November, 2007

  • Canadian UX Blog

    [Podcast] CanUX 2007: The Business of Experience


    During CanUX, I had a chance to chat with Jess McMullin from nFrom about his presentation on "The Business of Experience." The 10-minute podcast below we chatted about the essence of the presentation, which is Value-Centered Design (VCD).  In the conversation, Jess told me a real-life story of how critical VCD is and recommended designers to focus on both user needs and business goals. His presentation slides can be found here.

    Jess McMullinSince 1997 Jess has focused his career on understanding and developing positive user experiences for his clients and their users. Jess draws on techniques from usability, information architecture, and user research to generate client insight to drive innovation and create better customer experiences. His value-centered approach grounds customer experience strategy at the intersection of business goals and customer goals to produce return on investment for clients, and ‘return on experience’ for their customers.

    Jess regularly writes and speaks at conferences about user experience. He has contributed ideas and material for several user experience books, including Lou Rosenfeld and Peter Morville’s Information Architecture for the World Wide Web, 2nd Ed.; Jesse James Garrett’s The Elements of User Experience and Peter van Dijck’s Information Architecture for Designers. His work appears as a case study in Designing Websites for Every Audience by Ilise Benun.


  • Canadian UX Blog

    CanUX 2007: Intimate and Interactive


    I just finished my two-day CanUX conference in Banff. What a great time! I really enjoyed the intimate and interactive style of the conference.

    DSCN0861   DSCN0881  DSCN0886  Skate


    Design Slam: create a comprehensive shopping experience for Mobey`s (a food store) to promote healthy eating and improve customer loyalty. Working with other UX Professionals on creative problem solving was a lot of fun.

    Design with Assumptions and Constraints A&S). In Brad Nemer's session, we did group exercise of imagining how a sport experience design would change when there are different A&S for the sport. I absolutely loved the exercise. Our group designed a new type of soccer game where it combines with volleyball movements, has two balls, and 15 players for each team. Immediately, you start thinking about how the experience differ for players (i.e. skills, strategy, etc.) and for fans. I also think this exercise would apply very well to youth when we are teaching them creative problem solving under A&S. In this case, the A&S are out of box and very interesting.:-)

    The Theatre Experience. It was a refreshing experience that you rarely get at other conferences. The Banff Leadership Arts Ensemble created a interactive play which told a story of a company going through mid-course conversations. The story revolved around what matters to people. The play had 6 main characters with their own sub-stories, and the characters interacted at various acts. We, as observers, could decide who and which sub-story to follow.  We got to see the behind-scene stories of what's going on with each character and what matters to them. The key point I got from the session was that to lead a complex world, we really need to understand how people are motivated.

    Innovation Process. Kes and Sue Sampanthar talked about innovation techniques and process in their session. During the session, we divided into groups and used different innovation techniques to solve one problem. Our group used Mind Mapping technique to come up with creative ways to hire design talents out there.What I liked about the process and techniques Kes and Sue talked about was that there were practical steps you could follow to be creative. The process can be used beyond brainstorming stage of just coming up with ideas since it also covers stages such as the incubation and evaluation of ideas.


    There were around 80 people attended this year's CanUX. With a conference this size, you can meet almost everyone at the conference and have an intimate chat with the speakers such as UX/IA heavy weights Lou Rosenfeld and Dave Armano. There were many networking opportunities through food (attendees ate three meals together for two days!), drinks (receptions, show and tell night,...), and group activities like the ones I talked about above.  I met many interesting and creative folks such as Joanna Briggs who has a flickr account consists of entirely toothbrush with toothpaste photos, and Trevor van Gorp who started his own UX consulting company, Affective Design, just 4 months ago. I also had a chance to catch-up with my grad school classmate Dmitry Nekrasovski at CanUX. We haven't seen each other since we graduated!

    CanUX Keynotes Slides

    Lou Rosenfield: Eating our Own Dog Food: Using UX Methods to Build a UX Business

    David Armano: The Fuzzy Tail

    Thanks to Gene Smith and Jess McMullin from nForm for organizing such a great Canadian User Experience conference. I look forward to the next one already!

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  • Canadian UX Blog

    Silverlight Training in Toronto


    The Silverlight Tour 

    NTG is offering Silverlight training in Toronto. The course is scheduled December 17-19, 2007 at CTC TrainCanada in Mississauga. This is a 3-day introductory course taught by Shawn Wildermuth, a leading Silverlight trainer, consultant, and writer (author of recent Silverlight article in CIO magazine).
    For course details, visit

    The Silverlight Workshop is a soup-to-nuts breakdown of Silverlight. This includes learning the ins and outs of XAML, hosting in the browser, the tools and using Silverlight on the server. The class utilizes Silverlight 1.0 and Silverlight 1.1 Alpha as well as the latest toolset from Microsoft (including Visual Studio 2008 Beta 2 (Orcas) and Expression Studio).


