March, 2009

  • Canadian UX Blog

    Investing in Your Skills – A Collection of Courses


    Hi! My name is Rini Gahir. I’m the Senior Product Manager for Developer Tools (which includes Visual Studio and Expression Studio) here at Microsoft Canada. It’s an honour to be granted a regular blog spot on the Canadian User Experience blogosphere alongside Paul and Qixing. My goal is to add value by providing business and marketing insight along with fresh thinking on the art of application development and design.

    I’ll kick it off by discussing what everyone is experiencing and talking about – the current economic slump. In talking with a number of customers and partners we understand the extra scrutiny organizations are placing on their budgets and expenditures as they tighten their belts to ride through this wave. There’s a great post on Microsoft Canada discussing the current economy and what organizations and individuals can do to weather the storm. image
    So in an effort to help organizations and individuals invest in their skills and boost their profile our partner marketing team has built a great resource which lists a collection of awesome training courses for Expression, Visual Studio and Silverlight. Some of these courses are for registered partners while others are available through our MSDN and other channels. Courses range from Level 100 to 300 courses and from on-demand web seminars to full fledged multi-day instructor-led training courses.




    In addition, the team has done a great job in putting together a 6 part series on developing your career specific to the Canadian ICT industry. Be sure to this out also available on-demand.

    And finally, be sure to check out the great promotions on right now that make it easier to purchase the latest tools to keep you innovative and competitive
    image    image

    Rini Gahir | Senior Product Manager | Developer & Application Platform | Microsoft Canada

    Twitter:     Email:

  • Canadian UX Blog

    Microsoft Surface Blog by Infusion


    Last year during Explore Design conference, our friends at Infusion showcased the various Surface apps they worked on to hundreds of young minds who were interested to design. As Natural User Interface is becoming a hot topic in the Interaction Design field and many businesses are looking to have innovations in touch space to differentiate themselves, more people are interested in how a Surface application was designed and developed. Infusion is one of the early adopters of Surface computing and they are sharing their “life on the Surface” in their new blog. There are interesting demos and useful tutorials in the blog. Check it out!


  • Canadian UX Blog

    Understanding the Microsoft Web Platform


    A common complaint that I hear from people who build web solutions is that when they try to start building web solutions on the Microsoft Platform, they hit a wall because of 2 things:

    1. There is so much information they don’t even know where to start.
    2. There is no consolidated set of resources that give them a launch pad for learning and using the Microsoft Web Platform.

    The fact of the matter is, the people I talk to are right!   We literally have gigabytes of very useful and relevant information for anyone that wants to build great web solutions with our tools and platform technologies but there are so many places where you need to go to get that information it becomes frustrating and turns people away.

    Well, we’ve heard these complaints and to help you get the resources you need, we have provided a Canadian-focused portal for building web solutions on the Microsoft platform.  This portal is intended to provide a launch pad for finding the information you need about our web platform.  This includes:

    • Information on the tools you need to build on our platform and where to get them
    • Learning facilities where you can get online training on our platform technologies – for free!
    • Information on how to join the Microsoft Partner Program and why registering for free can help you grow your business
    • Offers on software, 3rd party training and other benefits to help you get up to speed at a reduced cost
    • Whitepapers to help you understand some of our best practices for building Microsoft-based web solutions
    • Links to important blogs on our web platform
    • How to find a hosting partner for your solution on Windows
    • and much, much more

    If you are building web solutions on the Microsoft platform or if you are thinking about it, I strongly encourage you to visit the site.  If you have feedback on the site, please let me know by submitting a comment to this post!


  • Canadian UX Blog

    Join the Microsoft Partner Program, Get Expression Web


    Microsoft Canada has a great offer for any Canadian web solution provider that isn’t already a Registered Microsoft Partner.

    For a limited time, we are offering a free copy of Expression Web 2, our premier web design tool for building compelling web sites.

    All you need to do is go to this site, register as Microsoft Partner on the site (which is completely free) and enter your Partner ID to get your free copy of Expression Web 2.

    There are many other benefits with this offer as well.  We are offering access to free training on Microsoft web platform technologies, great hosting offers and other benefits as well.

    In addition to all that, by registering as a Microsoft Partner, you get other offers for training, deeply discounted software to help you start your business as well as support from Microsoft to help you grow your business.

    If you haven’t registered as a Microsoft Partner yet, this may be a great time to do it!


  • Canadian UX Blog

    Software + Service in Plain English


    As I was searching around earlier this week for a good way of explaining “Software + Service,” the following video comes to the perfect rescue. This video is a great example of using simple drawing to tell an interesting story and explaining a hard concept. It not only explains what is S+S but also talks about the advantage of S+S over software only or internet services (i.e. SaaS) only solutions. It got me think about the power of simple sketches in complex story telling. The drawings in the video are very engaging and provides audience the confidence that it’s something they’ll be able to understand. Check it out and maybe test it on your non-IT friends. :)

    <br/><a href="" target="_new" title="Software + Services: Microsoft Customer Video">Video: Software + Services: Microsoft Customer Video</a>

  • Canadian UX Blog

    Design Student of the Month – Dandan Huang


    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 March 2009 is Dandan Huang! Congratulations!! Let's hear from Dandan.


