September, 2009

  • Canadian UX Blog

    Introducing WebsiteSpark


    Crosspost from Developer Connections blog…

    What is WebsiteSpark?

    If you run or work at a small web design or development firm, WebsiteSpark might be for you! WebsiteSpark is Microsoft’s new global program who goal is to help small web companies succeed.

    What do you get with WebsiteSpark? I put together a little graphic that explains it pretty quickly:

    What you get with WebsiteSpark: Visibility, support and tools

    • Visibility: By being showcased in the WebsiteSpark marketplace as well as through opportunities creating through The Empire’s marketing and business networking programs.

    • Support: You’ll get hooked up with an entire ecosystem of Microsoft support, network and hosting partners, and web developers and designers so you have a wide range of technical and business resources.

    • Tools: Full-on access to full versions of current Microsoft web tools and technologies, such as the goodies listed below:

    What You Get

    What It Is

    Microsoft Silverlight


    For building rich internet applications that can do multimedia, access data from the web and can also be run on the desktop.

    Microsoft Expression


    A suite of tools for building websites, user interfaces for Silverlight and desktop applications, making web and application graphics, encoding video and building prototype applications in a hurry.

    You get:

    - 1 user licence for Expression Studio

    - Up to 2 user licences for Expression Web

    Microsoft SQL Server 2008

    SQL Server Web Edition 

    Microsoft’s database platform for data needs of all sizes, from the simplest web form to full-on enterprise applications.

    You get a 4-processor licence of SQL Server 2008 Web Edition.

    Windows Server 2008

    Windows Server 2008 (and 2008 R2 when it becomes available)

    A server that’s both powerful and easy to maintain, featuring the IIS 7 web server and the Web Platform Installer, which makes it easy to install and upgrade popular web applications.

    You get a 4-processor licence of Windows Server 2008 (and for 2008 R2 when it comes out).

    Microsoft Visual Studio

    Visual Studio Professional

    The IDE (integrated development environment) that has it all.

    You get up to 3 user licences of Visual Studio Pro.

    Are You Eligible to Join WebsiteSpark? The number 2 If you can answer “yes” to the two questions below, you are!

      1. Is your company a professional service firm whose primary business is providing Web development and design services for its clients?

      2. Does your company have 10 or fewer people, including owners and employees?

          Once you join WebsiteSpark, there’s a simple obligation: in order to continue participating in WebsiteSpark, you must deploy a new public, internet-accessible website developed using the tools and tech given to you by WebsiteSpark within 6 months of joining.

          You can stay in WebsiteSpark for up to 3 years. On the first and second anniversary of your initial enrollment, you must update it – that is, confirm your company hasn’t gone public or its ownership hasn't changed.

          I Don’t Have a Fee-For-Service Web Shop, I Have a Startup. Can I Get in on This?

          No, but we have a program for you – it’s called BizSpark.

          I’m a Student and Have Limited Money, and It’s for Books and Beer. Can I Get in on This?

          Dude, we have something just for you! It’s called DreamSpark.

          How Do You Find Out More?

          The details about the program are at the WebsiteSpark site. Check it out, and if it’s right for you, sign up!

          Visit WebsiteSpark now!

          [This article also appears in Joey’s personal tech blog, Global Nerdy.]

        Technorati Tags: ,
      3. Canadian UX Blog

        [Mini-Tutorial] Creating a Reusable Glossy Button in Blend


        Creating a button is the “Hello World” example of learning Blend. In this tutorial, I’ll show to how to create a reusable glossy button with Expression Blend 3. The concepts I’ll be covering are:

        • using gradient brush to create glossy effect
        • turning graphics into a control
        • editing a button control template
        • applying drop effects to an object
        • editing visual states and transition between states


        You can also download the video here.

        Technorati Tags: ,
      4. Canadian UX Blog

        Design Student of the Month - Kamilla Nikolaev


        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 September 2009 is Kamilla Nikolaev. Congratulations!! Let's hear from Kamilla.



        Who’s Kamilla?

        Kamilla Nikolaev is a multi-talented, Uzbek-Russian Canadian who is a graphic designer, web designer, visual artist, musician, songwriter, and poet. Her designs are defined by rich digital environments that blend form, sound, and music. Kamilla came to Canada four and a half years ago as part of her father's family, who immigrated from Uzbekistan. By then, she had already graduated with Bachelor degrees from an English Philology University in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, and a Civil Law Academy in Moscow, Russia.

        What cool stuff is Kamilla doing?

        With the change of the country, it only felt natural to try something new in the professional field as well, and since visual arts and graphic design have always been Kamilla's passion, she entered the George Brown College's School of Design, which she has completed 3 years later with a Dean's Award and the highest grades in her class.

