April, 2009

  • Canadian UX Blog

    Mini-Demo: Windows 7 Desktop


    As we are wrapping up all our EnergizeIT events this week, I thought to record my demo on Windows 7 Desktop for those of you who couldn’t make the event and would like to take a look. In the 20 mins demo below, I showed the things I like about Win7 from a everyday user perspective.

    • Personalization: desktop theme, User Access Control, Super Taskbar
    • Productivity: Windows management (Aero Snap, Aero Shake, and Aero Peek), document management, Win+P, default printer management
    • Connection: Search Connector

    If you want to hear about the design story behind, make sure you check out the “Designing Windows 7 Desktop Experience” presentation at MIX. There are other important features in Windows 7 such as HomeGroup and Troubleshooting that are not include in this demo, but they are nicely included in a list of Win7 learning snacks here and here. Enjoy Windows 7 and let us know what do you think!

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  • Canadian UX Blog

    Check Out the New Silverlight Blog!



    Hard to keep up with what’s new in Silverlight and Expression? Check out the Silverlight blog with it’s new design! I like the graphics design on the blog because it gives me a playful feeling. After all, learning new technology should be playful and fun. :-)

    Here’s what you can expect from the blog:

    “The focus for this blog is to provide you the latest news and information regarding everything in the Silverlight ecosystem. The platform, the tools, case studies, news on the latest live customer sites, the designer/developer workflow, in fact over the coming weeks, months and years you can think of this blog as the pulse of the Silverlight team. Find out what’s going on as it’s happens.

    A key goal of this blog is to provide a gateway to help you to not only fully understand the value of the Silverlight platform but also how you maximize your success when you deploy a Silverlight solution and alongside that we also want to make sure you have a great experience along the way. Keeping you aware of the latest up to date information on the platform and tools is one of the ways to enable this and make sure you are on the road to achieve great results with the Silverlight platform.”

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  • Canadian UX Blog

    Expression Resource for Designers


    In the last Silverlight User Group meeting, someone asked me about Expression and Silverlight resources for designers. Here’s a list of resources that my friend Arturo Toledo at Expression marketing team provided.

    expression.microsoft.com – Expression Community Site with all sorts of resources

    microsoft.com/expression – Expression Marketing Site  with good demo videos

    microsoft.com/video – Look under the Expression channel (150+ videos)

    nibblestutorials.net – From Celso Gomes, Designer in the Expression Blend team

    kirupa.com/blend_silverlight – From Kirupa, Expression Blend PM and very popular in the Flash community

    kirupa.com/blend_wpf – From Kirupa, Expression Blend PM and very popular in the Flash community

    blogs.msdn.com/expression – The Expression Blend team blog. Great resources and posts.

    blog.nerdplusart.com - Robby Ingebretsen’s site with blog and lab section.

    SilverZine.com – Alex Knight brings us this great online resource for Designers


  • Canadian UX Blog

    Blog on UX Quotes

    I was looking for a good UX quote yesterday and discovered the “inspireUX” blog which is dedicated for UX Design quotes. The latest quote is from Bill Buxton at CHI. It's a good resource for getting words of wisdom and inspiration regarding design. The author of the blog also created UX quote cards that you can print them out and share around. LukeW also has a collection of Interface Design quote on his blog. If you are looking to explain UX at your company, these quotes may come in really handy. :)  

    image image

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  • Canadian UX Blog

    All About Mobile


    As I was doing my daily reading this morning, I came across three presentations related to mobile design. BBC news today also had a article on Mobile Web experience. It seems everyone is excited about the future of mobile devices and what they can do to improve our on-the-go life style. Each of the presentation below offers some valuable information on the subject.

    Designer John Pettengill from Razorfish raises an important point of a “water-down internet” is not the future of mobile web and encourages designers to think about designing unique experiences that can take advantage of a mobile device such as location-aware web applications. 

