• Canadian UX Blog

    Introducing WebsiteSpark

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    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

    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

    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.]

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      3. Canadian UX Blog

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

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        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

        Enjoy!

        You can also download the video here.

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      4. Canadian UX Blog

        Design Student of the Month - Kamilla Nikolaev

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        There are a lot of creative students in Canada who are doing innovative work to improve people's life through interactive, visual, informational, and other aspects of User Experience Design. I invited them to introduce who they are and share their work with you. To nominate a Design Student of the Month, email us. The Design Student of the Month for September 2009 is Kamilla Nikolaev. Congratulations!! Let's hear from Kamilla.

         

        imageimage

        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 www.canuhome.com, the official website of the award-winning Canühome project by CMHC and the Institute without Boundaries; www.worldhouse.ca, the website of the unique World House Project; many designer, architectural, and artist portfolios such as www.artzu.ca, www.GillesMorin.ca, www.SchoolOfDesignStudioLab.com, www.DougDarrah.com, www.caricarilee.com. 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 Worldhouse.ca/re_neighbouhood and Worldhouse.ca/InHouse.

        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?

        www.KamillaNikolaev.com

      5. Canadian UX Blog

        Your Satisfaction Matters!

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        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

        John Oxley

        Director Technical Audience Marketing and Community Evangelism

        Microsoft Canada | Direct (905) 363- 8589|Messenger joxley@microsoft.com | twitter:joxley

      6. Canadian UX Blog

        Windows UX Interaction Guidelines

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        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

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        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!

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      8. Canadian UX Blog

        Explore Design is Back! - Part I

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        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

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        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 http://www.techdays.ca

      10. Canadian UX Blog

        Two Interesting Upcoming Presentations This Month

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

        image

        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

        Abstract:

        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.

        Speaker:

        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 http://robburke.net and while visiting please forgive the recent obsession with cycling.

        Register for the event.

         

        image

        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.

        Abstract:

        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.

        Speaker:

        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.

      11. Canadian UX Blog

        Handy Searches from Bing

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        As I’m preparing for my trip to China, I discovered some handy searches from Bing...

        Currency Conversion. What’s today’s currency exchange rate for “1 Canadian dollars in Yuan?” I like how the conversation equation is in large and clear font.

        Currency Converstion Bing result image

        Find statistical information. Several friends are coming to China with me in Oct. and it’s their first time visiting China. They’d like to know the “population in Shanghai.” It’s easy for me to find statistical information from Bing, but what I really like is the related searches panel on the left. Since we are going to Shanghai and Beijing, they are also interested in finding out the population in Beijing. It’s just a click away to get that answer from my last search.

        population in Shanghai Bing result image

        Preview videos on search results. Suzhou is my hometown and I want to show my friends what it’s like. I did a video search on “Suzhou” and hover over some of the search results to pick out a good video that shows Suzhou’s ancient architecture and silk production. It’s very handy to have the preview option and saves me the time and effort of opening many web pages. Of course, I can further restrict my searches on video length, resolution, etc.

        preview video search result of Suzhou image

        Check flight status. As I was writing the blog post yesterday, it was time to check my flight status to Vancouver. Simply enter my flight number and I got the information I need.

        flight status Bing search result image

        Real time traffic. When it was time to hand out to the airport, I checked out real time traffic on Bing Map. It even shows the construction sites that I should avoid. No need to turn on the radio and listen to traffic news. It’s traffic information at your finger tip. :)

        realtime traffic Bing search result image

        Check out more Bing tips and tricks here. Don’t forget to share your handy searches from Bing!