        Kamilla has started working in the field of graphic and web design as early as in the first year of design school, after winning a design competition. She has done dozens of freelance projects and worked part-time at the Institute without Boundaries, art-directing and designing many interesting projects, among which are, the official website of the award-winning Canühome project by CMHC and the Institute without Boundaries;, the website of the unique World House Project; many designer, architectural, and artist portfolios such as,,,, Here’s a video montage of demonstrating some of Kamilla's projects.

        In the 2008–2009, as part of the post-graduate student team at the Institute without Boundaries, Kamilla has worked on the Renovate Your Neighbourhood program for urban renewal. The team worked with the high-profile clients Habitat for Humanity and Evergreen to create a 5-phase, community-based program which included a retail plan, an outreach campaign and a catalogue of renovation project ideas. The program proposed that urban spaces are a collective responsibility—one that is shared between municipalities, corporations, institutions, non-profit agencies and residents. It aimed to stimulate urban renewal by empmowering citizens to implement simple projects within their constituencies. More information about the program, which will be exhibited in Toronto's City Hall in September, can be found on and

        What are Kamilla’s plans after graduation?

        Kamilla continues to work on her freelance projects and has just been hired as Senior Creative Designer with the advertising agency PPX. She thinks this is a great opportunity to learn about the business side of design.

        Want to learn more about Kamilla?

      5. Canadian UX Blog

        Your Satisfaction Matters!


        Mum's 70th BirthdayHi Everyone,

        I’m John Oxley and for those that don’t know me, I’m the Director of the Technical Audience team at Microsoft Canada.  I manage a team of technical audience marketing managers and technology evangelists that reach out, support and connect with the ICT community. The team is all about empowering your success, helping you make connections, grow your skills and enabling you in your role.  From student to CIO, Developer to IT Pro, my teams mission is to build your trust.  We endeavour to support you in a manner to earn your satisfaction, gain insight on how we can improve as a company and drive platform adoption.  Our focus is not revenue and we don’t have any utilization targets. Twice a year there are two surveys that go out to measure our impact.  They are sent out in an online manner in the fall and early spring.  One survey focuses on developers, to gauge their level of satisfaction with Microsoft (as a company, resources and products) and understand the technologies they use.  The other is a global relationship survey in which we use to gain your feedback and understand your level of satisfaction with our resources, team and support. 

        I’m sure you can see, given the size of the country this isn’t an easy mission.  Yet as it is you that brings the magic of software alive, we aspire to earn your trust so you are very satisfied with your relationship with Microsoft.  We do this by listening to you, trying understand what we can do better and being an active participant in the ICT ecosystem.  There are many way in which we can help and depending upon the results and your feedback, some we can action right away in Canada and some that we need be your ambassador within Microsoft.  Can you help us, help you?  My ask is two fold

        • If you get the survey please take the time to provide us feedback and if you’re not very satisfied please provide us some guidance. 
        • If you don’t get the survey, and would like to provide feedback, I’m always listening and encourage you to send me an email, call me or connect with me on twitter.

        We need your help to ensure we are doing the right things, investing in the right areas and to grow our understanding on how we can better serve you and support your success. It’s very important to me and my team to earn your trust and understand how to help.  The recent broad positive feedback on TechDays, Align IT, Ignite your Career and other programs give me comfort that we are on the right track…yet when it comes to your satisfaction we don’t want to take anything for granted. 

        Success to us is earning your trust and for you to feel comfortable to express that you are very satisfied with your relationship with Microsoft and you provide feedback on how we can improve. 

        Till next time


        John Oxley

        Director Technical Audience Marketing and Community Evangelism

        Microsoft Canada | Direct (905) 363- 8589|Messenger | twitter:joxley

      6. Canadian UX Blog

        Windows UX Interaction Guidelines


        Slice 1 Windows 7 has been getting very positive feedback for its improved user experience. Many of our partners are eager to build applications on this new windows platform. In order to establish a high quality and consistency basedline for Windows-based applications, answer your UX design questions, and make your job easier, the Windows product team has published the official Windows UX Interaction Guidelines (a.k.a. UX Guide) last month. You can download the comprehensive guide here.

        There’s tons of valuable information in the 828-page guide from general design principles to concrete guidelines for each aspect of UX. In my opinion, the first 32 pages is a great design read which covers the UX design principles for Windows 7, a list of inspirations for how to design a great UX, top design guide violations, and much more. Many of the guidelines apply to software design in general whether you are designing for Windows, the web, or devices. Because Windows 7 also supports multi-touch, there’s a session in the UX guide which specifically focuses on guidelines for Touch Interactions. Below are few examples from the UX Guide to get you interested. I’ll talk more about particular topics in the UX Guide in my future posts. For now, download the UX Guide, use it as one of your design references, and let us know how you like it.

