• Canadian UX Blog

    Investing in Your Skills – A Collection of Courses


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

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




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

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

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

    Twitter:  www.twitter.com/rinig     Email:  rini.gahir@microsoft.com

  • Canadian UX Blog

    Ignite Your Career Women in IT Webcast



    Aside from EnergizeIT, we also have an exciting webcast series coming up in March called Ignite Your Career Webcast Series. They are non-technical webcasts, designed to support Canadian technical professionals in their career development. The webcasts are intended to be very interactive to connect you to the industry experts across Canada.  My colleague Rick who has worked on the past two Ignite Your webcast series share the detailed plan for this year on the canitpro blog.

    New this year is the Women in IT Discussion in the webcast series. I had the opportunity to find the following four outstanding women to be my panelists. All of them share the passion for IT, but each of them has a unique career path and is very successful in what they do. Let’s have an open discussion in the webcast. Ask them the questions on your mind or any advice you’d like to get for dealing with challenges at work. If you’d like to send your questions beforehand, please email me at qixing.zheng at microsoft.com. Here are my questions I’d like to pick brains on:

    • What did you have to do to prove yourselves among your peers in the industry?
    • what are some key professional/career skills you see women often lacking in the IT industry? How can they improve these skills?
    • How we can retain women in the field? What’s your secret for a rewarding career in IT?
    • In addition to technical roles in IT, what are other exciting career opportunities in IT that the audience should be aware of?
    • What are your tips on balancing work and family?

    Come and join our discussion on April 7 at 12:00PM EST! Register on the Ignite Your Career website.

    Elisabeth Vanderveldt Elisabeth Vanderveldt is co-founder of multi-award winning Conamex International, a Microsoft Gold Certified Excellence partner. An international board member of IAMCP Elisabeth is also the global chair Community and Corporate Citizenship and is the founder of the international Women in Leadership and Technology group. A Microsoft MVP, MCDST, SAM specialist and SBSC PAL, Elisabeth is also on the SBSC advisory council, has been a speaker and panellist at Tech Ed and WPC and is a contributor to Microsoft Momentum and the SBSC Community blog for Canada as well as the SBSC PAL community site. Her passion is to ensure young women see IT as a viable and exciting career opportunity and encourage mentoring among the many successful women currently in the industry.

    Shann McGrail

    Shann McGrail is a Business Director reporting to the President of Microsoft Canada. In this role, she is responsible for readiness, communication and business execution for the Canadian subsidiary. Shann has worked in the technology industry for the past 18 years in a variety of disciplines including Sales, Marketing and Technology specialties. During her 11 years at Microsoft, Shann has held a number of positions within the company including Enterprise Sales, Partner Relationship Management and Enterprise Services Management. She is Microsoft Canada’s spokesperson for the Women in I.T. initiative as well as the executive sponsor for Microsoft Canada’s DigiGirlz program, a program designed to inspire young women to consider careers in the technology field.

    Betty Johnson0

    Betty Johnson has been working in technical support for 10 years and a Microsoft certified professional. She works at Métis Nation of Alberta as their Desktop Support Analyst with extended responsibilities in managing networks and servers in conjunction with the Network Administrator. Her first degree is actually in Nutrition, but her passion for technology allows her to find a rewarding career in IT. She proved a point of women in any age group can make a great impact in IT by hard working and continuous learning.

    Caterina SandersWith Habañero since 2000, Caterina Sanders, Director, User Experience, acts on behalf of end-users to ensure Habañero solutions exceed their needs and expectations. Drawing on her wide variety of business and technical experience, Caterina manages the User Experience team, provides UE leadership for all projects, and conducts project business analysis and project management. Caterina believes Habañero’s strong commitment to user experience in combination with its solid technical abilities ensure clients will receive exceptional business value from any Habañero deliverable.

  • Canadian UX Blog

    Silverlight User Group Meeting Tomorrow



    It’s our first Silverlight user group meeting of the year. Mano and I are going to share our experience with animation and DeepZoom in Silverlight. Hope to see you there!

    Agenda: Wednesday, Feb. 25

    6:30 – 7:30: Creating Animations using Blend and Code Behind, by Mano Kulasingam
                      - Storyboards and Animations
                      - Animation Techniques
    7:30 – 7:45: Break

    7:45 – 8:45: Looking at DeepZoom from Creation to Deployment, by Qixing Zheng
                       - Create a DeepZoom application using DeepZoom Composer and Blend
                       - Deploying DeepZoom application using Silverlight streaming or any other web server

    8:45 - 9:30: Q&A

    We will be giving away Silverlight 2 books.