    The Silverlight Workshop course is designed for both developers and designers of web applications.

    While experience building web applications can help you better understand how Silverlight works, no existing experience is necessary. No prior experience with WPF, XAML, ASP.NET, or VB/C# is necessary either.


  • Canadian UX Blog

    Listen to Behind-the-Scenes MIX Stories


    Following my podcast with Ray talking about the MIX experience, here is a great place to get the behind-the-scenes stories on MIX. Enjoy!

    "The Signal is our new podcast for MIX08.  Explore the upcoming PHP and JavaScript development features in the next version of Expression Web with Thomas Lewis and Mike Swanson. Hear from Jennifer Ritzinger, the MIX08 Conference Owner, and Denise Begley, the MIX08 Marketing Manager as we discuss the “volunteer army,” when we start thinking about the next event, what it takes to pull off something like MIX08, why the event is in Las Vegas, who should attend MIX08, and how registering early can save you some bucks.

    The Signal is a weekly podcast that connects you to behind-the-scenes activity related to MIX08. Thomas and Mike will interview speakers, attendees, staff, and other notables. If you have a question for them to address on a future show, e-mail or leave a voice-mail message for them at (425) 703-4650." - MIX Online Blog

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  • Canadian UX Blog

    Sharing Designer-Developer Workflow Story from eMedia


      Last month Tudor Whiteley (in black, Designer) and Chris Asselin (in white, Developer) from eMedia participated in the Artists in Residency training for Silverlight and Expression Studio at our headquarter - Redmond. It's an intense 10-day training program with first 2 days in a lecture style learning the basics and the rest of 8 days in a lab environment building their first ever Silverlight application as a team. I had the opportunity to go down with them and shared their experience (sweet and bitter) first hand. The picture on the left was taken just outside of the training center. Check out the gorgeous maple trees behind us! I asked them to share their experiences from both a designer and developer perspectives especially focusing on how they worked together using the new technology and tools. I hope you designers and developers out there will find this helpful.

      I want to thank Tudor and Chris for taking time to share their experience with the community!


      1. What is your role at work? What are the technology and tools that you use at work currently?

      Tudor: I’m the Design Lead at eMedia.  We are an shop but my group specifically works with the usual bag of tricks for designers which would include: Photoshop, Illustrator & Dreamweaver. 

      Chris: I am currently a software developer at eMedia Interactive. We use the .NET and ASP.NET platforms, as well as SQL Server 2005 databases, and in the near future we have plans to start building some Silverlight applications.

      2. What is the designer and developer workflow you are experiencing at work now? Any challenges?

      Tudor: The workflow for us can be strained at times.  We currently have a lot of difficulty because one group ends up being a bottle neck for the other.  That is generally my group because Dev wants to see what they are developing before they start.  This becomes problematic quickly because goals for the site change, which means the design changes, which means the base wireframes my teams gives to the dev team changes… it can be a vicious circle resulting in a lot of rework.

      Chris: We practise a scrum development methodology which usually is advantageous to both dev and design teams.  The design team are always working (a sprint) ahead of the dev teams, so that when the time comes for a developer to integrate a new design or build a new control, the design assets have already been created.  At times when the dev team needs to implement functionality without any design, it feels like we are just guessing and knowing that we might have to do parts of the work over again. 

      3. What application did you build during the Artists in Residency training? What are some future work for the application?

      Chris and I built an interactive hockey score board application we called “The Front Row”.  Our goal was to use Silverlight to create a rich visual experience of looking at a hockey scoreboard inside a stadium.  We pulled data in from a number of feeds and displayed them in a non-traditional way.   The application interface contained a photo slideshow, a hockey scores slideshow, a news article viewer, and a news headline scroller with pseudo-3D live text scrolling across.  The entire interface as well as the data feeds were completed localized in 4 different languages including Simplified Chinese.

      Some future work planned for the application are adding in streaming video with video controls to the central panel and providing the user with the ability to filter news based on their preferences from Blogs all the way down to anything about Crosby. Also, we'd like to make this more of a generic solution by configuring the application to use a user defined data feeds.

      The video on the left shows "The Front Row" application that was created by Chris and Tudor in just a week.

        4. You learnt about building Silverlight applications with Expression Studio in the training. What’s the experience of learning the new set of designer tools and working with the new Silverlight technology?

      Tudor: At the beginning of the training I actually found it going a little too slow but by the end of the second day I felt like I was sucking on a fire hose there was so much information coming in.  Learning the new tools at was excellent at times and trying at others.  Things I was use to within my normal tool set like shortcuts and the like were the same which made the transition almost effortless but then sometimes there would be tools missing or more often then naught tools that worked differently then what I expected and I would have to try and figure out how to use it to achieve my goal. 

