May, 2008

  • Canadian UX Blog

    Design Student of the Month - Nick Poisson

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    There are a lot of creative students in Canada who are doing innovative work to improve people's life through interactive, visual, informational, and other aspects of User Experience Design. I invited them to introduce who they are and share their work with you. To nominate a Design Student of the Month, email us. The Design Student of the Month for May 2008 is Nick Poisson! Congratulations!! Let's hear from Nick.

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    Who’s Nick?

    I have just completed the post-graduate program, Interactive Multimedia, at Sheridan College in Oakville. Interactive Multimedia explores developing, designing, and managing applications for multiple platforms including web, desktop, and mobile devices.

    I create personal and commercial applications primarily for the web using flash as well as more traditional languages such as HTML, PHP, and C#. My strength lies in my programming ability although I am also a fairly competent designer. The best thing about it is that I truly love what I do.

    What cool stuff is Nick doing?

    Having just completed Interactive Multimedia, I have had the privilege of creating some truly unique and interesting applications. A common element among most of my projects is audio analysis simply because I have a great passion for music. My first attempt at an audio related application was a simple piloting game in which the audio data controls the obstacles you must avoid. Shortly after, I completed an audio visualization application using 3D objects. I enjoy turning the audio aspect of applications into something more immersive as it helps create a truly unique experience and adds a new dimension to the user experience.

    My most interesting application is a game entitled Rock Revolution which is a simple object collection game with a few twists. The objects that you must collect are controlled by the audio data which regulates how fast and how many objects appear. User interaction is also taken to another level with the use of motion capture via a webcam. This provides a truly unique user experience as your body movements control the game rather than simply a controller or a keyboard. It turns the game into an interactive game that provides a greater sense of fulfillment as opposed to the interpassive games we are more familiar with. Some examples of my work are included in the video below.

    What are Nick’s plans after graduation?

    I plan on returning to Sheridan College to complete another post-graduate course, Web Design, which focuses on more of the design side of media applications as opposed to the programming oriented, Interactive Multimedia. I am currently seeking free-lance or contract employment in a web design or flash developer position until I return to Sheridan College, which I plan to attend September 2009.

    Want to learn more about Nick?

    If you want to learn more about me or my works, you can visit my portfolio at www.profounddesign.ca or contact me at nick@profounddesign.ca.

  • Canadian UX Blog

    Logo Designs from EnergizeIT Demo Competition

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    EnergizeIT was a lot of fun and especially got the crowd energized during the demo competition after the keynote in the morning. I had the opportunity to design logos for all three demo competition teams in Expression Design 2. I've never had any graphics design training, but playing with the design ideas and drawing tools, I found myself really enjoying logo design. Although I had to keep secret about the designs before the competition, I can share my design concepts with you now and introduce my two favourite features in Design.

    Team: Connected Road Warriors

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    Team requests for the logo:

    • looks like a military badge
    • reflects software + service (i.e.Windows Live) idea

    Design concepts:

    • warrior holds sword, replacing sword with USB cables
    • connects service (i.e. Windows Live) with software on the desktop
    • highlights software + service and places warrior with simple outline in the background
    • uses gold and blue colour and shadow to create military badge look

    Team: Shell Shocked

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    Team requests for the logo:

    • uses AC/DC fonts
    • incorporates Powershell logo elements
    • hard rock look

    Design concepts:

    • a burning heart that's bleeding looks hard rock and eye catching (I found the heart illustration in Office Clip Art)
    • places Powershell logo element (">-") in the middle of the heart to suggest "Powershell"
    • places AC/DC signature lighting elements on the heart to reflect the "Shocked" idea
    • vertical placement of the text is to make the look unified and unique

    Team: Code Ninja

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    Team requests for the logo:

    • combines the idea of "code" and "ninja
    • simple and powerful
    • uses Japanese Kanji for Ninja

    Design concepts:

    I had a few ideas for the design and the final logo went with the one on the right with white box outline. My favourite design is actually the one with single katana (one on the lower left). On the blade of the katana is a string of "1s" and "0s" to suggest "code." The one in the upper middle has an interesting placement of the two characters which represent "Ninja." I filled one of the character with "1s" and "0s" again to suggest "code."