        Example of Windows UX Design Principle - Solve distractions, not discoverability

        • Reduce distractions.
        • Don’t let features compete with themselves.
        • Commit to new functionality.
        • These are not solutions to poor discoverability:
          • Pinning an icon in the Start menu.
          • Putting an icon on the desktop.
          • Putting an icon in the notification area.
          • Using a notification.
          • Having a first run experience.
          • Having a tour.

        Example of Windows UX Design Principle - Life cycle of the experience

        • Consider the user experience at all stages:
          • Installation and creation.
          • First use and customization.
          • Regular use.
          • Management and maintenance.
          • Uninstall or upgrade.
        • Walk through the experience as if it has been used for 12 months. Does it have:
          • Realistic content.
          • Realistic volume

        Example of how to design a great experience - Make the experience like a friendly conversation
        Think of your UI as a conversation between you and your target users. Suppose you’re looking over a user’s
        shoulder and he or she asks, “What do I do here?” Think about the explanation you would give...the steps,
        their order, the language you’d use, and the way you explain things. Also think about what you wouldn’t say.
        That’s what your UI should be—like a conversation between friends—rather than something arcane that
        users have to decipher.

      7. Canadian UX Blog

        TechDays’ Session: Expression Blend for Developers


        TechDays image

        In just less than a week, TechDays will kick off in Vancouver. There are tons of activities happening around TechDays next week, and I’ll be doing a presentation on Expression Blend for Developers. I really enjoy demoing Expression Blend to developers because it brings design into development and engages developers in the practical UI design level. You don’t need to be an artist to use Blend but it’s more important to understand the object model of UI components when using Blend. Developers are often very good at understanding this. Many of the front-end developers are also designers, and my goal of the presentation is to show you:

         Expression Blend is a valuable developer tool that can help you create great UX with better productivity at a lower cost.

        In particular, here are some of the things I’ll cover. It’s a very demo heavy talk.

        • Blend vs. Visual Studio: similarities, differences, and how you can use them together
        • Practical design tips in Blend: create a glassy effect, animation, visual states for controls
        • New features in Blend 3: Behaviors, SketchFlow, Visual Databing with Sample Data

        If you are doing both design and development work, this session will give you a head start into Blend and teach you tricks that can save you lots of coding in Visual Studio. If you are working with designers, this session will help you better understand Blend’s capability and how to work with them efficiently in Blend. It is the second session in the Developing for the Microsoft-Based Plaftform on Sept. 14. Hope to see you there!

        Technorati Tags: ,
      8. Canadian UX Blog

        Explore Design is Back! - Part I


        ED conference banner

        Remember Explore Design? It’s the annual Design Education Fair for Youth. Last year we showed Microsoft Surface, Expression Studio, XNA, etc and invited design leaders from Microsoft Surface and Office teams. This year, we have a even bigger playground at conference by hosting the student lounge.

        Do you want to be among the first to try out some of Microsoft’s coolest new technologies? In the Microsoft Student Lounge this year at ED, we will be showing the next version of Windows, even before it is available in stores. You can interact with Windows 7 with one of our multi-touch screens and check out how the user experience design can make your life easier and help you be more productive. Before coming to ED, why not get a PC Hook-up with Christian Lander? It is a web talk show that guides you through PC culture with humour and crazy guests who discovered the right PC to make their digital dreams come true.

        Also, in the student lounge, we will show Bing, the new web search experience that helps you make better decisions in shopping, travel, health and more. And your design toolbox just got bigger! Check out how you can use Microsoft Expression Studio to create rich interactive experiences on the web, desktop and phone. For all you future game designers out there, we will show you how to create games for XBOX.

        Come to the student lounge to experience digital design, have fun, and win awesome prizes!

      9. Canadian UX Blog

        Upgrade or Migrate from XP or Vista to Windows 7


        As the new school year is starting, I’ve received questions from several faculties and students about upgrading their PC to Windows 7. For example, ‘Shall I do a upgrade or clean install?" Windows 7 Professional is now available on MSDNAA which you download through your schools. For general public, Win7 will soon be available in retail stores on Oct. 22. My colleague Rodney Buike wrote a great post on the topic of moving to Windows 7, which I’m cross-posting here.

        There is a lot of confusion around the upgrade and migration scenarios for people thinking about moving to Windows 7.  You may have seen the eye chart (below) put out by Microsoft that attempted to clear things up but from what I have heard this has caused more confusion rather than clarify things.

        windows-upgrade-chart[1] (2)

        First lets look at the two install types listed in the chart:

        In-Place Upgrade - An In-Place Upgrade is simply inserting the install media and starting an upgrade from within the OS, or by choosing the Upgrade option when booting off the install media.  This will keep all your applications and settings in place and is the most straight forward path.

        Custom Install - I think this is where the confusion lies as Custom Install means a lot of different things and can be accomplished a number of different ways.  The most basic of these installs is to back up all your data, format the hard drive and install the new operating system.  Once that is done you can install your applications, copy your data back and reconfigure your system.  This is the only way to move from 32bit to 64bit and it is also the most time consuming way.