    Who’s Dandan?

    I am a recent graduate Master student in the Department of Computer Science, at University of Victoria. My supervisor is Dr. Melanie Tory who is a super smart and nice lady. It is her who opened the door for me to the world of interaction design and information visualization. In the era of overwhelming information, I believe intuitive graphical representations of data and user-centered design can make life easier for people, working efficiently and entertaining with fun.

    What cool stuff is Dandan doing?

    I worked on several projects in terms of information visualization, cscw, and user-centered design.

    In one of the research project, we compared the visualization techniques ( Sunburst and Matrix-based visualization) of access right, e.g. the access of personal information online. The two novel methods used to visualize complex and mass relationship are compared, regarding data accessibility, data structure, size and density of data.

    Jennifer Wong and I worked on the graphic-based interface design of a Collaborative Dive Computer. Current dive computers in the market are text-based and strictly designed to be used by single users. We developed it to design a collaborative dive computer integrated with one messaging system, the ability to view multiple divers’ status and the divers’ position, and an enhanced safety alert system.

    In my project, working with Melanie, we present two novel visualization techniques to support the comparison of Gantt charts. First, we encode two Gantt charts in one view by overlapping them to show differences. Second, we designed a novel interactive visual technique, the “TbarView”, that allows users to compare multiple schedules within one single view. We evaluated the overlap and TbarView techniques via a user study.

    What are Dandan’s plans after graduation?

    I am working in HSBC currently, focusing on the improvement of the business system. After finish my master degree, I’d like to find a job in interaction design or information architecture. I believe the user-centered representation of data can significantly improve people’s productivity.

    Want to learn more about Dandan?

    More information about our lab in University of Victoria

  • Canadian UX Blog

    A Brief History of MIX: Feet on Ground, Eyes on Cloud


    From now through the end of the MIX09 conference in Las Vegas, Rob Burke will be providing his insights from the conference on a daily basis.


    Robert Burke is a Toronto-based IT Consultant who’s attending his fourth MIX event this year.  By day he’s knee-deep in Microsoft User Experience technologies, including Silverlight and the Windows Presentation Foundation, but his background includes stuff like artificial intelligence, interactive installations, graphics and biometrics.  He attended the first two MIXes as a member of Microsoft’s Developer and Platform Group, and the second two as Principal Consultant of Carrington Technologies.  His website is at and his shiny new Twitter account is @rob_burke.


    What can we expect at this week’s intersection of design and technology in Las Vegas?

    Before a week for looking forward, a brief pause and a quick look back for context.

    MIX06: “The Next Web Now.”

    3 years ago, Microsoft launched this hip series of conferences, inviting a cross-platform audience of business decision makers, developers and designers (…wait… designers?!).

    The inaugural keynote explored the opportunities that would emerge as the internet “evolves… and ‘web’ and ‘application’ concepts merge.”

    It was the only MIX keynote to star Bill Gates as Microsoft’s Chief Software Architect, and featured a fireside chat between Bill and Tim O’Reilly, and Bill’s mea culpa about the state of IE6.

    MIX07: “A 72-Hour Conversation”

    The conference’s sophomore year was billed as a “72-hour conversation” at a time when the rampant success of social networking was all the buzz.

    Ray Ozzie took the helm, WPF/E got its new look and name, and so we saw .NET boldly go cross-browser, cross-platform - at least, in CTP form.


    Loosely, the following year’s theme was (loosely) connected things: their impact on the individual, their impact on the organization.  “Small pieces, loosely joined” was I believe how Ray put it.

    And then there were Rich Internet Applications. Silverlight 2.0, the highly anticipated enabler, went Beta.  Designers (I thought) were finally somewhat understood, even if their Microsoft toolset was still fermenting.

    There was an explicit expectation set by Ray, Steve and Company that MIX08 represented but one of several steps on the road to something big at the PDC coming in the autumn.


    Then, months later, Silverlight 2.0 was unleashed on the wild, with 3.0 already on the horizon. But wait… were we even talking about the presentation layer any more, or, with Silverlight’s eventual impact firmly impressed upon us, had we moved on to discuss awesome sky-plumbing instead?

    We’re talkin’ Azure, Live Services too numerous to mention, data and enterprise service buses and meshes in the sky, a bookstore that got there first, Models and Domain-Specific Languages (see Don Box’s characterization of this dreadfully wond’rous craic), and so much more, all available streamed online now for your viewing pleasure.