    Throughout my designs for these logos, I really liked the "Colour Dropper" tool in Expression Design. Not only you can drop colours with existing colour swatches but I also used it heavily for capturing colours in real photographs then drop them into my drawing shapes. It's like magic. :) The second feature I found very handy is the "Selective Export" function. I was able to compose many alternative designs on one canvas and select any one or more components on the same canvas to export into different images types. No need to turn on or off layers to make sure you export the right objects.

  • Canadian UX Blog

    Imagine Cup Finalists from Canada

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    Big congratulations to the following two Canadian teams making into the world finals! As they are packing their bags going to Paris, we wish them the best of luck!

    Robotree from University of West Ontario and Fanshawe College: 1 of 6 world finalists in Short Film

  • Canadian UX Blog

    Two Days Until EnergizeIT 2008

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    It's only two days away from our annual largest community event - EnergizeIT. I had an opportunity talking about the event on CP24 Homepage Show last night. In the 6 minutes video below, I talked about the "career in IT" focus at this year's event, new tracks like GreenIT, Consumer, etc., layout of the day, and a short demo on Silverlight Deep Zoom technology, which is only one of many things people can learn and try out at the event.

    See you this Saturday 9:30 at the Toronto Congress Centre!

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  • Canadian UX Blog

    First Meeting for Toronto Silverlight User Group

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    I have exciting news! The first ever Silverlight User Group in Canada is having its first meeting in two weeks. The user group is targeted at both designers and developers who are interested in learning about Silverlight and how the two parties can work together more seamlessly to create rich user experience on the web. I included the first meeting agenda below. As they stated on the website, the first meeting is for designers and developers who are interested in Silverlight in the the GTA area to meet and network with each other.

    Time: 6:30PM, Wednesday, June 4, 2008

    Location: 222 Bay St. Toronto, ON (Map the location)

    Agenda:

    • 6:30 – 7:30: Introduction to Silverlight – presenter from New Toronto Group
    • 7:30 – 7:45: break
    • 7:45 – 8:45: Silverlight hands-on by presenting local Silverlight projects and talking about Silverlight features from both designer and developer perspective- Mano Kulasingam from Digiflare and Chris Ching from Infusion Development
    • 8:45 – 9:30: Q&A

    Register at: http://www.torontosilverlight.com/

  • Canadian UX Blog

    UX Design at Microsoft Talk

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    Hi Everyone! I'm giving a talk tomorrow at University of Waterloo Accelerator Centre. It's a joint event between Waterloo UX User Group and Infusion Angels Innovation Centre. I've organized my talk into three short stories to give you an overview of what's going on design-wise at Microsoft.

    1. Story of Learning: how Office UX Design team learnt from the past and created the Office 2007 Ribbon Design
    2. Story of Rethinking: rethink about the rich experience we can bring to the web, our story behind the Rich Web UX Platform: Silverlight
    3. Story of Vision: from Surface Computing to Natural User Interface, what is our design vision and how we are designing towards the vision

    I'll also cover academic focused UX programs and UX design opportunities at Microsoft. I'm very excited to share these stories for the first time and talk to a mix audience of students, professors, and UX professionals to get different perspectives. If you are interested in attending, you can RSVP here.

    Thursday May 15, 2008
    5:00 to 6:30 pm
    Accelerator Centre
    Main floor networking area
    295 Hagey Blvd., Waterloo
    [Map]

  • Canadian UX Blog

    TorCHI May Event: Design Essentials for Non-Designers

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    This seems to be a great opportunity for traditional design practitioners such as architects, visual , and industrial designers to learn about interaction design.

    TorCHI is inviting people to a sneak peek of Ian Hooper and John Schrag’s Design Essentials for Non-Designers tutorial at the UPA conference in June. To help them prepare for the event, they are inviting the local UX and HCI community to come in and participate, at no cost, to do a "dry-run" of the tutorial in Toronto on Friday, May 23rd.

    Benefit to you: You can be in the tutorial without flying to Baltimore and paying an extra $500.

    Drawback: The presenters might be a little unpolished Benefit to the presenters: They get to do a practice run and figure out what needs to be improved

    Date: Friday, May 23, 2008

    Time: 9:00am to 5:00pm

    Location: Autodesk Toronto, 210 King Street East (at Sherbourne)

    Title: Design Essentials for Non-Designers: Methods for Creating Innovative User Interfaces

    This session is intended for practitioners who have come to interaction design from a research, psychology, information architecture, or other non-design background. It focuses on what happens after the requirements are done and before you build your first prototype. Design fields such as graphic arts, architecture, and industrial design have long-standing practices for innovative design, and these apply well to interaction design.