    My colleague Joey DeVilla posted the below short presentation on the “Five Subtle Interface Changes in Windows Mobile 6.5” on the developer blog. I really enjoyed the 5-min comparison between the  6.1 interface and the 6.5 interface. These changes may be subtle but they improve user’s overall productivity in a big way. Just image how many times you browsing through the different menus on your phone everyday. If every time, the new interface saves you 0.5 second, you probably have time to check couple of more emails or listen to more music everyday.

    Windows Mobile 6.5: Five Subtle Interface Changes

    Professor Pattie Maes’s presentation at this year’s TED was discussed at the IxDA forum yesterday. It’s an inspiration look at what we can do with mobile devices or wearable technologies. I’m fascinated by the idea of accessing information at your finger tip (literally!) and combining natural gesture interaction with smart object recognition. Check out the really cool demos in the presentation!

    Pattie Maes & Pranav Mistry: Unveiling the "Sixth Sense," game-changing wearable tech

  • Canadian UX Blog

    Design Student of the Month – Sara Salevati


    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 April 2009 is Sara Salevati! Congratulations!! Let's hear from Sara.


    Who’s Sara?

    My name is Sara Salevati and I am a designer in my first year Masters of Applied Arts program at the Emily Carr University of Art and Design in Vancouver. Prior to enrolling at Emily Carr, I have completed my Bachelors degree in Interaction Design at Simon Fraser University.

    My interest is interaction and user experience design. My design projects evolve through a process of discovery grounded in research, beginning in qualitative observations and look beyond the surface of human behavior to find deeper clues to help foster the creation of more meaningful experiences. My design practices cover a variety of disciplines such as designing for children, real estate, home, communications and environments.

    What cool stuff is Sara doing?

    One of my research initiatives focuses on design for health and wellness involving the BC Children’s Hospital. I am pursuing research and new ideas for enhancing the healthcare experience for children. The project focuses on the strengthening of the perception of the hospital environment as a more comfortable, safe and fun place for children. Throughout this research project I will investigate and develop strategies to transform a typically unsettling and worrisome hospital experience to one that is more humane and friendly by creating surroundings that calm patients, strengthen their coping resources, and make their entire experience within the hospital more comfortable. I am particularly interested in exploring design interventions that have the potential to trigger an emotional response through sights, sounds, textures and movement.

    I am also researching the integration of space and experience design; using Interaction Design as a tool for understanding and transforming a public place. I am investigating environments that enhance and encourage responsive behavior from their inhabitants. Through the project “enticity” I focus on the idea of introducing a design scheme within a public square that will pioneer an interaction between the passers-by and the occupants of this environment. The challenge is to develop the design in a way that will be valuable to the diverse ethnicity and age groups of the population that inhabit this space. The goal is making this space inviting for people to use in ways other than just a passageway; thus to improve and enhance their experience in the square, having people use this space to stop and relax, share stories, educate, celebrate diversity and strengthen their sense of community.

    What are Sara’s plans after graduation?

    In the future I would like to work in an interdisciplinary design consultancy or a company with a strong focus in user experience design.

    Want to learn more about Sara?

    If you would like to learn more about me or my work please email me at ssalevati@ecuad.ca.

  • Canadian UX Blog

    Webby Award Powered by Silverlight



    Webby Award is like the Oscar Awards for internet creations. It is the largest, most prestigious international Awards Program for the Web. Yesterday, the People’s Voice Awards aspect of this year’s Webby Awards went live at www.webbyawards.com.  Approximately 150 videos are being streamed in Silverlight over 130 sub-categories under Websites, Mobile, Film and Video, and Interactive Advertising. You can vote your favorites on your website. I found it’s a great source for design  inspiration and discover interesting projects like Nokia viNe.

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  • Canadian UX Blog

    New Design for MSDN Newsletter



    Yesterday we sent out our newly designed MSDN Developer Newsletter. Many of you have already sent your feedback on the new design. Thank you! As you probably noticed, the newsletter is in Beta format now, so we’ll review all your feedback and continue improving the newsletter design and content.