    So we begin MIX09 with feet tentatively on the presentation layer, but eyes on this intriguing Cloud on the horizon.

    The MIX09 Session List alone would suggest an emphasis (by session number) on:

    • Silverlight (31) and UI/UX (16),
    • Azure (11) and Live Services (8),
    • ASP.NET (14)

    Bill Gates at MIX06 

    Bill Gates at MIX06


    Ray Ozzie and ScottGu at MIX07

    Ray Ozzie and ScottGu at MIX07


    SteveB and GuyK at MIX08

    SteveB and GuyK at MIX08


    I mentioned previously that I visit MIX for the buzz.  This week I’m there again to meet, to chat, and to think — and specifically, to ask what should we do with all this  stuff? What could I do for my clients? For their organizations? For my own projects?

    Even if you’re not able to attend, the keynote will be streamed live, and you’ll have a chance to ask ScottGu some questions online 30 minutes after it’s over.

    We’re three years into this MIX journey to The Next Web.  This week, we expect to gain insight into Microsoft’s perspective on the road ahead.  I’m going to try to write here daily, and figure out how to use this Twitter thing as well.  Inspired by keynote speaker Bill Buxton, I may even try my hand at a little sketching, and change up my technology choices as an audience member for the keynote and sessions. (hint: thinking of leaving the laptop behind).

    Right - that’s enough context - I’m off to Vegas to Mix things up a little!


    This blog post was originally posted at

  • Canadian UX Blog

    Windows 7 Search Connectors


    One of the features I really enjoy using on Windows 7 is Search Connectors. It’s a great example of how we blurred the line between computers and the web. Without starting a browser, I can search on Flickr, YouTube, Live Search, Wikipedia, Twitter, etc. just like I search a folder or drive on my computer. For example, MIX09 starts tomorrow, and I was checking out what’s happening in Vegas on Twitter.  Below is what I got. It’s very convenient and allows me to get to my destination faster. I can also compare search results from two search engines by placing two result windows side by side. However, I would like to see an improvement in the current design is the ability to search multiple search engines and my computer at the same time. A good visualization needs to be applied to the search results so that it can help me identify repeated  results from different search engines and the relevancy of search results.


    You can get these search connectors here and create your own following this blog post. Happy Searching!

  • Canadian UX Blog

    Guest Post: MIX09 Welcome Swag (includes Sketching UX book!)


    From now through the end of the MIX09 conference in Las Vegas, Rob Burke will be providing his insights from the conference on a daily basis.


    Robert Burke is a Toronto-based IT Consultant who’s attending his fourth MIX event this year.  By day he’s knee-deep in Microsoft User Experience technologies, including Silverlight and the Windows Presentation Foundation, but his background includes stuff like artificial intelligence, interactive installations, graphics and biometrics.  He attended the first two MIXes as a member of Microsoft’s Developer and Platform Group, and the second two as Principal Consultant of Carrington Technologies.  His website is at and his shiny new Twitter account is @rob_burke.



    MIX09 Swag Bag
    MIX09 Swag Bag

    This year’s Swag Bag Contents:

    • 1 Sketching User Experiences book (highly cool - I already gave my previous copy to a friend)
    • 1 MIX09 Notebook (also cool -this image does not do justice to the pages of the notebook, which alternate graph and plain. Session eval forms attached to back.)
    • 1 MIX09 T-Shirt with “<3 Your Web” slogan
    • 1 “Live at Kexp” Music CD (KEXP is a non-profit Seattle-based Radio Station)

    MIX09 Mystery Sticker
    MIX09 Mystery Sticker

    • 1 Sticker Thingamayoke which I have yet to grok (at first I thought it was maybe something that Lego Mindstorms sensors could do image recognition with or something, now it looks to me like an abstract representation of web content)
    • 1 Clip-On Flashlight
    • 1 Pen
    • 1 Water Bottle - handy for us winter-pasty Canoodians, as it is 22 degrees Celsius here and sunny!
    • 1 Coffee Mug
    • Misc Advertisements (not pictured)

    For reference, here’s what was in the MIX07 Swag.

    MIX07 Welcome Swag
    MIX07 Welcome Swag

    I’m most grateful for another copy of Buxton’s insightful book!

    I wonder if we’ll have any software to play with tomorrow, or if we’ll be downloading lab content ourselves.  I always come armed with extra storage to events like these in case I need to truck home some VPCs.

  • Canadian UX Blog

    Silverlight 3 and Expression Blend 3 Betas Now Available!