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

    Speakers Bio

    Mano Kulasingam (Digiflare)
    Mano is a founding partner and principle interactive designer/developer with Digiflare, focusing on Rich Internet Applications. He also has several years of experience developing B2B and B2C eCommerce and Content Management web applications using ASP.NET (2.0 and 3.5) and Visual C#. His design skills include working with the latest professional design tools including Expression Studio 2. His is a Microsoft Expression MVP.

    Qixing Zheng (Microsoft)
    Qixing joined Microsoft Canada as its first User Experience Advisor in 2007, in which she talks to schools, IT communities and companies about Microsoft's investment in UX, as well as searching out design heroes and design stories from the community. More importantly, this role allows her to work with IT professionals to find great UX design solutions that can impact the technology we deliver today. She graduated from UBC at the end of 2005 with a Masters degree in Computer Science, specializing in Human-Computer Interaction. Her blog is: http://blogs.msdn.com/canux/

  • Canadian UX Blog

    Design Student of the Month - Richard Monette


    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 February 2009 is Richard Monette! Congratulations!! Let's hear from Richard.


    Who’s Richard?
    I am currently completing the last semester of my Bachelors of Information Technology, with a specialization in Interactive Multimedia and Design, at Carleton University. My focus is primarily on the technical aspect of design, particularly graphics programming for video games. As part of my degree I took advantage of Carleton's cooperative education program and had the opportunity to work at Fuel Industries, a game development company based in Ottawa. At Fuel I began learning the skills and fostered the passion needed to design and develop online interactive experiences and games.

    What cool stuff is Richard doing?
    For my Senior Project, I am currently working with a team of peers on developing a first person puzzle adventure game titled "Glasshouse" using the XNA framework. The design process for Glasshouse has been challenging because working in an all encompassing format, such as a video games, requires attention to many different design considerations. Our design challenges run the gambit of more traditional graphic design for the menu system and textures to the ways in which we uses interactivity in a 3D space to guide the player. It is our aim to ensure that our design is unified throughout the game to create a complete gameplay experience. At the core of our design philosophy is the goal of creating "eureka" moments for the player. These are the moments in the game where the player realizes the sequence of actions required to complete a level. Our levels work by introducing one new skill per level and teaching the player how to master the gameplay technique. After preparing the player, a level concludes with a challenge that requires the player to determine how to apply this new found skill. Later levels in the game begin to require the player to perform combinations of skills and in time sensitive or increasingly hazardous environments. One particular challenge has been developing a visual style to indicate the status of objects in the game. Our relatively minimalist approach helps to add clarity to the game levels and makes use of high contrast color to give quick visual clues to what is happening in the game. Additionally, we have eschewed a traditional video game style interface opting to make all context information built right into the 3D space. By focusing on providing clear audio visual feedback to the player and using a non-violent play mechanic we aim to provide an enjoyable experience for casual and more serious players.

    What are Richard’s plans after graduation?

    Currently I am planning to return to Fuel upon completing my degree. I look forward to working on future game projects and continuing to learn and develop my skillset.

    Want to learn more about Richard?
    I can be contacted via email at richard.monette@gmail.com or follow me on twitter at http://twitter.com/richardmonette

  • Canadian UX Blog

    EnergizeIT Registration is OPEN!


    EnergizeIT EnergizeIT registration is officially open. If you subscribe to the MSDN Flash and TechNet Flash newsletters, you’ve probably received an special edition with all the registration links included. Our team is working hard getting ready for the tour. I’m so excited that we are bringing the event to 14 cities across 7 provinces this year. I want to tell you about EnergizeIT in my own doodling style on the left. :-) Hopefully it captures the message below:

    From student to CIO, EnergizeIT 2009 is about what’s possible. Through a series of events across Canada, we will show you how to take advantage of the Microsoft-based platform, Windows 7, and a Software + Services approach to help your organization reduce costs and increase scalability.

    To find out more about the different connection points and activities at EnergizeIT, my colleague Rodney Buike explained it in great detail in his post titled EnergizeIT 2009 – Who, What, Where, When and Why?

    Pick out a city near you and we are looking forward to seeing you on our tour. The event is free!

  • Canadian UX Blog

    [Podcast] Interview with Kim Lenox


    mebymaggieInteraction’09 is a conference of about 400 people. An intimate conference for a close design community of interaction designers means you got to meet many people at the conference. Even better, you got one-on-one time with pioneers in the field. I had the opportunity to interview Kim Lenox at the conference. Kim has been working in the UX Design field for almost two decades before there’s even a discipline called Interaction Design.  The first time I saw Kim was at the MIX08 Interaction Design Workshop. I was very interested to hear her thoughts on the challenges and opportunities for Interaction Designers as well as her advice to new comers to the field. Here are the list of questions I asked her in the interview below.