        Personally I always prefer a clean install.  One way to simplify this method, and my preferred way of migrating to a new OS (or even when reinstalling the existing OS) is to use the Windows Easy Transfer utility to backup my existing installation and then restore to the new installation.  On top of backing up all your data Windows Easy Transfer will back up any system customizations (wallpaper, DPI setting, sounds, etc…) along with application settings.  Simply run the tool on the current system and back up to an external device.  Once complete, format your PC and install the OS and then run the tool again to restore.  There is a great write up here detailing the steps on how to use Windows Easy Transfer to backup and restore settings.  This tool can be used in every single one of the custom install options listed in this diagram.

        Now in a corporate environment you are not going to walk around to 5, 10, 100, 1129 computers, run Windows Easy Transfer, install the new OS and then restore the settings are you?  Well you can, or you can take the lazy admin approach and automate things with USMT and MDT.

        Microsoft Deployment Toolkit 2010 is the tool to create custom images for you to deploy onto PCs into your environment.  It is free, currently in Beta 2 which adds support for Windows 7 among other things and can be integrated with Windows Deployment Services (WDS) or System Center Configuration Manager (SCCM) as well.  It can also be integrated with the User State Migration Toolkit 4.0 (USMT).  USMT is Windows Easy Transfer for the enterprise and combined with MDT 2010 allows you to automate the backup, deployment, application/driver installation, and restore the users files and settings.  You can even use this tool to migrate your servers from 32 bit to 64 bit!

        There is a lot of documentation available, a series of videos and a whole day’s worth of sessions at TechDays 2009 that will cover this in depth.  If you want to learn more you can still register for TechDays at

      10. Canadian UX Blog

        Two Interesting Upcoming Presentations This Month


        The new season for user group activities are starting this month. Here are two presentations that you may be interested.


        Four Perspectives on Delivering "Return on Experience" at Metro Toronto .NET User Group

        Time: Wednesday, September 16, 2009 from 6:00 PM - 9:00 PM (ET)

        Location: Manulife Financial, 200 Bloor Street East, Toronto, Ontario M4W 1E5


        We’ve heard a lot recently, from Microsoft and others, about the importance of user experience (UX) and delivering ‘return on experience’ to clients. Tools like Sketchflow for prototyping, Expression Blend for visual design, and frameworks like Silverlight and WPF, are designed to change the way we deliver software projects that incorporate rich and intuitive user experiences.

        The reality, of course, is that there are many stakeholders with different perspectives on this process. This evening, let’s talk about how things really work during project delivery “in the wild”.

        We’ll look at the process of enhancing user experience from four perspectives: a designer, a team lead, a client, and an account manager.  (not personas, but thoughts from real people who have performed or are performing these roles).   We’ll use their perspectives as stepping stones to look at the shifting and often nascent tools and processes, and leave time to discuss the future of delivering user experience with those in attendance.


        Robert Burke is a Toronto-based IT Consultant and Trainer who’s now part of the team at Infusion Development. He was previously a member of Microsoft’s Developer and Platform Group and based in Dublin, where he spend a lot of time focused on Microsoft User Experience technologies and Guinness.  Rob’s background is in artificial intelligence, graphics, and interactive installations, with a dash of biometrics.  For more, please see his blog at and while visiting please forgive the recent obsession with cycling.

        Register for the event.



        Design and the Emotion Commotion - A Counter-Intuitive Emotional Design Approach and its Application to Things to Come  at Rotman School of Management

        Time: Tuesday, September 22, 2009 at 5:00PM (5:00pm Presentation, 6:15pm – 7:15pm Q & A and Reception)

        Location: Rotman DesignWorks, 9 Prince Arthur Avenue (ground floor), Toronto.


        The competitive environment for technology is changing, and its impact on product experience is deep: capabilities, features, and functions are no longer enough. Emotional engagement will distinguish successful consumer experiences of the future. Designing in this world requires we change the way we think about people and products. This presentation provides a brief overview of a counter-intuitive emotional design approach and its application to things to come.


        August de los Reyes is the Principal Design Director for Microsoft Surface whose team is dedicated to pioneering intuitive ways to interact with technology. De los Reyes is a member of the Advanced Studies Program at the Harvard University Graduate School of Design where he received an MDesS with Distinction in product design through which he explored the relationship of emotion and design intent. He was a visiting associate at the University of Oxford, a visiting lecturer at University of Washington, and a 2009 juror of the International Design Excellence Awards. He is currently researching his next book titled The Poetics of Everyday Objects.

        Register for the event. Registration Fee:  $99 per person plus GST; $79 per person plus GST for Rotman, UofT,  and OCAD Alumni.

      Page 1 of 1 (9 items)