    Microsoft Silverlight logo

    Silverlight 3 Beta

    Today at the MIX ‘09 conference, we rolled out the beta for Silverlight 3, the next iteration of our rich internet application platform. Version 3 adds a lot of new features including:

    • Out of Browser Capabilities. Silverlight 3 applications aren’t just confined to the browser. Users can install and run them from their desktops – either Windows or Mac OS – and without having to download any additional runtimes or plugins. Better still, these desktop Sliverlight apps can detect whether the machine is connected to the internet and can also auto-update.
    • Richer Graphics. There’s support for perspective 3-D graphics, pixel shader effects, a bitmap API, bitmap caching of vectors, text and controls, support for themed applications, new animation effects, enhanced control skinning and improved text rendering and font support.
    • HD Video and Audio. Support for H.264/AAC, 720p+ live and on-demand streaming, true HD playback in fullscreen mode and support for third-party codecs.
    • Better application features, including:
      • New GUI controls, including their source code
      • Support for “deep linking”: it’s now possible to bookmark a page contained within a Silverlight app
      • SEO tools: The content of your Silverlight apps can be mirrored into HTML so your app can be indexed by search engines
      • Enhanced data support
      • Improved performance

    Expression Blend 3 Preview

    Microsoft Expression Blend Also available is the preview version of Expression Blend 3, the “designer/developer workflow tool” for building interfaces for Silverlight and WPF projects. As with Silverlight 3, Expression Blend 3 adds a lot of new features including:

    • Sketchflow: a tool that lets you tool for quickly creating application prototypes, complete with interactivity.
    • Behaviors, which let you add interactivity to an application without having to write code
    • Photoshop and Illustrator file import
    • Improved design and development experience

    An Important Note for People Currently Building Silverlight 2 Apps

    Do not install Silverlight 3 development tools on a machine that you’re using to build Silverlight 2 apps! Visual Studio doesn’t support targeting multiple versions of Silverlight; if you install Silverlight 3 tools, you won’t be able to build Silverlight 2 apps anymore!

    My recommendation is:

    • If you’re going to be working on Silverlight 2 projects, install Silverlight 3 tools on a machine that you’re not using for Silverlight 2 production.
    • If you’re like me and not doing any work on Silverlight apps at the moment and want to get started, go ahead and grab the beta.

    Finding Out More About Silverlight 3 Beta and Expression Blend 3

    You can find out more about both on the Silverlight 3 Beta page.

    Getting Silverlight 3 Beta and Expression Blend 3 Preview

    Both are available at the Silverlight 3 Beta download page. You can also follow the links below:

  • Canadian UX Blog

    Guest Post: MIX09 Day 1: The “Software” in “Software + Services”


    From now through the end of the MIX09 conference in Las Vegas, Rob Burke will be providing his insights from the conference on a daily basis.


    Robert Burke is a Toronto-based IT Consultant who’s attending his fourth MIX event this year.  By day he’s knee-deep in Microsoft User Experience technologies, including Silverlight and the Windows Presentation Foundation, but his background includes stuff like artificial intelligence, interactive installations, graphics and biometrics.  He attended the first two MIXes as a member of Microsoft’s Developer and Platform Group, and the second two as Principal Consultant of Carrington Technologies.  His website is at and his shiny new Twitter account is @rob_burke.

    The original post by Rob can be found here.

    Today’s MIX09 Day 1 Keynote and Sessions put the ‘Software’ into Microsoft’s ‘Software plus Services’ vision.

    It was the “feet on [presentation layer] ground” bit, made memorable by the energetic call to action delivered by Bill Buxton to get things started. His job was to deliver the “what”, and the Blend team is helping provide the “how.”

    MIX09 Keynote: Bill Buxton
    MIX09 Keynote: Bill Buxton

    Hotlinked Play-By-Play

    Tim Sneath has a thorough and thoughtfully hotlinked play-by-play of the keynote in two parts - here and here.  And fellow Canadian Jean-Luc David took over 500 keynote photos which I am sure he will filter before he uploads them here on Flickr, because apparently the man does not need sleep!

    In the spirit of Bill’s Sketching User Experiences, I drew a mindmap, even though I have all the artistic ability of a slug (see below).

    Blend 3 and SketchFlow

    The most important words on my entire mind map the morning were “THEY HAVE CHANNELLED BUXTON”.

    SketchFlow in Blend 3 looks superb. SketchFlow and its player will, unquestionably, change the way I flesh out user experiences to clients and get their feedback.  It will be very interesting to see how this tool actually gets used in practice, and evolves as designers and developers embrace it.  It’s not SketchFlow’s intent to replace all other forms of sketching, but rather to augment them with something innovative and useful.  I hope it will also improve developer/designer communication, by providing a tool and talking point that both can use.

    MIX09 Keynote: ScottGu sporting red
    MIX09 Keynote: ScottGu sporting red

    Silverlight 3

    Although nothing surprised me per se during the Silverlight 3 announcements, that was a good thing. There are significant improvement in v3, and answers to some (but not all) hopes.

    The very promising: Updates like offline capabilities, server data push (caching on client), VisualStateManager invalid states and validation, Merged ResourceDictionaries, etc., that will address important shortcomings and challenges for people building Silverlight line-of-business apps.  Things like SaveFileDialog.