    • Tell us about you and your experience at Interaction'09 so far
    • As someone who has done Interaction Design for almost two decades, what do you see as the major challenges in this discipline?
    • In your mind, what are some great interaction design examples in the past several years?
    • You co-founded the IxDA chapter in San Francisco area. What are your thoughts on how we can continue to grow this community?
    • What contributes to a great Interaction Designer? Any advice to new comers?

    Kim’s Bio

    Driven by a thoughtful design sense and a deep passion for creating meaningful products, Kim has spent nearly two decades focused on user experience design, management and delivery of multi-platform products and services with worldwide reach and exposure. Kim has successfully shipped products ranging from application software, children's handheld devices, interactive TV, DVD interfaces, interactive kiosks, websites and CD-ROMs.

    Kim spent the past 2 years at Adaptive Path splitting time as a client- facing experience design lead and sharing her expertise through speaking and teaching about user-centric product design. She has spoken about and taught workshops on interaction design and design process in the US, Canada and Europe including such conferences as DUX07, MIX08, MEX, From Business to Buttons and Adaptive Path's UX Intensive and MX conferences.

    Prior to Adaptive Path, Kim was an interaction design lead for Samsung Electronics America, where she researched and designed interfaces for next-generation and near-term consumer electronics products such as software applications, mobile devices, kitchen appliances and home entertainment systems. Her past clients/employers include: Adaptive Path, AT&T, Excite@Home, LeapFrog, Macrovision, NewLine Cinema, Nokia, Organic, Palm, Samsung Electronics, Charles Schwab, Sprint, UPC/Chello and a variety of bubble start-ups of dot-com lore.

  • Canadian UX Blog

    [Podcast] Microsoft Designer: Lada Gorlenko


    clip_image001There are about 750 UX designers and researchers working at Microsoft. People in the UX community are often very surprised to hear about it. I think part of it is we haven't given our designers enough opportunities to talk about what they do and what's it like to work as designers at Microsoft. During the Interaction’09 Conference, I had a chance to chat with Lada Gorlenko, who is a UX Research Manager at the Unified Communication team.

    In my 18 minutes conversation with Lada below, I asked her about:

    • What are your main responsibilities as a UX Research Manager? How is the team organized?
    • What are the challenges in designing communication software in large corporations?
    • How does user research fit into the overall product development?
    • How do UX Researchers work with UX Designers and the rest of the team?
    • How does it like to work as a UX Professional at Microsoft? 
    • What contributes to a great UX Designer/Researcher?

    Lada’s Bio:

    Lada Gorlenko manages a User Research team in the Office Communications Group (OCG) at Microsoft, working on the next generation of collaboration products for business use. In the past, Lada worked on a wide variety of projects, from researching cross-cultural communication and cognitive limitations of mobility to designing and evaluating virtual reality and self-service interfaces. She is a devoted member of IxDA, the Interaction Design Association, and a proud “UX generalist”.

  • Canadian UX Blog

    A Developer's View on a Design Conference


    hcphotos_interaction09_-201 by helenchanchan

    portraitLast weekend during Interaction'09 conference, I noticed there were quite a few developers in the heavily concentrated interaction designers conference. I was curious to find out what were their experience at the conference and why they chose this conference. Is it like a designer attending a developer conference such as PDC? I met Calvin Chan who's a System and Database Developer working at the University of British Columbia and asked him to share his thoughts on the following questions. He also took visual notes of the conference. You can see them here. (Photo on the left taken by helenchanchan)

    Why did you decide to come to the conference? What were your expectations?
    "I am always passionate about usable and enjoyable designs. As a web developer, I care about the usability and aesthetic details when designing the web interface. The IxDA discussion board is one of the resources I subscribe for inspirations, and that's where I heard about the Interaction'09 conference. My initial expectations were to see what is going on in the professional UX community, learn about formal training and qualifications for interaction design industry, and hopefully learn a few design tricks." 

    What was your experience at the conference? Was it a good conference?
    "I am glad to find out that this conference is not just about design theories and methodologies, nor it is only limited to software design.It covers a spectrum of topics including human behavior, environmental responsibility, art and creative, industrial design and so on. One inspiration is that we should put less focus on the technologies and techniques, and think more about the people we are designing for and what are the stories behind them. Robert Fabricant gave a good case study on the design process of a HIV self-testing kit in South Africa. The team found that the reason why people do not want to go to public clinic for HIV test is because it is embarrassing. After understanding their emotion, they created a testing package that one can easily use at home without special medical training, and then utilize the cell-phone network for communication and follow-up services, hence successfully increased the health awareness in the country. I really enjoy such stories."