      One aspect of Silverlight which we experienced as a first was the need to slow things down.  Our application has an initial sequence of images that fly by during the initial load.  This sequence ran so quickly that we didn’t even see it.  Chris actually had to slow things down to an acceptable level.  That was a very nice problem to have.  :)

      Chris: The training taught us the key concepts of Silverlight and the tools within Expression Studio. After the sessions that we were set free to develop our own Silveright application.  As someone who has never worked with flash or any other RIA platform, the tools were relatively easy to learn once one understood the concepts.  Although I also have to say that each tool has their own little quirks that one must pick up on.  As a developer I had no use for Expression Design, although I found Blend very useful especially for prototyping. 

      5. What is the designer-developer workflow with Expression studio and Visual Studio? How does it compare with your current workflow?

      Tudor: The workflow between Chris and I from my point of view was excellent.  An example would be that I didn’t have to worry about communicating to Chris exactly how I wanted an animation to work because it was all set by me within Blend and passed to him as XAML.  This allowed us to complete work in parallel on the application which essentially meant we cut our production time in half.  To be honest I don’t think I fully appreciated the benefit of working with XAML until we were in the thick of designing our first application.

      Chris: The workflow from a developer point view was very seamless. I was able to create the functionality that was required for our application in parallel to the development of the design assets.  I created all functionality by prototyping various the pieces of functionality in Blend and created the necessary JavaScript code for manipulating the XAML elements and binding the XAML elements with the data feeds in Visual Studio.  I created prototypes for the score display and photo slide shows, the text scroller, and for the localization functionality.  When the design assets were complete I put them together with the prototypes. And eventually this mash up of prototypes and XAML elements created by design created our final product.  The JavaScript debugging feature in Visual Studio 2008 proved to be very helpful when troubleshooting a troublesome section of code. We did encounter some issues with the positioning of certain element but that problem was caused by us using the tools incorrectly.

      6. Do you have some best practice suggestions for designers and developers working with Expression Studio?

      Tudor: Designing within Blend can be limiting so I would suggest working with Expression Design directly or importing resources into Expression Design and importing them from their over into Blend.  The only obvious exception to this would be when bringing in external bitmap resources.  I did all of this within Blend.  The best practice that saved Chris and I enormous amounts of time was agreeing to a naming convention.  Grouping the various parts of buttons in a logical manner and naming only those groups that I required Chris to manipulate programmatically saved us large amounts of time and reduced code bloat. I think more of these would become apparent as we continue to work within Silverlight but for now those are the only ones that truly stands out.

      Chris: Agreeing upon a naming convention was key to being production and not encountering any road blocks. For example we needed to create various buttons for controlling behaviour inside the application, and these buttons had mouse over, mouse down and mouse up states.  The button XAML element contained elements that represent these states, and were named according to our convention.  This simplified the programming of the buttons that appeared on the user interface.

      7. What are the things we can improve to the tools to further support the workflow?

      Tudor: I think the major thing that needs to improved upon to further support Silverlight’s workflow efforts is support for dynamic content.  Once our application became dynamic we started having a lot of problems passing various parts back and forth.  Once Silverlight has the ability to provide even dummy data it will make things so much better.

      Chris: Source control integration for Expression Blend would be great.

  • Canadian UX Blog

    Silverlight Training on


    Five hours of free Silverlight 1.0 training is now available on Arturo Toledo, a program manager at Microsoft who leads a lot of Silverlight and Expression training effort, has more background information on the training here. Besides the Silverlight training, you can also find Expression Blend, Design, and Web training on for free. Refer to my previous post for more Silverlight related resource. 

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  • Canadian UX Blog

    [Podcast] The MIX Experience


    DSCN0859MIX08Hey, fellow designers! MIX08 registration has already open and MIX blings are out. I had a chance to sit down with Ray Winninger last week, who is responsible for the overall experience of MIX. We chatted about the idea behind MIX, the continuous MIX experience, what's in it for designers, and what to expect at MIX08. Listen to our conversation below. I included some useful links we mentioned in the conversation as well. Feel free to drop me a line if you have something to say about MIX experience!

    MIX08 Home, MIX07 Session Recordings, PhizzPop

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  • Canadian UX Blog

    Windows Live Partner Quickstart Portal - Get Up and Running with Windows Live


    Windows Live Services are web-based services available to you for integration into your solutions today.  Each facet of the Windows Live product line has simple terms of use (and unless you have usage volumes that are very, very high, it's all free), SDKs and APIs to integrate the services into your applications and they allow you to build world-class web-enabled applications using the technologies available today including technologies such as SOAP and JavaScript as well as tools such as Visual Studio 2005 and Expression Web.