    The important: Better text (desperately needed), library caching (for reducing download time - how many of my SL2 apps bundle whittled-down bits of the SL Toolkit?), sample data.

    The cool: GPU support (opt-in @ plug-in and control levels). Multitouch support. Perspective 3D, which will be much more approachable than the 3D support in WPF, and address most of the scenarios where 3D adds UX value.  Pixel Shader effects - which aren’t hardware accelerated, but look good. Pixel and Bitmap APIs which open up new scenarios.

    The awesome postscript.: Siverlight 3.0 runtime is actually 30k smaller than Silverlight 2! Madness!

    The things I hoped for but didn’t find in v3: Commanding, Printing (unless you count Nikhil’s “make an ASP.NET page and print that” solution), FlowDocument.

    The change in messaging that I didn’t expect: I attended BradA and NikhilK’s Silverlight presentations in the afternoon for more information about building business apps in Silverlight 3, and feel like I need a little more time for all of it to settle in.  The core message seems to have shifted a bit: from “you can run Silverlight on any web server”" to “you can run Silverlight anywhere, but it’s better together with ASP.NET, and you can use ASP.NET to obtain some things you’re looking for in Silverlight, like SEO and Printing.”  I’m also a little foggy on how some of the this ‘prescriptive framework’ all fits into where my mind was going with Prism and MVVM for Silverlight, as proposed by the Patterns and Practices group.

    IIS Media Services: As someone who’s more Dev than IT Pro, I’m not best qualified to comment on this… but adaptive, on-demand and live streaming sounds and looks pretty amazing.

    The New Microsoft-ism: It’s the verb “to party,” which I heard in contexts such as these:

    “now we can party over this data we got back”, and

    “you can go ahead and party on this query now” or in summary

    “I’m super-jazzed that we can go ahead and party over this data we’ve got back from the DataSource.”

    I expect tomorrow we will party over the cloud.  (The cloud and Azure, although mentioned, were not today’s focus by any stretch).

    And that’s why this MIX09 Keynote half-sketch is really upside down, isn’t it? I should have left the top side of the page to deal with the part that’s “in the clouds!”

    MIX09 Day 1 Keynote Mindmap
    MIX09 Day 1 Keynote Mindmap (would make a nice deep zoom)

  • Canadian UX Blog

    IE8 and Stories From Home


    There are lots of exciting announcements coming out of MIX in Vegas this week. Today we shipped Internet Explorer 8. However,  there’s also plenty to celebrate back home around Silverlight and IE8. Check them out!

    Watching your favorite TV shows online in HD with Silverlight 

    clip_image002CTV Globemedia

    CTV Globemedia (Canada’s largest online media company) announced the immediate availability of The CTV HD Player (Beta).  The HD Player is a beta experience that delivers 3 of CTV’s top viewed shows (all episodes).  The experience is delivered through Microsoft Silverlight on the front end, supported with Akamai’s AdaptiveEdge for Microsoft Silverlight and delivered through Windows Server Media Services.   Users are able to experience full HD to their desktop and will experience the ability of jumping to any part of the HD video without buffering. They’ll also benefit from adaptive streaming technology which adjusts the quality of the video based on the bandwidth availability.


    Making you everyday browsing experience easier and faster with IE8 (One of Canada’s Top Traffic Sites)

    Workopolis has launched their IE8 WebSlice. This is something very useful when you are job searching. Perform a job search and hover your cursor over the results and click on the green clip_image001 icon. Once you saved the WebSlice, you just need to check back for new postings that match your requirements. No more filling out the search form again and again!



    clip_image002[6]The Weather Network  (One of Canada’s Top Traffic Sites)

    The Weather Network has also launched their IE8 WebSlice. No need to say keeping up with the weather is important. Go to your favorite city and hover over the weather results and click on the green clip_image001[4] icon to add the WebSlice.


   (One of Canada’s Top Traffic Sites)

    imageKeep up with the news you care about in You can add WebSlices such as Photos, Headlines, Sports news, etc. The figure on the right shows their available list of WebSlides.

    One thing I do worry about is the manageability of these slices. You don’t want to get WebSlices overflow. Perhaps there should be a better visualization for looking at all the WebSlices you have – something like the “Quick Tabs” overview in IE8 (bottom left figure).


  • Canadian UX Blog

    Guest Post: MIX09 Day 2: “Return on Experience”


    From now through the end of the MIX09 conference in Las Vegas, Rob Burke will be providing his insights from the conference on a daily basis.


    Robert Burke is a Toronto-based IT Consultant who’s attending his fourth MIX event this year.  By day he’s knee-deep in Microsoft User Experience technologies, including Silverlight and the Windows Presentation Foundation, but his background includes stuff like artificial intelligence, interactive installations, graphics and biometrics.  He attended the first two MIXes as a member of Microsoft’s Developer and Platform Group, and the second two as Principal Consultant of Carrington Technologies.  His website is at and his shiny new Twitter account is @rob_burke.