      12. Canadian UX Blog

        Beautiful Designs with Usage in Mind

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        Don Norman’s book “Design of Everyday Things” taught me the importance of usability, and his book on “Emotional Design” taught me the critical role that aesthetics play in overall user experience. When I see designs that beautifully unite both usability and aesthetics, I smile and want to share with the world…

        The Last Drop Bottle

        The Problem

        It such a common and annoying problem when you try to squeeze out the last little bit of remaining Shampoo or body wash from the bottle. You don’t want to waste it but it takes such an effort to pump the remaining liquid out.

        image image

        Design Solution

        A new design for the bottom of the bottles is to help users get the last drop. (see the above image on the right) The bottom of the container is designed in a way that the finishing liquids are stored in a cone following by slopes both side where the dispenser can easily reach and let the user to have even the last drop of liquid. The container is beautifully designed to enhance the bathroom décor and lets the user to see how much more liquids are left inside.

        image image

        Source: Last Drop : Pumping Up Till The Last Drop From The Bottom of A Bottle

        Wall Art Chair

        I’m a fan of multi-purpose objects such as Swiss army knife, combination highlighter/pens, smart phones, etc. Although multi-purposed objects are like jack of all trades, they are often being criticized as not good at any of the trades. For example, a smart phone usually has a camera attached to it, but it’s not a very good camera. The Wall Chair example below is inspiring to me because it let me think about art in a more practical way. We are not just design to decorate but design with usage in mind. The next step to this design would be making the folding chair more comfortable. :)

        The Problem

        Living room space is limited and especially for those of us who are living in big cities and renting small apartments. We can’t afford to have extra chairs lying around but at the same time, we find ourselves having no chairs hosting our guests. Similar problem holds for public space as well. Traditional folding chairs are not attractive when folded and occupied space.

        Design Solution

        “The first foldable cantilever chair, goes from wall art to functional furniture with a flick of the wrist. With an inspiring take on the maximization of space and the transformation of an object from 2D to 3D, it epitomizes designer Dror Benshetrit’s vision: the emotion of art intertwined with simple poetics of form following function.”

        Source: Wall Art Chair

        Windows 7 Snap Feature

        Going from physical design examples to software design examples, I have to say “Snap” is my favorite UI feature in Windows 7. It makes one of my most common activities on the computer easy and beautiful.

        The Problem

        Window management is a common task, and often times you need to put two windows side-by-side. For example, copying and pasting text from a webpage to a document. Another example is dragging files from your computer and dropping them to your external hard drive. These are activities you do many times a day and you want to do them very fast. Before Windows 7, you need to manually scale the windows and put them side-by-side, which may take several seconds depending on how perfect you want the windows to line up.

        Design Solution

        “Snap” is a quick (and fun)  way to resize open windows, simply by dragging them to the edges of your screen. This makes the side-by-side comparison of windows really easy. The visual design supports the “snapping” interaction by giving a preview of a transparent window to show how the window would snap.

        image image

        Again, this is a great example of uniting aesthetics and usability.

        There are many beautiful designs with usage in mind examples, which I hope to share with you in future posts. At the same time, there are a lot of designs only focusing on aesthetics (too pretty for the users to figure out how to use them) or usability (too boring that users feel like chores to use them). When you design or build your technology solutions, think about how you can create usable and beautiful design.

      13. Canadian UX Blog

        Ready to Ignite Your Career?

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        Ignite Your career webcast image

        Along with TechDays starting in September, the popular Ignite Your Career Webcast series also returns next month. As a professional working in IT, it’s so easy to get caught up in your day-to-day work that you find little time to grow your professional skills, learn about industry trends, and think about your next career challenge. We are trying to make this easier for you by hosting the Ignite Your Career webcast series.

        What is Ignite Your Career (IYC)?

        The goal of this webcast series is to support the career development for technical professionals by getting questions answered by a panel of experts in the Canadian ICT industry.

        What are the topics for this IYC series?

        Series Line-up

        Date

        Time

        Industry Insights and Trends (Time Option 1)

        Thurs. Sept 10th

        12-1PM EST

        REGISTER NOW

        Industry Insights and Trends (Time Option 2)

        Thurs. Sept 10th

        3-4PM EST

        REGISTER NOW

        Internal or External Training – Know Your Options

        Thurs. Sept 17th

        12-1PM EST

        REGISTER NOW

        Selling Yourself - Are you using ALL your resources?