    What are your thoughts on developers learning or doing interaction design? What are some challenges and rewards?
    "I believe that developers should not thinking JUST like a developer, but also be more empathetic to the people and environment surrounding us. Forget about programming details, and try to understand the stories behind everyday things and people's emotion on them.

    Why does my mom hate to use the DVD remote control? Why do I hate to use the company phone which I always mix up the combination for getting a street line and making an intercom? Do not just look from the software development perspective. It is not about stuffing more features to a product or adding glossy GUI elements; it is about trying to understand why and how people interact with your product.

    With my programmer's mind, it is not easy to tune down the rational thinking when dealing with problems. I must confess that when I teach my dad how to use the latest and greatest gadgets, it frustrates me when he doesn't get the ideas after I've explained to him 10 times. It is easy to blame your user for not being smart enough to understand the technology, or too lazy to read the 200 pages user manual. But nobody likes to feel stupid. If they can't easily figure out how to use the design, it is a faulty design. On the other hand, a good design will not only solves people's problem, but also leave them a pleasant and enjoyable experience. To me, it is most rewarding to learn that my product really helps people and they really LOVE using it."

    A bonus from the conference

    Natural User Interface (NUI) is a hot topic at the conference. Check out the clip below I recorded during the session Designing Natural User Interfaces: Notes from the Multi-Touch, Multi-User Frontlines. Microsoft Surface and IPhone blended together and formed a really cool interaction.

    Technorati Tags: ,,
  • Canadian UX Blog

    Quince: Explore UX Patterns in Silverlight


    Infragistics, one of the top UI controls vendors, has recently launched Quince – a UX Patterns Explorer in Silverlight. You can explore various UX Patterns by User Tasks, Tag Relations, and Wireframe (i.e. arranged by their UI positions). Of course you can also search for a UX Pattern. Once you find the pattern you like, you can digg it, add to you Del.icio.us bookmarks, etc. Quince is a great example of using Silverlight’s vector graphics, rich interaction, and animation to provide a useful tool for designers and developers. Check it out!



  • Canadian UX Blog

    Feel Energized? EnergizeIT is coming to a Canadian City Near you…


    Every year, Microsoft Canada puts on an event called EnergizeIT.  In the past this event was a one-day event held in Toronto where we talked about the great new technologies that we are going to be releasing.  This year, we’re changing the format so that people across Canada can experience EnergizeIT!

    My colleague Damir Bersinic has created a blog post all about it – I encourage you to take a look at it!  If you want to hear about Windows 7, Windows Server 2008 R2, IE8, Hyper-V, Windows Azure and many other upcoming technologies from Microsoft, this is where you want to be!

    Technorati Tags: EnergizeIT

  • Canadian UX Blog

    [Guest Blogger] Product Potluck from Waterloo UX Group


    Apparently, I missed an exciting Product Potluck while I was away in China. Last month the Waterloo User Experience Group had a meeting where people brought in an everyday product to discuss their design issues with the group. It was such an interesting concept for a user group meeting that I had to find out more. Gordon Varney, director of Software Development at Metavera, has kindly offered to write an event summary. So, let’s enjoy the potluck summary from Gordon. :)

    January Product Potluck

    At the January 22 UX Group meeting in Waterloo, people brought along a favoured or hated product to discuss. An interesting experience. Here are some highlights from the discussion.


    Books Mark Connolly began by thumping a book onto the table. Actually two hardcover non-fiction books, with slipcovers, about one inch thick and full of words, not surprisingly. They had few, if any, pictures, a table of contents and an index.

    Books have been around for so many years that the kinks have universally been worked out. Attempts to “improve” the classic norms are generally disastrous: we expect page numbers to be on the outside edge, for example. Putting the page number in the gutter might seem novel but it fails the reader. We talked about the value of the table of contents and the index, but also about other aspects. It’s easy to bend over a page corner or slip in a scrap of paper to indicate a page of importance, or to write notes, or to skim or skip sections of little interest. Visible wear and tear communicates historical information on how a book has been used. Just by noticing where your current page is, you have a notion of how far you have gone and how far you have to go. We talked about the various binding methods and how some were better for some audiences. The dust jacket was a point of contention. (Photo by Mark Connolly)

    Eyeglass frames

    Adam Meghji shared his experience with a new pair of eyeglasses from ic! Berlin. These frames are made from spring steel and are incredibly flexible and apparently virtually indestructible. They have no hinge per se and can be easily twisted apart and restored (with a practiced flick of the wrist.). Just wonderful for someone wearing them for sports or for a parent prone to rolling around with the kids. Stylish, lightweight, what more could you want? Well, one thing: while they do fold up, once folded, they are very likely to spring open — and to launch themselves across the room. Oops. Check out this YouTube video of these impressive frames.