    The original post by Rob can be found here.


    Deborah Alder at MIX09 Keynote
    Deborah Alder at MIX09 Keynote

    Bill Buxton, the Spirit of MIX09 (who, incidentally, now has a typeface named after him), was very welcome back for this morning’s keynote to introduce Deborah Adler, whose work as principal designer for Target’s ClearRx medicine bottles provided the focus for our discussion about design and its impact on user experience.

    ClearRx Case Study

    Deborah’s research identified and addressed many serious problems with traditional medicine bottles. Her prototype was refined by Target into the ClearRx products, and the resulting “return on experience” includes brand awareness for Target — and, much more importantly, the potential to change behavior and save human lives.

    Her advice to us was twofold - to have a love affair with our customers, and to bring our design skills to bear both humanly and humanely.

    There is more information about Deborah’s work at the Target:Health site.

    [Update: I just saw Robby Ingebretsen's post and agree with him - these two keynotes together (and particularly, Deborah and Bill's contributions) made for the best and most inspiring MIX keynotes yet.]

    Clear Rx
    Clear Rx (link goes to Target ClearRx site)

    IE8: In other keynote news, Dean Hachamovitch announced that Internet Explorer 8 was released today.

    For more info: You can now watch streaming video of the keynotes (for both days) here, and Tim Sneath’s thorough Play-by-Play is here and here.

    The Cloud?

    So I expected today’s keynote was going to be about the Cloud. I was totally wrong.  But it’s all good.

    My Mind Map, with Day 2 on the bottom, now makes more sense: the “Return on Experience” discussion provides the roots for everything we’ve discussed at MIX09 this week.

    MIX09 Keynote Mind Map - Days 1 and 2
    MIX09 Keynote Mind Map - Days 1 and 2 - with Return on Experience at the root

    p.s. More Misc MIX notes on the rest of Day 2 in a future post — I am shattered tonight. Johnny Lee’s HCI talk was particularly memorable (link goes to his killer TED talk).

  • Canadian UX Blog

    Return on Experience – learning from 3 Keynotes


    I watched three inspiring keynotes this week: two from MIX and Robert Fabricant's Interations’09 keynote. Our guest blogger Robert Burke did a very good job of highlight the MIX keynotes, I want to capture the key things I learned from these keynotes to share with you. Both Deborah Adler and Robert Fabricant’s talks focused on changing people’s behavior through design, which in my opinion is the most impactful Return on Experience (ROE) coined by Bill Buxton. Here’s how I see how the keynote messages come together.

    Return on Experience

    1. What is Experience? It’s not just an object you are designing or producing, it’s the experience of using the object including movement and timing.For example, when you are designing a website, focusing on how do your users get one page from another, how do they enter or leave the site, how do you want them to feel when browsing through the site. Don’t just focus on functionality and list of things users can do on the site.

    2. What are the returns can Experience Design bring? There are direct and exciting outcomes by focusing on experience such as increase revenue and brand recognition. Especially, in this tough economy, it’s proven that companies who focused on Experience Design will thrive. Buxton gave multiple success stories from the dawn of Industrial Design age. Adler shared her example of leading the ClearRx team to successfully redesigned prescription bottles and labels for pharmacies at Target (see below left). Because of this redesign and focus on experience, Target experienced significant revenue increase and their brand of putting customers first was enhanced. Fabricant talked about the difference between outcome and impact. Return on Experience can also lead to long-term behavior change. For example, people form the right behavior to save energy (see below right the energy efficient meter mentioned in Fabricant’s talk), recycle, and taking prescription drugs through salient design. The impact is improving people’s lives.

    Target ClearRx Packaging Systemimage

    3. How to achieve Return on Experience? First, as Alder mentioned you need to have a love affair with your users and really digging into your customer’s needs. Ask the right questions which can lead to the right solutions. Second, you need the right techniques to do design. Buxton talked about creating multiple solutions in the ideation stage and using sketches as a cheap and fast way to test these ideas. At the same time, focus on transitions/process of these ideas rather than the end-stages. Fabricant gave the tip on giving your product a character or personality can help users emotionally connect with your products when using them. Third, creating a unified experience is important so that users can have the same rich and consistent experience across web, client, and devices. It doesn’t matter which platform a user is using, the experience is seamless and connected. Designers and developers need to use the right set of tools to create this unified experience from ideation to production. (Check out SketchFlow in Blend 3, below is a screenshot of it)

  • Canadian UX Blog

    Guest Post: MIX09 Inspirations: Back to the Drawing Board


    From now through the end of the MIX09 conference in Las Vegas, Rob Burke will be providing his insights from the conference on a daily basis.


