to Microsoft whatsoever and are encouraged to freely share their expert opinions in their respective communities. Often times, they are our biggest critics – they are very passionate about Microsoft products and want to see them improve.  Needless to say, this feedback is very appreciated and welcomed. One interesting statistic – before Visual Studio 2005 was shipped and was in beta stage, we had 10 significant internal and community RFCs (requests for change). Seven of those ten came from MVPs.

    I think this should do for the first post. In addition, check out the Channel 8 podcast on beginnings of MVP Program, from my US counterparts Ed Hickey and Brian Boston. In the next guest blogger post I will go a bit more in depth about MVP program benefits, interactions with product team, and finally the changes we made to accommodate designers as well. Feel free to drop me a note any time if you want something else covered.  


    Sasha Krsmanovic (MVP Lead)

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  • Canadian UX Blog

    New Silverlight Showcase


    Check out the new Silverlight showcase that’s now LIVE at www.silverlight.net/showcase. The showcase, built using Silverlight 1.0, will enable the community to upload their application info, and to browse, sort, and rate showcase items by category, by country/region, by tag clouds, by most viewed/rated, and by search terms. Please drop me a line if you are building rich interactive applications for the web using Silverlight 1.0. I'd love to get some Canadian examples up on the showcase.


  • Canadian UX Blog

    DesignThinkers 2007 Thoughts I


    Last week I attended Canada's largest Graphics Design conference, DesignThinkers 2007 put on by RGD. It was my first time attending the conference, apparently if it was your fifth time or more, you are a DesignThinker Master. I definitely hope to be a DesignThinker master one day since the conference was a lot of fun to go to. This year the conference theme is "What matters to you?" Before the conference, attendees can express what matter to them by an interactive visualization tool (see below left). I entered my answers, it was interesting to see how others think who have similar work experience as me.

    clip_image001"The graph shows a visual representation of the last 100 responses submitted through the interface. Each '+' represents one person's response to the highlighted questions on the left. The position of the '+" on the vertical axis shows the number of years of experience, while the horizontal position represents the level of relevance. The level of transparency of each '+' is a visual representation of the length of time since the response was received, with the last response being the least transparent."

    For example, I think graphics designers will be in trouble if they don't do interactive work because we are entering a digital age that static images may not be enough to tell a story from an visual designer perspective. Viewers and audience participation becomes more and more important. From the graph, you can see a lot of designers think the same (lower right quadrant).

    This is a fun pre-conference experience that the organizers are providing to the attendees. In addition, the experience links back to graphics design, which this particular crowd can really appreciate. The conference pamphlets and signs were also created based on the graph, which ties the whole conference brand and experience together.  Good Job Design Thinkers!


    DSCN0788 DSCN0761 DSCN0755

    It's my first time going to a graphics design conference. I felt one of the biggest differences from other conferences I attended is in presenters' presentation style. Most of them have these image with little text slides, use powerful colors (e.g. the question mark poster by Chaz Maviyane-Davies), and integrate videos. It's probably easier for graphics designer to create image slide with little text because most of their work is visual. However, they have to think how these images tie together and tell a story. Some of them speak in a very poetic tone so that each image almost represents a line in a poem. A big eye opener to me!

    The conference organizers also placed a graffiti board outside of the keynote theatre. Attendees can use the board to express what matters to them and share design inspirations.Conference goodies are feasts for both mind and eyes. :-)

    DSCN0747 DSCN0787DSCN0740



  • Canadian UX Blog

    Popfly Goes Beta - Now Everyone Can Play!


    Popfly has been creating a tonne of buzz since it was announced.  It's a great way to build amazing Silverlight mashups in a simple way (i.e.: you don't need to be a developer to figure out how to create a cool mashup using popular technologies like Virtual Earth and Facebook).

    The problem with it has been that unless you were explicitly invited into the preview programme, you couldn't try it out.  Well, no more - Popfly has gone Beta!  We announced the Beta availability of Popfly at the Web 2.0 Summit in San Francisco this week and now anyone can build Popfly apps.

    All you need to do is go to Popfly.com, sign up with a Live ID and start building cool mini-apps!

    Have you built a cool Popfly app?  Let us know!  Send us a link to it!


  • Canadian UX Blog

    [Podcast] Imagine Cup 2008: Interface Design Category



    Couple of weeks ago, I sat down with Unni Ravindranathan, who organizes Imagine Cup Interface Design Competition. He is also a program manager at Expression Blend team. I asked him about the experience of Imagine Cup, the different competing phases of the Interface Design category, the judging criteria, and some past winning projects. You can download our conversation here or listen to it on the podcast control below (make sure you have Silverlight plug-in installed).