        Thurs. Sept 24th

        12-1PM EST

        REGISTER NOW

        Developing your Leadership Qualities (Time Option 1)

        Thurs. Oct 1st

        12-1PM EST

        REGISTER NOW

        Developing your Leadership Qualities (Time Option 2)

        Thurs. Oct 1st

        3-4PM EST

        REGISTER NOW

        What’s new this year?

        There are many new and exciting things we are implementing for the series this Fall. First, the webcasts will be co-hosted by Rick Claus and Shane Schick (Editor in chief, IT World Canada). Unlike traditional webcasts, the series will follow a “talk radio” style format of moderated questions from the audience to a panel of experts. Secondly, to accommodate for time differences, we are implementing selected webcasts in both 12pm EST and 3pm EST. Finally, as part of our post webcast efforts, we will be condensing the 1 hour recorded webcasts down to 20 minutes, summarizing the key messages for on-demand viewers.

        Take more time for your career and register the webcast series at www.microsoft.ca/ignite.

      14. Canadian UX Blog

        [Mini-Tutorial] Working with Images in Expression Design

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        One of the most common questions I get about Expression Design is how the tool would work with images. It’s true that Design focuses mainly on vector graphics creation, but there are neat bitmap manipulations and effects you can apply on your images as well. Check out the following two examples.

        When I was visiting back home earlier this year, I found these cool looking chairs. In this tutorial, I’ll show you how to crop out an object from an image, covert it into its own image object, and then apply an effect onto it. We’ll work on the image below on the right. You can click on the image to download a larger version to work with.

        group chair image single chair image

        Step 1: use the Pen tool in the tools palette to draw a path tracing the outline of the chair.

        the Pen tool image image

        Step 2: select both the path from Step 1 and the background image, go to menu and select Object –> Clipping Path –> Make with Top Path. You should get the image below on the right. At this point, you just created a clipping path (like a window to the background image). If you move the clipping path around the image, you’ll see different parts of the image. Follow the next step to make this cropped chair a proper image object.

        image image

        Step 3: select the clipping path you just made and go to menu and select Object –> Image –> Create Image Project. Drag the curser to draw out a rectangle to represent the area that you’d like to make into an image object. A dialog box will pop out asking you for the dpi for the rasterized area. Put 300 px/inch to create a high quality image object. At the end of this step, you should be able to select the chair object without seeing the path around the object.

        image image

        Step 4: you can change the color of the chair by going to Effects panel and select “fx” –> Adjust Colors –> Tint. Choose the Tint color you want and adjust the levels to see the results.

        image image

        Step 5: you can place back the element in the original photo. Look at how different color chairs would look in the image.

        image image image

        Here’s another example of using the same technique. If you are selling hats on your website, you may want to provide different colors to the same hat style. Can you tell which hat is the original and which ones are created using Expression Design?

        cousinBlackHat cousinBlueHat cousinOriginal

        You can see a full video tutorial on working with images using Expression Design by Arturo on the Silverlight blog. Start playing with images and have fun with Expression design!

      15. Canadian UX Blog

        Design Student of the Month – Winnie Ma

        • 0 Comments

        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 August 2009 is Winnie Ma Congratulations!! Let's hear from Winnie.

         imagewinniema (2)

        Who’s Winnie?

        Winnie is a child at play when it comes to design. By keeping an open mind and endlessly experimenting, she explores methods that challenge the boundaries between art and design. She takes a hands-on approach to her work, and enjoys working with various mediums and different materials. While she completed the York/ Sheridan Bachelor of Design program in Toronto, she has used her summer breaks to travel extensively in Asia, and has worked at design firms in Beijing and Hong Kong. Winnie draws from her cultural experiences and the subtleties of everyday life, infusing humour and wit from her observations into her designs to enlighten someone’s day.

        What cool stuff is Winnie doing?

        I'm currently fascinated with storytelling through books.