    Robert Burke is a Toronto-based IT Consultant who’s attending his fourth MIX event this year.  By day he’s knee-deep in Microsoft User Experience technologies, including Silverlight and the Windows Presentation Foundation, but his background includes stuff like artificial intelligence, interactive installations, graphics and biometrics.  He attended the first two MIXes as a member of Microsoft’s Developer and Platform Group, and the second two as Principal Consultant of Carrington Technologies.  His website is at and his shiny new Twitter account is @rob_burke.

    The original post by Rob can be found here.

    In the hope they may also inspire you, here are four other sources of inspiration I found at MIX09,

    Bill Buxton at MIX09 Third Place
    1. Bill Buxton at MIX09 Third Place

    1. Bill Buxton’s visit to “The Third Place.” He cites Henry Dreyfuss’s “Designing for People” as the next must-read book after his (preferably 1st Ed.). Render in the correct fidelity. Don’t rely on a “muse.” Consider minimally five alternatives. Persona and “Place-ona.” “Design is Choice.”

    Johnny Lee at TED
    2. Johnny Lee and HCI wonders

    2. Johnny Lee’s HCI talk. @shanselman a fanboi too. Know Johnny? Watch his MIX talk. Don’t know him yet? Check his TED talk first, which was worthy of a standing ovation. Johnny on the future of HCI: Dive off today’s local maxima. Want more HCI? Follow UIST, SigGraph, SigCHI, UBICOMP.

    Joe Fletcher MIX09 Surface Session - already online!
    3. Joe Fletcher Surface Session - online!

    3. Joseph Fletcher delivered a mightily polished Touch Computing presentation yesterday, and the session video is already online! Surface UX is “Hyper-real,” and Surface is Social, Seamless, Spatial.

    4. MmmmmUrl

    4. Purdy & Sells delivered an energetic talk on their RESTful DSL MUrl. Interested in languages, human and machine? “Oslo” and “M” are sexy. Probably this a good place to start. Their MIX09 Session is here.

    Back to the Drawing Board - Literally

    Bill Buxton during the second MIX09 keynote
    Bill Buxton during the second MIX09 keynote

    To sum it up, there are four things I carried away from MIX09:

    1. Bill Buxton urges us to focus on people, and craft our technology with informed design.
    2. Johnny Lee says we’ll need to get off our local maxima and be uncomfortable before we can progress.
    3. Joseph Fletcher and his team want to invent a totally new paradigm.
    4. Purdy and Sells were among speakers and teams too numerous to mention who introduced potentially game-changing technologies with which we can innovate.

    This reaction in our community is consistent with the global sense of a need for something new.  Put simply, the status quo isn’t good enough any more.

    This message was embodied by Deborah Adler.  There’s a reason why Microsoft so boldly chose to focus half a keynote on Ms. Adler’s contribution — it’s time for us to stop thinking like techies, and start thinking about the people using our creations, and the contexts in which they’ll be using them.

    To get there, we were all encouraged to use unconventional tools, and reminded that big ideas can come from going back to basics: a sheet of paper and a decent pen.

    I’m sure I’ll see more techies at the local cafe, rubbing elbows with thinkers who have always used these basic methods to achieve greatness.

    Until Next Year…

    As I type, the sessions are coming online at the VisitMIX site. Through a fog of tweets and jetlag this morning in Toronto, I was struck hard that MIX has made me want to return to doing the stuff that brought me here in the first place, whatever that means for me in 2009.

    I want to extend my thanks to the organizers of MIX for so much inspiration, and to the Microsoft Canada team for letting me share MIX09 with you.

    MIX09 boldly declared that “The Next Web” is a place where design matters.  We were taught to seek returns on user experiences, and think first about how our creations influence lives.  This is a future I want to help invent.

    Looking forward to continuing the discussion. You can always find me at

  • Canadian UX Blog

    EnergizeIT Kitchener and London


    This week Rod, Joey and I kicked off the EnergizeIT tour on the west coast. Joey showed you the Road Warrior Office we had in London. Here, let me show you some pictures from our  User Group, Student Connection, and EnergizeIT events.

    Below Left - Rod is getting ready to start the Future of the Platform user group connection in Kitchener.

    Below right – user group members are sitting around the collaboration tables listening to Rod’s talk.

    DSCN0392 DSCN0394

    Below Left - Rod and Barnaby are answering user group audience questions on IPv6.

    Below right – We saw Ruth at the Kitchener event. She is now a proud mom of twin boys and we are looking forward to having her back on our team in the summer.

    DSCN0399 DSCN0403

    Below Left – I’m demoing the new Window 7 user experience at the EnergizeIT main event: From the Client to Cloud in London  last night.

    Below right – We had a full house at London EnergizeIT event. They are listening to Joey’s demo on Windows Azure attentively.

     DSCN0405 DSCN0406

    Below Left and right – We are at Fanshawe College talking to students about new technology trends from Microsoft and career in IT.