    Here is the competition invitational:

    "The Interface Design invitational challenges designers all over the world to create useful and compelling user interfaces that are unique and forward thinking. Participants have the opportunity to dream of an application that connects to the 2008 theme of the Imagine Cup: "Imagine a world where technology enables a sustainable environment." Competitors can show the world how their skills can bring the theme to life. Innovating and envisioning revolutionary interfaces are the goals.  Get away from traditional user interface approaches.  Rethink the way we behave when in front of a computer screen."

  • Canadian UX Blog

    Imagine Cup 2008: Creativity for the Environment



    Imagine an Olympic Games about using technology and creativity to solve the world's greatest problems. "Imagine a world where technology enables a sustainable environment" is this year's challenge. If you haven't heard of Imagine Cup, this is what I'm talking about. Imagine Cup is one of the world's premier student technology competitions hosted by Microsoft.

    "The Imagine Cup is one way Microsoft is encouraging young people to apply their imagination, their passion and their creativity to technology innovations that can make a difference in the world – today. Now in its sixth year, the Imagine Cup has grown to be a truly global competition focused on finding solutions to real world issues." - ImagineCup/About

    imageThe 2008 theme is the Environment, and the world finals will be held in Paris, France summer 2008. There are 9 categories within Imagine Cup students can participate: Software Design, Embedded Development, Game Development, Project Hoshimi, IT Challenge, Algorithm, Photography, Short Film, and Interface Design. I'm especially excited about the Interface Design category where the next generation of user experience designers can really shine. I'll write a separate post to talk about the Interface Design category in more detail. Make sure you check out the Competition Calendar on the right, which starts on September 1, 2007.

    Top reasons to join Imagine Cup:

    1. It's for a noble cause - helping the environment, and you are creating real world solutions.
    2. There are many ways to compete. For designers out there, Photography, Short Film, and Interface Design competitions should be right up your ally. You can also pair up with developers to compete in the Game Development and Software Design categories.
    3. A great opportunity to work with your fellow designers and network with your peers from all over the world.
    4. It's a competition just for students and it's free.
    5. Doesn't hurt there's a good $$ prize and a free trip to France for finalists. ;-)
    6. Make an international footprint and make your school proud.
    7. You may be already doing a class project that fits perfectly into the environment theme.
    8. Bottom line: everyone is a winner; you use your imagination to save the world; you can add this project to your creative portfolio.

    Some photos from last year's final in Seoul, Korea.


    Together we can make a difference and save our environment! Feel free to drop me a note if you are thinking about joining the competition or simply want to know more about Imagine Cup.


  • Canadian UX Blog

    Expression around the Clock in 3 minutes


    Our Community Evangelism team co-op Majid Mirza created this 3-minute video capturing the experience of the Expression around the Clock event. Enjoy!

    Video: Expression Around the Clock Toronto - Trailer

  • Canadian UX Blog

    Introducing PHIZZPOP!


    imageWant to show off your work portfolio and get more clients? Want to interact with your fellow designers? Want to see how others are designing rich interactive UX to distinguish their web presence? PhizzPop is our new community site for designers and developers to interact, share, and show off their work. There are three pillars to the site:image

      • Design: Get inspired by your fellow designers. Discover original techniques. Explore how User Experience is defining the Web of tomorrow.
      • Build: Bring creative to life. Find out how top developers are reinventing the Web. Get ahead of taxing technical issues and new technologies.
      • Grow: Make the most of your time and technology. Drive success with current clients and attract new ones. Get ahead and stay ahead.

    The site is built on top of Community Server with embedded Silverlight gadgets. Essentially, the site offers Community Forums, Online and Instructor Lead Training, Dev/Design Content, Networking Opportunities, Job Listings, 3rd Party Content Gallery. Check out this interview on Visimix.com about how the site is created and the pros and cons of the design and development experience. I encourage you to create a profile and start try out PhizzPop today.

  • Canadian UX Blog

    Bill Buxton on UX Designer Skills


    I had a chance to interview Bill Buxton at the Expression around the Clock event last week. In the following video segment, Bill answers my questions: what takes to be a great User Experience Designer? What are the necessary skills or area of skills? Is it good to be a design generalist? And design opportunities at Microsoft for recent graduates. It's great to get a design guru like him's view on these things.