    Participants are expected to have basic knowledge and skills in usability research and evaluation practices, including requirements gathering and conducting a usability test, as none of these topics will be covered. No design background or artistic skills of any kind are necessary, but you should be able to operate a pencil.

    Participants in this tutorial will:

    • Learn how to adapt traditional innovation practices to the design of user interfaces.
    • Learn useful techniques to access their creativity, and to foster innovation during the design process.
    • Actively participate in an interaction design process that bridges the gaps between requirements gathering, usability testing, and design iteration.
    • Get a list of useful references and resources.

    This tutorial does NOT cover:

    • Requirements gathering
    • HCI theory (when to use which widgets, etc, based on cognitive psychology)
    • Art skills
    • How to conduct a usability test

    If you would like to participate, please send John an email at <John.Schrag@autodesk.com>. A limited number of places will be available.

  • Canadian UX Blog

    If Silverlight is Microsoft's Web RIA Platform, Why Are They Still Using Flash?!?

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    I get asked that question a lot.  And frankly, it's a valid question that requires a thoughtful answer.  At face value, it looks like Microsoft isn't practising what it preaches - if Microsoft doesn't even switch out Flash, why should you as a RIA solutions provider?  I can assure you that this is something that we at Microsoft are very aware of.

    If you go to some Microsoft web properties (among the most notable ones being microsoft.com and silverlight.net), you'll see that we are using Silverlight as our RIA platform.  There are other Microsoft sites, however, that still use Flash (like xbox.com and zune.net).  Does this mean we are hedging our bets on Silverlight because we're not sure the platform will fly?  The answer is absolutely and unequivocally no!  We are completely dedicated to Silverlight and its adoption. 

    The reason why Microsoft hasn't gone completely Flash-free is one of making sure the transition is smooth - like almost every company out there, there are a lot of technology assets that exist within it and switching out one technology for another isn't necessarily an easy thing to do.  Microsoft is very cognisant of the fact that ensuring the experience users have on a web property it owns is seamless and enjoyable.  In order to provide that kind of experience, there are more things in play than just technology - there's the business side of it (making sure "the lights stay on through and after the transition") , the marketing side of it (are the right messages in place with the new technology?) as well as the skills side of it (it's a new platform and our partners who we contract to build the RIAs have to learn it, too!).  Obviously moving to a new platform is something that requires careful thought.

    Denny Boynton, a Microsoft Architect Advisor out of the US posts a very interesting and insightful article about this topic which I invite you to take a look at.

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  • Canadian UX Blog

    Hook up with Parallels

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    parallelsPaul and Qixing have been talking about Expression 2 and the Expression Professional Subscription. I have been running Expression on my MacBook Pro since I arrived at Microsoft Canada in Parallels or with Bootcamp. It's been great having access to both platform, particularly for testing CSS and cross-platform browser compatibility for web development. Being able to test browsers for both the Mac and Windows has saved a lot of time during the testing of front-end web development. It's even easier to test designs across different versions of Windows by running virtual instances of each OS or browser configuration.

    The Expression Professional Subscription includes:

    Having pre-configured virtualized server environments that you can load up in Virtual PC or Parallels is great. I had been doing most of web development work in TextMate, but I'd recently switched to Expression Web 2 because of the Web standards and PHP support (IntelliSense and the Expression Development Server are really great). Nishant Kothary and Tyler Simpson showed how to go from Comp to CSS to Code at Mix08.

    I'm just blown away that we're able to include a copy of Parallels Desktop for Mac as part of the Expression Professional Subscription.

  • Canadian UX Blog

    Imagine Cup Project: GreenNet Facebook Application

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    Two teams from Simon Fraser University (SFU) representing Canada just finished the Round 2 of Imagine Cup Interface Design Competition. As we wish them the best luck to enter the finals in France, I would like to recognize them and highlight their projects based on this year's theme "Imagine a world where technology enables a sustainable environment." Both of the teams prototyped their projects in Expression Studio. In this post, we introduce you the "GreenNet Facebook Application."

    Designers: Jin Fan, Kevin Muise from School of Interactive Arts and Technology, SFU

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    Global warming is quickly becoming one of the most important issues facing humankind, and has brought concerns regarding sustainable practices, especially within western societies. In order to address this issue, we have designed a Facebook application that aims at creating a culture of conservation, through providing its users with information on their energy usage. Employing an application through Facebook provides a platform to communicate to thousands of individuals and communities within our target audience who reside in various geographic locations. Social networks, such as Facebook, have become more than a mere source of entertainment ¨C they are a means to communicate new ideas, become an active voice in a community, and more importantly, they are an opportunity to influence culture.