    We are taking a break now before heading over to Fanshawe college again for the London user group event  tonight.

    Next week, Rod, John Bristowe and I are going to be in Calgary for EnergizeIT Calgary. Looking forward to see all of you in Calgary!

    Technorati Tags: ,
  • Canadian UX Blog

    Design Principles at Microsoft


    Functioning Form is one of my favorite design blogs, last Friday author Luke Wroblewski summarized Design Principles from three Microsoft products: Windows 7, Office 2007, and Surface, which I reposted below. I’ve also included the MIX sessions that talk about the design thinking behind each of these products in detail.

    While Microsoft itself admits to design challenges in some of their products, the places where I saw design principles in use produced some pretty interesting product designs. In particular: Windows 7 Desktop, Office 2007, and Microsoft Surface.
    For the Windows 7 desktop design,
    Stephan Hoefnagel showed the following principles in action:

    1. Reduce concepts to increase confidence
    2. Small things matter, good and bad
    3. Solve distractions, not discoverability
    4. Time matters, build for people on the go
    5. Value the full lifecycle of the experience
    6. Be great at “look” and “do”


    For the Microsoft Office 2007 redesign, Jensen Harris illustrated how these “design tenants” helped the team make effective decisions:
    1. A person’s focus should be on their content, not on the UI. Help people work without interference.
    2. Reduce the number of choices presented at any given time.
    3. Increase efficiency.
    4. Embrace consistency, but not homogeneity.
    5. Give features a permanent home. Prefer consistent-location UI over “smart” UI.
    6. Straightforward is better than clever.


    For Microsoft Surface, Joseph Fletcher mentioned how a set of principles for Natural User Interfaces (NUIs) and “super principles” for Microsoft Surface helped the team design.
    Natural User Interfaces should be:
    • Evocative: Principle of Performance Aesthetics
    • Unmediated: Principle of Direct Manipulation
    • Fast Few: Principles of Scaffolding
    • Contextual: Principle of Contextual Environments
    • Intuition: Principle of Super Real
    Microsoft Surface should be:
    • Social: multiple simultaneous users
    • Seamless: digital & physical combined
    • Spatial: kinesiology


  • Canadian UX Blog

    Blending Physical and Virtual Reality


    If you haven’t seen the video below, you have to check it out! It’s one of the coolest Surface demos I’ve seen. Adding physics engine to virtual objects really blurs the line between physical and virtual objects. It’s quite magical that you can draw a simple circle and turn it into a magnetic field where both physical and virtual objects can react to it. I wonder how this could be use to teach intro Physics class and I also wonder how we can create a Surface Jenga game where we have both physical and virtual blocks. :)

    DaVinci (Microsoft Surface Physics Illustrator) from Razorfish - Emerging Experiences on Vimeo.


  • Canadian UX Blog

    Do you know about these programs?


    The past two days, our team came together and did the EnergizeIT dryrun. After a month of hard work, it was very exciting to see all the presentations and demos came to live. As I was preparing for the Student Connection presentation, I collected a list of programs that you as students can benefit from to start preparing your skills, connecting with the technical community, and share your passions online. Here are some examples you may not know. The bottom two are for everyone.  My colleague John Bristowe has a comprehensive Microsoft academic program list here.

    Do you want to start a tech club? We have a service called “Student Tech club” that can help you set up your club website. There are out of box features like blog, calendar, and forum you can use to start up a club in no time.


    Do you want to join an open source project to prove your skills? CodePlex is our open source projects hosting web site, where you can start a new project, join an existing project, and try out the software created by community. For example there are tons of .NET development projects that you can join to prove your skills as a developer.


    Why not start a blog to share your passion for design, development, or a particular technology? Windows Live writer is easy to link to your Live Space or other blog hosts. You can create rich blog posts by linking photo albums, videos, maps,…and it’s what we use for writing all the blog posts.


  • Canadian UX Blog

    Vote for Your Favourite IgniteIT Submissions



    Back in January, I talked about IgniteIT award and encouraged you to submit your projects. IgniteIT is an award that recognizes and rewards the efforts of people working in the Canadian IT field who are doing great work. Now the voting for the IgniteIT award is open! You can vote till Mar. 31. Make sure you vote for your favorite submissions including your own project and let your friends know about it. According to the voting rule:

    You can vote for as many as you like—or you can just click “Vote for all your favourites”—but you can’t vote for the same submission twice in one day. Rankings could change every day until voting ends on March 31, so bookmark this page and return often to help us recognize the top Canadian IT Professional and Developer. You could win a Microsoft Zune.
    Our judges will pick the final winners from the five IT Pros and 5 Developers with the most votes, so be sure to come back in May to see who won.

    I’m going to cast my vote now. :-)

    Technorati Tags: ,,
Page 1 of 1 (20 items)