    Our interview was conducted just outside of the Second City (the Expression around the Clock venue). When we couldn’t find a quiet place inside the building, Bill simply walked outside, hung his coat up on a tree and sat down, ready to talk!

    Video: Bill Buxton

  • Canadian UX Blog

    Watch Expression around the Clock online


    DSC_1882 DSC_1905 DSCN0690

    Thanks for all of you who came out yesterday at our Expression around the Clock event! I had a great time meeting with you and sharing thoughts around design, user experience, and how we work as user experience designers. For those of you who were not able to come out yesterday, you can watch all the presentations online:

    Expression around the Clock is a 24-hour event around the globe. There are tons of great presentations that regions have put on on the event website which you can check out. One presentation in particular is Steve Ballmer's keynote presentation, Designing the Next Era of Software, at Zurich.

    Check out the photos from the event. Our co-op Majid Mirza and I chatted with the presenters Bill and Jon, which we'll post the interviews soon. 

  • Canadian UX Blog

    Expression Around the Clock is Tomorrow


    The Expression Around the Clock event we've been talking about is tomorrow. Since it's global event and around the clock, later tonight the event will kick off in Auckland, New Zealand. I'm super excited about our Toronto event tomorrow. It's the first large designer oriented event we are hosting. I can't wait to meet more designers from our community and get your feedback on how we did.

    I picked up the design magazine we are handing out tomorrow. Here's a sneak preview:

    DSCN0666 DSCN0667 image

    So far, we have more than 200 people registered, and Bill Buxton is our keynote speaker. Our Gold Partner Momentum Advanced Solutions will show their interactive kiosk application for SickKids Foundation built using Expression Studio. Jon Lax will end the event with a great presentation on creative workflow. Feel free to drop by and say "hi" to us near the stage tomorrow.

  • Canadian UX Blog

    Silverlight Briefing Webcast


    Last Thursday (September 25), I conducted a webcast on the topic of Silverlight.  To those of you who were able to make it in person, I want to thank you for taking the time to attend!  It was very well attended and we were even able to sweeten the pot, so to speak, by announcing that anyone in the "live studio audience" who filled out an evaluation form at the end would be entered into a draw to win an XBox 360.  If you have won the draw, you will be contacted fairly soon to ensure proper delivery.

    At the end of my presentation, I promised everyone that I would post the presentation in addition to the code I used to create the Silverlight 1.0 and Silverlight 1.1 demos.  Feel free to look and use the code as you see fit.  The presentation can be found here (if you don't have Office 2007 but use a previous version of Office, you'll need to download and install the Microsoft Office Compatibility Pack for Word, Excel and PowerPoint 2007 File Formats, which you can download here for free).  For those of you using Office for Macintosh, you can find a copy of the presentation here.  The Silverlight 1.0 demo code can be found here and the Silverlight 1.1 code can be found here, both of which are in zip files.

    The Silverlight 1.0 code was actually adapted from code that Laurence Maroney published on his blog, so if you want a very detailed description of how each component works, I strongly suggest you visit his site as the post is excellent.  You don't require any special tools to use the code; Notepad is more than fine.

    The Silverlight 1.1 demo (aka: The Bird Demo) contains all the code to the finished demo I did in Visual Studio 2008 Beta 2 as well as Expression Blend 2 September Preview.  While technically you can use Notepad to create this code, I highly recommend you download the beta tools I used as the experience is much more streamlined.  Visual Studio 2008 Beta 2 can be found here, and the Expression Blend 2 September Preview can be found here.

    If you weren't able to join us for the webcast, you can find a recorded version of the webcast here.  Unfortunately, the draw for the XBox 360 was only for those that attended the live webcast rather than the recording.

    Having said that, I do want to invite you to the half-day in-person briefings I will be doing in Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal in October.  If you are going to be in those cities on the dates I have listed below, feel free to register for the event.  It's a half-day morning event and we will be going into more depth than I could in the webcast, given the webcast was only 1 hour.  We'll have some cool prizes at these events as well, so in addition to getting some great info on Silverlight, you might walk away with some cool software as well.

    To register for one of the 3 in-person briefings, please follow the link most appropriate for you below:

    City Date Registration Link


    Thursday, October 11, 2007

    Click Here

    Toronto (Mississauga)

    Thursday, October 18, 2007

    Click Here


    Tuesday, October 23, 2007

    Click Here

    (This blog entry was cross-posted to the Canadian Developers Blog in addition to this blog)


    [Editor's Note:  Added a link to an Office 97-2003 format version of the webcast deck in order to support those that use Office on the Macintosh - thanks, Ben!]

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