    This is a significant milestone of our journey to provide you a great online experience. We want to help you connect with our Community Evangelism team and Microsoft at large. There are three major challenges we faced when re-designing the newsletter:

    • MSDN newsletter in Canada has 55K subscribers including developers, architects, IT pros, and designers. How do we design for the mass audience with different needs and tastes?
    • This newsletter is just part of the overall online experience, so how do we design it so that it remains connected (both visual and contextual) to other MSDN online properties such as MSDN blogs and the MSDN portal?
    • This is our first major redesign in 5 years and there were many technical challenges we needed to overcome at the backend. More importantly, we want to make sure the new design still retains a sense of familiarity to regular newsletter readers.

    Here, let me share with you our rationales for the new design and how we addressed the above challenges. 

    Structure: in order to design a more usable and useful newsletter for our many subscribers, we analyzed usage data of the old newsletter and conducted informal interviews with our readers.There was an overwhelming amount of information in the old design (6 pages long with content and links), so it was very hard for readers to navigate and find relevant information. In the new design, we limited the length of the newsletter to be 2 pages and presented content in a clear and easy to digest fashion.

    Relevance: because the old design lacked a clear structure, it was hard to find relevant content. In the new design, we used peer review to pick out the relevant technical content and focused more on local content such as local event, news, and community activities near our readers.

    Integration:  from the new design, readers can connect to MSDN portal directly. The header of the newsletter mirrors the look and feel of the MSDN portal as well. In addition, readers can connect to one of the local Microsoft community blogs in the blog section.

    Interaction: making the newsletter a two-way dialogue is our goal. In addition to making giving feedback easier, we added an interactive poll in the new design so that both our team and our readers can gain insights about the Canadian developer community on popular topics.

    I hope this gives you some insights on why we re-designed the newsletter the way we did. However, we want you to be part of the journey as your experience matters. Feel free to share your feedback by commenting on this post or drop me an email (qixing.zheng at microsoft.com).

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  • Canadian UX Blog

    WIT Webcast Summary and Answers to Your Questions



    Yesterday we successfully conducted the Women in IT Panel Discussion webcast, which is a new addition to the Ignite Your Career webcast series this year. Thanks for everyone’s participation in the webcast! It was great conversation, and all the panelists and I had a lot of fun being part of it. We had about 70 people tuned in live and received many valuable questions from you. I’ve written a summary of the webcast below to share with you. For those of you who couldn’t make the webcast, you can listen to the webcast on-demand here.

    Topics discussed in the webcast

    • Key career skills women in IT are lacking and how to improve them? e.g. networking and Negotiation skills
    • Tips on promoting your accomplishments without feeling "bragging"
    • Advice for women new to IT to prove themselves among their peers who are often men
    • Tips on balancing work and family
    • suggestions for initiating a mentoring relationship
    • ways to encourage girls getting into the field of IT


    WIT Groups


    Unanswered questions from the webcast

    I’ve asked the panelists to address the following questions that we didn’t have time to answer during the webcast.

    • How can we still get the same respect as our male counterparts when sometimes we have to take more family responsibilities?
    • Elisabeth: Over 24 years in this industry and as a business owner I have seen a big shift in dads taking on the traditional dentist appt. and sick child caregiver role (even if they can’t deliver babies just yet).  I don’t see this as a respect issue but more of a logistical one. As we discussed earlier in the webcast this industry is full of options for mobility in the workforce and this applies to both sexes. Employers are far more open to doing so and men as much as women are taking advantage of that. I do believe more women need to actually sit down and openly discuss dividing the responsibilities with their partner. This way both will have the opportunity to take on greater responsibilities and grow in their careers. 

      Betty: I think the fact that men take more of a role in parenting has blossomed as men are offered paternity leave the same as women are offered maternity leave. Finally the role of both parents is being recognized in a child’s development and this is a wonderful thing. As the parenting roles are more shared, then that leaves room for career goals to be expanded. As more men understand the tremendous amount of work that is involved in parenting, the respect should follow.