        The Circles of Round is a children’s storybook, which conveys the themes of advertising and propaganda through the use of three-dimensional geometric shapes. This playful story is told through photographing coloured construction paper pieces to represent the characters, actions, landscape and dialogue. The shapes are photographed with shadows to evoke the tone and mood of the characters. There are thirty spreads that unravel the conflict, resolution, and moral of the story.

        In the book Have Nothing, I worked in the spirit of the Slow Food, Arts and Crafts and Slow movements, and applied the quotation “Have nothing in your house you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful” from Hopes and Fears for Art written by William Morris onto used and discarded objects found in various locations. The quotation was first inked, then retraced, and broken down for further applications.

        What are Winnie’s plans after graduation?

        I hope to work in the publishing industry and be able take part in the ongoing translation of books from the printed medium into the digital realm.

        Want to learn more about Winnie?

        www.winniema.ca

        www.behance.net/winniema

      16. Canadian UX Blog

        Download the Expression 3 Starter Kits

        • 2 Comments

        image

        Getting started with Expression Studio 3? Here are 4 great learning kits to help you get things started.

        Introduction to Prototyping with Sketchflow in Expression Blend 3: Assets, Guide and Video Package

        Discover Sketchflow, a new feature set in Expression Blend 3 that helps you define the concept for user experiences in early stages of the design process. From sketches to wireframes to protoypes of simple or high definition, Sketchflow provides you the right tools to communicate your ideas and gather feedback from others.

        Venture into Gaming with Behaviors in Expression Blend 3: Assets, Guide and Video Package

        Learn more about how to build a traditional "bricks" game using Expression Blend 3 Behaviors. Simply drag and drop Behaviors over objects in your artboard to easily add powerful and sophisticated functions like animation, physics, interactivity, data connection, effects and more. All without coding. The ever growing Behaviors Gallery at expression.microsoft.com is always avaialable for you to download new behaviors.

        Discovering SuperPreview in Expression Web 3: Assets, Guide and Video Package

        Learn more about SuperPreview, a new visual diagnostics tool in Expression Web 3. In this Starter Kit you will be provided with detailed guidance on how to leverage SuperPreview to diagnose issues across multiple browser, all with full rendering fidelity and detailed control.

        Support for Silverlight in Expression Web 3: Assets, Guide, Video Package

        Learn how to leverage the new and easy to use Silverlight support features in Expression Web 3. Then take your websites and publish them to an FTP location without having to leave Expression Web.

      17. Canadian UX Blog

        Get Your TechDays E-Badge!

        • 2 Comments

        The TechDays09 sessions have been announced and it’s only a little over a month till the first city Vancouver. We see many folks are coming back to this year’s conference and bringing their friends and colleagues. To help you spread the word about TechDays and let people know which track you are attending, I have created a new set of Techdays e-badges for this year. Whether you are a TechDays attendee or speaker, now you can proud to show your excitement with some Bling-Bling.

        First of all, here are the track colors we picked out. Last year, we used color ribbons as a social networking tool during the conference for people to recognize others who are in the same track. We are doing similar activities this year, but you can start networking with folks who have similar interests before the conference even starts. For example, use one of the track variation designs below in your email signatures or on blogs.

        image

        Developer Fundamentals and Best Practices

        image Developing for the Microsoft-based Platform
        image Windows Client
        image Servers, Security, and Management
        image Communications and Collaboration

        Below are three variations of the TechDays e-badge designs. For each design, the original design is on the left and enlarged. The track with speaker and attendee variations are on the right.

        Design 1: Maple Leaf (You can download individual e-badge here)

        MapleLeafDesign

        Design 2: Hanging Badge (You can download individual e-badge here)

        HangingBadgeDesign

        Design 3: TechDays Stick Man (You can download individual e-badge here)

        StickManDesign

        What about cities?