    Our approach to designing the application was guided by a user-focused process, which has led us to create an enjoyable and informative user experience.  Our system provides its users with an interface that acts as a virtual garden, where their participation in energy conscious activities effects the growth of the plants within that space. Users are also provided with information on their energy consumption, along with the consumption of their friends and communities, which can be generated through data from electricity providers. Visualizing this information is used to raise awareness of unsustainable practices through providing individuals feedback on energy consumption within their communities. In doing so, our system acts as means to change energy consumption behavior towards more sustainable practices, not only in individuals, but within society at large.

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  • Canadian UX Blog

    Imagine Cup Project: EcoLid

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    Two teams from Simon Fraser University (SFU) representing Canada just finished the Round 2 of Imagine Cup Interface Design Competition. As we wish them the best luck to enter the finals in France, I would like to recognize them and highlight their projects based on this year's theme "Imagine a world where technology enables a sustainable environment." Both of the teams prototyped their projects in Expression Studio. In this post, we introduce you the "EcoLid" application.

    Designer: Jason Lin from School of Interactive Arts and Technology, SFU

    Picture 3 “EcoLid” is a proposed application that helps control home energy usage from a device mounted on the front door. This energy control system could monitor electricity from different zones in a house. One of the unique features of this application is that it combines the 1) House Alarm System and 2) Message Board with the Power Consumption Monitor. Our rationale for combining these systems is to incorporate user familiarity for functional wall-mounted devices, along with the convenience of having to only use one system at their doorsteps.

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  • Canadian UX Blog

    An Update to My Deep Zoom Presentation Example

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    Quite a few people provided me feedback on my Deep Zoom post last month. With the help from Jamie Rodriguez's in-depth post on Deep Zoom's architecture and code resource, I've now added panning and keyboard interactions to my presentation example. Check out the updated example. Note: Ctrl and "+" or "-" for zoom in or out.

  • Canadian UX Blog

    EnergizeIT 2008 - Anything is Possible!

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    EnergizeIT is back, and this year's theme is - Anything is Possible! This is totally reflected in our dreamlike banner design. :-) Although this year there's no Designer Track, we are discussing rich user experience with Silverlight 2 Beta and designer-developer workflow in the Developer Track. So, come out together with your developers. There are also several brand new tracks this year including: GreenIT, Career in IT, and Consumer. Anyone who woks in IT, passionate about solving real world problems with IT, and excited about the future of IT will find something at EnergizeIT. Check out the 2 minute overview of what is EnergizeIT all about.

    When: Saturday May 24, 2008, 9:30 am – 4:30pm. Registration starts at 9:00am

    Where: Toronto Congress Centre - Toronto, Ontario MAP IT

    Register Today! It's FREE.

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  • Canadian UX Blog

    The Expression Professional Subscription

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    As Qixing mentioned in the previous post, Expression 2 is now live and available for trial download.  One of the cool new things that is being introduced with Expression 2 is the Expression Professional Subscription, starting in June 2008. 

    If you are a designer, developer or wear both hats, this might be an option you will strongly want to consider.  The Expression Professional Subscription contains a veritable treasure chest of software for a fraction of the price all of the software combined (Canadian pricing is still being worked out, but numbers I have seen make this a very good deal).

    Software included in the Expression Professional Subscription:

    • Expression Studio 2
    • Visual Studio 2008 Standard
    • Windows Vista Business
    • Windows XP SP2
    • Microsoft Office Standard
    • Visio Professional
    • Virtualized Server Environments
    • Virtual PC (for use with Virtualized Environments)
    • Parallels Desktop for Mac (a 3rd party application to run Windows OS on Apple hardware concurrent with OSX)

    Stay tuned on pricing and availability.  This is a great way to lower the costs for you to build great experiences on the web that are cross-platform and help you grow your business in the process.

  • Canadian UX Blog

    Expression Studio 2 Shipped Today!

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    Less then 2 months we announced the Expression Studio 2 Beta at MIX, today we shipped Studio 2. The Expression homepage also got a new look: softer and lighter compared to the dark theme for Studio 1.

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    Check out the key features in Expression Studio 2.

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