      Shann:  I would suggest starting with the assumption that you have the same level of respect and then you maintain it through consistently delivering quality and innovation in your work.  This is different than ‘earning it’ where the assumption is the starting point is 0.  I have also see this one changing quite a bit over the years and have had many experiences where men take their share of time for parental leaves and/or sick days to take care of family.

    • I’ve been recently promoted to a new role with lots of new technical knowledge to master. I’m excited but feeling overwhelmed. Do you have any tip on keeping up with the latest technology needs in this field?
    • Elisabeth: I’m always on the lookout for new technology and tech trends.  Staying ahead successfully means devoting some time to reviewing upcoming products and if it’s something I believe has a potential to become mainstream I get as familiar with it as I can (mastering if necessary). One great opportunity to get a good grounding is by participating in Microsoft or other vendors beta programs.

      Betty: I am currently mentoring a former work associate. She used to work for us, she now works for an affiliated group. She is being asked to take on more of the role of IT. Unfortunately, she does not have a lot of formal training but she is a very quick learner. So far I have offered a couple of things. First if she has a problem that she cannot solve, she can call us and ask our opinion. Often we are able to assist. Second, she has been invited to become a member of the Edmonton Microsoft User Group, and she has attended a couple of meetings so far. Third, I have a computer lab set up in my basement, and she is welcome to come over and try out things. Often you need to break things before you learn to do it right. Also I am wanting to set up a Girl Geek Dinner in the Edmonton area. I think I might set up a Facebook group or something similar to gauge interest. Getting a Technet or MSDN membership and getting involved in Beta-testing software is the easiest way to keep up on the latest software technologies.

      Shann: Taking another  page from the reference to Malcolm Gladwell in his book “The Tipping Point”, find a “maven” – the person who is the guru at spotting the new trends/products/gadgets etc.  They love to share and it makes it easy for you to distill the info about the new technology quickly.

    • How important are certifications or diplomas in my career growth?
    • Elisabeth: I am still certifying myself in new areas and updating others as we speak because people in the industry know that this process assures some degree of technical expertise having been meant. It also shows that you are taking the time, effort and expense to develop that  expertise because you believe your knowledgeable is worth something and clients will look to that as well as prospective employers. You don’t hire an accountant, dentist or lawyer without it and certainly when I get a CV it’s the first thing I scan for. 

      Betty: I currently hold MCP designation passing my most recent exam in June 2008. I keep learning and trying to keep current. Certification is one of those ways, but nothing beats practical experience.

      Also, listen to Mark Relph’s interview with Shane Schick on the Myths & Realities of the IT Skills & Talent landscape in Canada.  Part 4 is Myth 4 – Certifications Aren’t Worth It.

    • I work for a very small business and I am the only person without kids. I find myself working longer hours and taking less time off than my colleagues who may need to leave early because their kids are sick, etc. How can I can bring this up with my boss without sounding like I'm complaining?
    • Elisabeth: Even colleagues with kids may not stay later (or leave earlier), but end up working from home to make up for it (often till the wee hours), so first be careful to make sure that they aren’t actually banking as many (or more) hours as you think.  That can bury you in a heartbeat.  If in fact they aren’t pulling the same load then talk to your boss about the additional time that you “happily invest in their business” and perhaps taking a day or afternoon once a month so that you can keep up on industry trends or just to reinvigorate.   A smart business owner who values their employees will see this as an opportunity to show their appreciation, so long as the employee is truly making that extra effort.

      Betty: In this organization this is not really an issue. We end up earning a lot of overtime hours which becomes banked time. Those who have to take time off for their kids can use their banked time. For myself, I can use my banked time for other pursuits, such as shopping. J It can even itself out.