        TechDays will be in 7 cities this year. You may want to include a stamp to indicate which city you’ll be going to. No problem! Below are various of city stamps that you can add to the main TechDays e-badges. I designed it this way so that there’s more flexibility of how much information you want to show in your e-badge and we don’t end up with 70 variations for each design (i.e. 5 tracks x 7 cities x 2 speaker/attendee = 70).

        City Stamp design variations (You can download all city stamps here):

        image image image image image

        How to use these TechDays e-badges?

        1. If you just want to tell people about TechDays and don’t care about which track or which city, you can choose one of the original designs.

        image

        2. If you are a speaker or an attendee at TechDays, you can choose one of the track variations.

        image

        3. If you want to indicate the full details: TechDays, track, speaker/attendee, and city, you can mix-match a TechDays e-badge with a city stamp.

        image

        Regiser TechDays 2009 at  www.techdays.ca before the early bird price runs out and show your excitement by downloading one of the e-badges above to include in your email signature, blog or website today!

        Thanks, Qixing

      18. Canadian UX Blog

        Design Student of the Month - Diana Isaza Shelton

        • 0 Comments

        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 July 2009 is Diana Isaza Shelton! Congratulations!! Let's hear from Diana.

        imageimage

        Who’s Diana?

        I am from Colombia and I have lived in Canada for seven years. I have just completed studies in industrial design at Carleton University in Ottawa, with one semester of an Exchange Program with Monash University, in Australia. This summer I am completing my internship for graduation, and the last two courses for a minor in Business. The combination of study, work and travel has given me the opportunity to learn a range of subjects from inclusive design, perception, user interface design, human factors, user-centered design, sustainable design, among others. More interestingly, it has helped me to develop a holistic approach to design and encouraged me to explore new dimensions to enhance human interaction with the physical world.

        Some facts about me: My favourite designer is Marc Newson, Nature is my main source for inspiration, I like to learn languages and learn about cultures. I am student member of Association of Chartered Industrial Designers of Ontario (ACIDO). I love model making and photography. My favourite quote is: “To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty; to find the best in others; to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.” Ralph Waldo Emerson.

        What cool stuff is Diana doing?

        BatawaPrjct_ConceptOverview (2) In May 2009 Carleton University and Sonja Bata, widow of shoe manufacturer Thomas Bata, came together for a pilot project to design concepts that make the town of Batawa, Ontario, a model sustainable community. I led the School of Industrial Design team, along with two colleagues Michael Tomlin and Tomas Valencia, in the task of redesigning the ski hill facilities of the factory town into a year-round destination.

        I was involved in the design of the recreational area at the foot of the hill, for which we proposed a cost-effective reservoir to solve issues with snowmaking and storm water management system, recreational ponds that create an ice rink and ice trails in the winter, and an entertainment stage for performances. The design focused on the innovative use of natural materials represented on snowmazes, yukigassen (an official snow fight competition) and a greenhouse-like research lab. The six-week project work was exhibited to the community in Batawa and Ottawa drawing special attention from national media. You can see the video of the project on CTV website.

        Currently, I am working on a publication compiling the final projects of the industrial design 2009 class in sustainable product development. This includes my project “Clean Hands Compost”, an easy-to-use composting solution for the home, which was awarded the Michael Elmarson Memorial Award for outstanding environmental awareness.

         

         

         

         

        What are Diana’s plans after graduation?

        I look forward to join the corporate world, and to be able to apply my skills and creativity in providing meaningful experiences to people. Advancement opportunities in design management, human-oriented design and sustainable development are in my goals. I enjoy teamwork, learning new things and taking on new challenges. I enjoy getting involved and helping others. Some of the industries that I would like to contribute to include education, medical equipment design, exhibition and communication design. In the future, it is my intention to pursue further studies in strategic design research and design management to broaden my contribution to society through creative and responsible design.

        Want to learn more about Diana?

        You can see my sample work at: http://www.coroflot.com/dianaisazashelton

      19. Canadian UX Blog

        Windows 7 & Server 2008 Has Been Released to Manufacturing

        • 1 Comments

        Hot off the presses!  Windows 7 and Server 2008 R2 have hit the RTM Milestone!  From the Windows 7 team blog…

        I am pleased to announce that Windows 7 has RTM’d!