    To help you understand these offerings and identify areas where you can leverage Windows Live Services in your solutions, Microsoft has just relaunched the Windows Live Quickstart Portal.  This is a portal for Microsoft Partners that provides a number of great resources to help you get Windows Live Services integrated into your solution today.  If you're not registered as Microsoft Partner, you can do so free by clicking here.

    So, what exactly is available on the Windows Live Quickstart Portal?  Well, lots of things to get you started with Windows Live Services. 

    The resources available on the site are divided into two areas - Windows Live Commercial Offerings and Windows live Platform.  Under each of these we have included four phases - Learn, Build, Market and Sell as these best describe how the content is orientated to different outcomes. Below are the types of resources that can be found under each phase:

    • Learn – Overview of offer, “how to” documents, business and partner opportunies, training, webcasts/videos
    • Build – Technical decks, whitepapers, webcasts/videos, demos, training, SDKs, wikis, technical support
    • Market – Existing marketing programs, collateral, presentations, webcasts/videos
    • Sell – Pitch decks, customer/partner stories, datasheets, FAQs, product roadmap, sales support for partners

    The site is still quite new, so some sections may not have the content posted yet, but there is a lot of content on there already to get you started.

    There is also more Windows Live information for Partners at this partner site.


  • Canadian UX Blog

    Imagine Cup Overview


    Here is an overview video on Imagine Cup to give you more background on the competition. In the video, Joe Wilson, the director of academic evangelism, talks about the experience of Imagine Cup. The video was shot before last year's finals in Korea. Hope to see more Canadian designers at world finals next year in Paris, France.

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  • Canadian UX Blog

    TorCHI World Usability Day Event


    DSCN0847Last Thursday, the World Usability Day (WUD) 2007, I went to TorCHI's special event celebrating WUD. It was nice to greet people attending the event with "Happy World Usability Day" and got equally warm greetings back. A friend of mine told me that she sent out a WUD greeting email to her colleagues at the design team earlier that day and was disappointed that nobody replied her back. I think as UX designers or usability practitioners, we carry the mission to raise people's awareness in good usable design. We need to be first excited about the World Usability Day and make a big deal of it. Organizers of TorCHI, Harumi and ILONA pulled off a great event this year. The picture on the left are organizers and speakers for TorCHI WUD event.

    Some of the key points from the presentations at the event got me thinking.

    Usability in healthcare is especially critical. This is not because this year's WUD theme is healthcare. Anjum Chagpar from University Health Network told a very powerful and extremely sad story of a mother of two died of drug overdose. The overdose was resulted from a series of poorly designed systems which confused nurses to input the deadly amount of drug intake for 4 hours that was supposed to be taken in 4 days. After hearing the story, I can't help to think how many patients died every year because of human errors resulted from bad usability. FDA now requires Human Factor to be part of design process for medical equipment. HF needs to be more than just part of the design process. In my opinion, it should lead the design process for not only medical equipment but all the medical processes such as diagnose, lab tests, surgery, etc. Usability error in healthcare is fatal.

    Web 2.0 and eHealth enable the shared decision making between doctors and patients. All the web2.0 phenomenon can be applied to eHealth. I never thought about eHealth in the context of web2.0 much before the presentation from Holly Witteman, PhD candidate from UofT. She talked about YouTube and Flickr were not designed for eHealth but people are using them to get health related information. In the web2.0 world, everyone can contribute information, then the credibility of health information is especially important. One usability problem is to help users identify credible information more easily. When patients have lots of information available to them, they also like to participate in their health decision making with doctors. This will essentially change the doctor and patient relationship, especially when patients take an active role in diagnosing their problems or figuring out a treatment plan.

    Integrating paper and electronic health record is challenging. ILONA gave a reality check-up at doctor's offices and compared paper-based vs. electronic-based offices. Then we had a chance to chat with a physician, Dr. Paul Ponsner. It's probably really hard to have a paperless office. However, no matter paper-based or electronic-based office, we need to make sure important notices can be seen by patients easily. The procedure of gathering and reporting patient information needs to be designed to minimize human errors and be as efficient as possible. Electronic record is much easier to manipulate, analyze, and share than paper record. However, paper record is much more natural and easier to produce. The challenging design problem is to take the advantage of both approaches

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    It's absolutely necessary to hear usability problems on WUD, but I also want to hear some great usability examples in the future. I'd like to thank all the people who made a big deal of WUD and raised the usability awareness in healthcare.

  • Canadian UX Blog

    World Usability Day Events in Canada



    World Usability Day (WUD) is this Thursday, November 8. This year's theme is healthcare.

    "Whether it's new medical devices or technologies; drug research, approval, or delivery; patient forms or medical record sharing; emergency disaster planning; increasing the functionality of hospitals; or everyday healthcare delivery, EVERYONE is affected by usability in healthcare." - WUD About Page

    There are quite a few WUD events happening in Canada. Starting from the west coast:

    Check out one of these events and support usability in healthcare!

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