      Shann: I know this one from personal experience.  I often ended up with the work to do on tight deadlines because I didn’t have kids to get home.  The important thing for me was to focus on what I was doing, how much of my time I was willing to offer up to the company and how that aligned to my personal and professional goals.  The easiest conversation to have with your boss will come from explaining the extra time and effort you make and the results you drive for the company and not a comparison with how much time your peers spend at the office.

    • Mentoring was a popular topic at yesterday’s webcast. Shann has kindly provided following suggested questions to prepare you for meeting with a mentor.

      • What is it about the mentor’s approach, experience, knowledge, etc that you want learn from?

      • What would you like to achieve through the mentoring meetings? How would you define success of the mentoring relationship?

      • What are the areas/goals that are most important to you at this time?

      • Are there any areas that currently concern you/do you have inhibitors identified?

      • What other areas of help do you want the mentor to assist with?

    Let’s keep the conversation going. Feel free to comment on this post or reach out to me directly (qixing.zheng@microsoft.com) if you have further questions for the panelists or feedback to this webcast.

  • Canadian UX Blog

    MIX09 Debrief at the Next Silverlight User Group Meeting


    We had several Toronto Silverlight User Group members attended MIX09 last month in Vegas. In the next meeting, they are going to share with us what they heard, learnt, and experienced. Check out the agenda below.


    It’s at 222 Bay St. 12th floor, and don’t forget to register at: http://www.torontosilverlight.com/

  • Canadian UX Blog

    Line of Business Silverlight Apps that Rock


    Silverlight, Microsoft’s plug-in for delivering cross-platform Rich Internet Applications (RIA) and experiences has been out for a while now.  The first, JavaScript-only version was released at Microsoft’s MIX07 conference in May of 2007.  Subsequently, Silverlight 2 (the first .NET-enabled version) was released as a go-live technology shortly following the 2008 Beijing Olympics where the beta version of Silverlight 2 had a stellar performance providing a truly immersive experience for viewing the Olympics online.  Silverlight 3, the newly announced next version of the plug-in was introduced in beta version at MIX09 back in March of this year has provided increased buzz and is looking like a very promising, forward-looking platform for RIA experiences.

    Given the amount of time the platform has now been available, we’re starting to see some incredible creativity and very focused, user-centric applications being built for Silverlight.  I’m very excited about many of these applications and solutions for both business and consumer scenarios and I want to share some of these great experiences with you.  This first post will be about business-oriented Silverlight applications and a subsequent post will highlight some consumer-oriented applications.

    It used to be that most rich experiences on the web were focused on public-facing or consumer-based applications.  It makes sense; we often see user-centric innovation outside the firewall before we see it inside due to the cost of re-vamping existing line of business applications as well as focusing investment on activities that directly impact customers positively.  While that is certainly still true, we are seeing business from all sorts of industries adopting user-centric software platforms for internal applications as well as customer-facing business applications.  Below are examples of how you could implement some business-oriented experiences in Silverlight:

    The Patient Journey Demonstrator 


    Industry Vertical:  Healthcare
    Focus:  Internal LOB Application

    The Patient Journey Demonstrator is a Silverlight 2 application built by the Microsoft Common User Interface team to demonstrate how Silverlight can positively enable patient management in healthcare scenarios.
    Industry Vertical:  Financial Services
    Focus:  Customer-Facing Application

    The Woodgrove Financial demo application (built by Infusion)was built to provide inspiration as to how you might be able to deliver a rich experience to customers using an online banking system.  While it is likely that an online banking site would not be built entirely in Silverlight, it is very interesting to see how a bank might implement important pieces of functionality with Silverlight to create a customer-focused experience.
    Woodgrove Financial


    Stock Trader Reference Application


    Industry Vertical:  Financial Services
    Focus:  Customer & Internal LOB Application

    The Stock Trader Reference Application is included in the Microsoft Patterns & Practices team’s Composite Application Guidance for WPF and Silverlight.  This application is meant to be a demonstration of the types of applications you can build using a composite architecture (i.e.:  modularizing your UI into components to make it more manageable, maintainable and reusable).
    Industry Vertical:  Manufacturing
    Focus:  Internal LOB Application