        As I mentioned previously, RTM officially happens only after sign-off occurs. What happens is a build gets designated as a RTM contender after going through significant testing and meeting our quality bar for RTM. Then, it goes though all the validation checks required for RTM including having all languages of that build completed. If all the validation checks have passed – sign-off for RTM can occur. Today after all the validation checks were met, we signed off and declared build 7600 as RTM.

        Continue reading…

        And from the Windows Server blog…

        The acronym (RTM) stands for Release to Manufacturing, and it means this latest release of Windows Server 2008 R2 is now blessed by engineering as ready for the manufacturing process. We're talking final code. Sun shining, birds singing, children dancing in the streets.

        With evaluation software available for download in the first half of August and the full product available to customers with Software Assurance in the second half of August, RTM is more than just an engineering milestone. Occurring in lock-step with the release of the Windows 7 RTM, these two platforms are now ready for our partners to start testing and installing on their hardware. And that lock-step isn't a coincidence, it's a design goal.

        Customers using Windows Server 2008 R2 and Windows 7 in their enterprises has been Microsoft's intent from the first day programmers touched fingers to keyboards.

        Continue reading…

        So with those two announcements the first question is “When and where can I get it?”

        The answer.

        A big thank you too all the beta testers, without your testing and feedback this would not be possible!

        Technorati Tags: ,,
      20. Canadian UX Blog

        Good Design Enables, Bad Design Disables

        • 0 Comments

        This is a post for busy designers and developers who would like to get an overview of Accessibility design and some quick tips. Last month, two of my colleagues and I conducted an accessibility workshop to developers and designers who work on Canadian government sites. I presented on Designing for Accessibility, which I included the slides below. While preparing for the presentation, it opened my eyes to the world of disability and taught me an important lesson as a designer that: Good Design Enables and Bad Design Disables.

        In particular, I’d like to share with you the following key points:

        • Good design principles apply to people with or without disability. For example, providing a clear and consistent navigation structure will help people to find what they are looking for faster. This is especially important for people with motor and cognitive disability. Check out the examples in my presentation and make sure your design is usable to general public first.
        • There are special design considerations you need to know to achieve great accessibility. In addition to general usability, people with disability require some additional design consideration. The high level principles are called out in WCAG. They are: Perceivable, Operable, Understandable, and Robust (i.e. the POUR principles). Details are in slide 14. For instance, for people who are blind, they can’t perceive  visual information such as graphics, layout, or color-based cues, so you need to make sure to include text description to those information. In addition, they probably can’t use mouse easily, keyboard access is critical to make your application operable. For people who are color-blind, you don’t want to make color the only way of conveying important information such as status change. Design tips for each type of disability is included in the presentation.
        • Accessibility is part of usability and you don’t need a separate process to design for it. Make sure you integrate accessibility design into your current design process and make it a priority throughout the development process. For example, when you create personas for your web project, check out W3C’s accessibility personas on how disabled people user web. Include accessibility personas specifying disability conditions and Assistive Technology information for the type of personas.
        • Empathy is the key to design for accessibility. If there’s one thing you remember when designing for accessibility, it is EMPATHY. We need to understand how people with disability use software and their pain points. If you haven’t used a screen reader, try it. It’s a really eye-opening experience. Listening to them, trying to experience what they are going through, and understanding their culture will help us be empathetic and put on the accessibility lenses when designing.

        Here’s a list of resources where you can learn more about designing for accessibility:

        Check out my presentation and put on your accessibility lenses today!

      21. Canadian UX Blog

        Plenty of Color Resource for Expression

        • 0 Comments

        Thinking about a color palette for your new website or application project? I’ve been using the site Colourlovers.com to get color inspirations. It’s a virtual color library where you can find thousands of color palettes, articles on color design, and follow color trends from magazine and websites.