    The Factories Map application demo built by ComponentOne is a mashup using Virtual Earth, Silverlight (via the Virtual Earth Silverlight Map Control) and internal data to provide a visualization of where a company’s assets are located worldwide as well as provide efficiency and productivity data for its factories.  The power of this demo is in the ability for solution providers to provide effective data visualization solutions at the fingertips of employees.
    Factories Map


    Stock Portfolio


    Industry Vertical:  Financial Services
    Focus:  Customer & Internal LOB Application

    Another demo application delivered by ComponentOne is the Stock Portfolio application.  The scenario to this application is similar to that of the Stock Trader Reference Application above, but the implementation is different and shows how you can deliver an effective user interface for stock traders through data visualization and UI customization through various different and disparate data feeds.

    These are just a few of the LOB-focused applications we are seeing built in Silverlight.  If you have an LOB application built in Silverlight that you would like to share, please let me know by commenting!


  • Canadian UX Blog

    Competition Alert: Let Imagine Cup Worldwide Finals Website be Your Design!


    imageDuring EnergizeIT Student Connection events, I’ve been talking about various ways students can demonstrate their technical and career skills. Joining technology competition is a great way to prove your skills and raise the visibility of your work. Imagine Cup is the largest student competition we run every year, which attracts students from more than 100 countries participating in the competition. Although most of the competition deadlines are closed now, last week we announced a new competition - Worldwide Finals Website Design.

    We are searching for a brand new look for our Imagine Cup Worldwide Final website -something new, fun and exciting! The winner's design will be used to exclusively promote the Worldwide Finals in Cairo, Egypt. The winning design will also be featured on the Imagine Cup site beginning at the end of May and through July 9, 2009! This competition is open to all Imagine Cup registered students! You do not need to be signed up for an Imagine Cup competition or award to participate.

    Deadline: All entries must be submitted between April 1, 2009 and April 30, 2009.  This could be your chance to demonstrate your design skills to the world. :-)

  • Canadian UX Blog

    EnergizeIT in Calgary


    We are in Calgary this week for EnergizeIT. The post below was published by my colleague Rodney Buike last night on stage  when showing the rich blogging features of Window Live Writer – killing two birds with one stone. :)


    Today John Bristowe, Qixing Zheng and myself are at the lovely Hotel Arts in Calgary for EnergizeIT.  It has been a busy few days so far that started with a visit with some students at SAIT on Tuesday afternoon.  It was great to talk to the students and faculty about some of the new technologies such as Windows 7 and Azure as well as the ICT job landscape in Canada and tools and programs available to help them be successful when they graduate.

    We followed this up with a stop at the Calgary IT Pro Community last night for a user group session covering Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2.  There was a lot of great discussion around IPv6, Branch Cache and general excitement over Windows 7.

    Today Qixing and I hoped in a cab and camped out at the Hotel Arts, which is aptly named with its collection of art pieces prominently displayed throughout the premises including this incredible blown glass display hanging from the ceiling.


    We were a little embarrassed at taking a cab when we found out it was only 5 blocks from our hotel!

    Map picture

    During the afternoon Craig Gibson and John Bristowe delivered the Architecting Flexibility portion of Energize IT and they did a great job! 

    DSC_0004 (2)

    Once they were done it was time for us to setup for the evening session “From the Client to the Cloud” where we covered a broad range of topics related to S+S, or Software + Services, which is Microsoft’s approach to cloud computing.

    View EnergizeIT Calgary

    View Full Album

    Qixing wowed people with some great demos on Windows 7 and right now I am posting this blog entry live from EnergizeIT Calgary as an example of a consumer S+S solution, Windows Live Writer and Community Server (the platform for blogs.technet.com) after editing the photos I took in Windows Live Photo Gallery!

    You’ll see the rest of the photos from the day in the EnergizeIT pool on Flickr! and get the informational PowerPoint here.

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