        What’s more useful about the site is that you can import the color palettes into Expression Design as swatches or add them into Expression Blend as application resources. Let me show you an example:

        Summer is in the air and a mixed berry lemonade sounds good. :) I found the follow color palette on the site.

        mixed berry lemonade color palette

        Once you registered as a site user, you can download the palette and import into Expression Design as a Swatch Library (below left).

        Swatch image

        Or, you can download the XAML file and copy the content into your Silverlight application’s App.xaml file (see below). Make sure to insert the  the code into the Application.Resource section of your App.xaml. You can see the result in Blend as the one on the right above. Simply just drag and apply brush onto the objects on canvas.

        image

        Color is an important element of graphics design. Here’s a nice article talks about the Color Basics: Do’s and Don’ts. Check out the article and have fun with color in Expression.

      22. Canadian UX Blog

        Surface Partner Program Launched!

        • 0 Comments

        Great news for Microsoft partners: during WPC this week, the Surface Partner program was launched. All the Microsoft registered partners now can get access to the Microsoft Surface SDK Workstation Edition through the new QuickStart site. If you are not yet a registered partner, then become one to following the simple steps here. Many of you have been waiting to design and develop for Surface experience. I hope this program can get you started. Also, you can enter the developer challenge and become an “Interactive Superstar.”

        Surface Partner Program QuickStart Page

      23. Canadian UX Blog

        It’s a big day for RIA!

        • 0 Comments

        image_thumb2

        Today is a landmark launch day for anyone building Rich Internet Applications (also known as RIAs), particularly those that build compelling web-enabled experiences on the Microsoft platform.

        We launched 2 new product versions today and it’s something all of us at Microsoft are very excited about:  Silverlight 3 and Expression Studio 3.

        Silverlight 3 represents a big change in how you can build RIAs in .NET.  In a nutshell, below are some of the enhancements and new features you can use with Silverlight:

        • Out-of-Browser Experience:  Build RIA applications that don’t require a browser to run.  This is a big deal as it means that you can use Silverlight to create connected desktop experiences that run on any Silverlight 3-supported platform.
        • GPU Acceleration:  One of the hurdles many Silverlight developers and designers needed to overcome in prior versions of the platform was dealing with (or rather “faking” or “hacking”) 3D support within Silverlight.  This was due to the fact you couldn’t take advantage of the GPU hardware on the PC to deliver the 3D experiences you wanted to build.  With Silverlight 3, now you can leverage the PC’s GPU.
        • Smooth Streaming Video:  Everyone is familiar with the experience of choppy video online.  Smooth HD Streaming has been incorporated into Silverlight 3 to help alleviate that problem.  In essence, Smooth Streaming allows the streaming server and the Silverlight plugin to determine your bandwidth and adjust the quality of the stream to best fit your bandwidth restrictions.  There is a good demo of this here.
        • Development and Design Support:  The Silverlight 3 SDK provides over 100 new UI controls that Designers and Developers can use out of the box in their Silverlight apps.  It also provides a newly introduced navigation framework that helps with deep-linking and back/forward browser control.  It also provides much richer network support.
        • Developer Tools:  With the launch of Silverlight 3, we also provide the tools for building Silverlight 3 applications in Visual Studio.  It’s also your choice where to get these tools.  You can get them using the Web Platform Installer or through the traditional channel at the Silverlight Dev Site.

        You may have noticed I talked about developer tool support but I didn’t spend any time on Designer tools.  That’s because I want to focus a bit on the design tools in the section below.  Expression Studio 3 has been launched (although Expression Blend, the interactive design tool has been launched in RC form for now).  There is several cool things we have added into the Expression suite of tools for Version 3 (including full support for Silverlight 3).  I want to highlight the new features of two of the tools here, namely Expression Blend and Expression Web:

        • Expression Blend 3 RC (Download Here
          • SketchFlow:  This is a huge productivity gainer for developers.  Remember the days of sketching a screen design and app workflow on a napkin to show to the client?  Now you can do the same thing with Expression Blend without having to do manual sketches, wireframes and then build the actual app.  You can do this as one step now.
          • Intellisense support:  If you like to get into the code while using Expression Blend, you now have Intellisense support within the tool (including intellisense for C#, VB and XAML).
          • TFS Integration:  “Does Expression Blend support for code repositories (including check-in and check-out)?”  I have been asked this question many times and the answer was always a let down.  My answer was basically “save the work you did in Blend, go back to Visual Studio and check in the code assets from there”.  Well, no more – I’m happy to say that Blend now supports the ability to check your project assets into Team Foundation Server, Microsoft’s code repository tool.

        Check out Qixing’s 4-part mini-tutorials on Blend 3!

        • Expression Web 3
          • SuperPreview:  If you design websites, you are probably acutely aware of the pain that is testing your web application for rendering in multiple browsers.  Your process for this testing likely included multiple machines, constant flipping back and forth between browser windows and you still ended up missing incompatibilities.  SuperPreview fixes a lot of this pain by providing you with a way to look at how your website will render in multiple browsers, side-by-side with tools that help you identify inconsistencies.
          • New User Interface:  Expression Web is no longer “the tool in Expression that doesn’t look like the other tools”.  In keeping with design consistency, Expression Web now sports the slick, dark grey IDE UI that the rest of the tools do.
          • Auto-Hide Panels:  Screen real estate is valuable as a website designer.  You usually need to use most of the space on the screen to see how the website looks, viewing the actual code and the like.  Tool panels often get in the way.  With Expression Web 3, you have the ability to hide these panels as you see fit, which is very helpful when all you want to do is look at the code!

        This is just a very quick summary of some of the things we have delivered in Silverlight 3 and Expression 3.  For more detailed info on these items, I encourage you to take a look at the following resources:

         

        -Paul

      24. Canadian UX Blog

        Silverlight 3 at the Movies

        • 0 Comments

        Our friends at ObjectSharp are putting on an exciting show at the Paramount Theatre this Thursday, July 9. It’s titled “Silverlight on the Silver Screen.” If you want to know more about Silverlight 3, Expression Blend 3, and Windows 7 Touch Technology, it’s a show you don’t want to miss. Check out the event details and register for the free event here.

        image

      25. Canadian UX Blog

        [Mini-Tutorial] Blend 3: Rich Interactivity with No Code

        • 10 Comments

        The idea of creating rich interactivity without code should sound very appearing to designers, because we want to turn static UI into interactive prototypes and test out our design ideas quickly. In Blend 3, “Behaviors” are packaged, re-usable building blocks of interactivity. They can be visually applied to UI components in the application using drag and drop. No more opening up Visual Studio and writing routine code like starting an animation when a button is clicked. Blend 3 will have bunch of commonly used Behaviors shipping with the tool, but they are extensible so that you or your developers can create your customized Behaviors.

        After watching Peter Blois’ MIX talk “Creating Interactivity with Microsoft Expression Blend,” I experienced the power of Behaviors myself in the tutorial below. For example, I used 3 different triggers( Mouse Click, Timer, and Mouse Gesture) to play the slideshow behavior. You can download many interesting Behaviors that the community are making at Expression Gallery page.

        You can also download the video here.

      26. Canadian UX Blog

        [Mini-Tutorial] Blend 3: Visual Data Binding

        • 5 Comments

        As your project evolves from simple sketches to prototypes, you may want to add some real interactivity to it. There are two useful tools in Blend make this really easy: Sample Data and Behaviors. This tutorial will focus on Sample Data and how designers can bind data visually in Blend. The next tutorial will be on Behaviors.

        In previous version of Blend, we introduced data binding features in Blend. However, in order to make sample data targeted to particular applications, designers had to create XML data files in Visual Studio or other editors and then import into Blend. There was no easy way in Blend to generate the sample data they need. Check out how Sample Data makes this process easy in the tutorial below!

        You can download the video here.

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