    Necklace clasp


    Next up, Kate Wringe demonstrated the clasp of her necklace. Likely everyone has fumbled with a necklace clasp at one time or another. Like books, necklace clasps have been around for a long time. Nobody could recall a better clasp than the standard sliding-circle mechanism on this particular necklace, but everyone agreed that trying to fasten one of these things behind your head, usually while you are in a hurry, is far from a simple procedure. Maybe the designers assumed that you’d have someone else available to do it for you.

    The design’s affordances communicated well what you should do to fasten or unfasten it. That wasn’t the issue. The issue was that the clasp itself is very small. Our fingers in comparison are huge, and in many cases it is an action that needs to be done out of sight. Compare this to bracelets, where you get to see what you are doing; however, you have the additional challenge of trying to do it one-handed. (Photo by shapeshift)

    Chopsticks and sushi knives

    Chopsticks Robert Barlow-Busch seeded the last discussion with several pairs of chopsticks. Talk then moved on to a sushi knife, side tracked to Apple and Steve Jobs, and somehow ended up with a demonstration of the latest RIM Blackberry.

    The chopstick discussion began with universal agreement that (for us at least) learning to use them efficiently was a challenge, involving much trial and embarrassment, something not to be mastered quickly. The notion of “friction” in a user experience, however, was discussed as something that can be beneficial, as a way to provide feedback indicating when you’re on the right track. Further, it’s okay for an efficient interface to be slightly difficult at first, as we often enjoy overcoming challenges while learning new skills (for example, why learn to drive a standard transmission when automatic is so measurably easier to learn?). Knife

    Our attention then turned from the chopsticks themselves, which were beautifully decorated, to the packaging. They were in elegant boxes that communicated a real sense of quality and contributed in large measure to a feeling of pride of ownership. That led to a discussion about the ability of a sushi knife to be sharpened razor sharp, complemented by excellent balance and, again, exceptional packaging. (Photo by Robert Barlow-Busch)

    Talk of boxes flowed naturally into matters of a product’s “out-of-box experience”, something that Apple has perfected. That led us to the iPod Touch, then the iPhone, which led to the BlackBerry and the Storm in particular, which led to the unfortunate deletion of all the contacts from Keith Balasingham’s BlackBerry as it was passed around. Ok, I don’t think we deleted any contacts, but it was tempting. :-)

    Gord Gordon Varney, Director of Software Development, Metavera

    Gordon has over 25 years of involvement with companies based in Waterloo Region, such as Open Text, Automation Tooling Systems (ATS), and Descartes Systems Group. He is familiar with the early life cycle period of software development companies and their challenges.

    Following graduation with Electronic Engineering from Conestoga College, Gordon went on to study business at Wilfred Laurier University: he has the ability to bridge the technology/business gap. Gordon was a Director at the University of Waterloo's Centre for Professional Writing and maintains a very close relationship with the UW Co-operative Education department.

    Recently he was the VP of Research at the Canadian Innovation Centre, a market research firm specializing in assessing innovation and new technology opportunities to gauge their commercialization risks for the National Research Council of Canada (NRC) and Technology Transfer Offices of Universities across Canada. Gordon's specialty at the CIC was software and electronic technology.

    Gordon is or has been active in the Project Management Institute (PMI), Society for Technical Communications (STC), and the American Society for Quality Control (ASQC).

  • Canadian UX Blog

    Drawing Ideas Workshop at Interaction’09


    After a week vacation in China, I’m back in Vancouver this week and just in time for IxDA’s Interaction’09 conference. I’ve been looking forward to this conference for a while, especially to the workshop I signed up called “Drawing Ideas” by Mark Baskinger and William Bardel. The reason I want to take this class is to improve my paper prototyping skills. While it’s very natural for me to sketch out design ideas on paper in the early conceptual design and wireframing stages, I’d like to improve my drawing techniques to communicate my ideas more effectively through sketch.

    DSCN0335 DSCN0341 DSCN0349

    It’s somewhat debatable whether Interaction Designers need to be good at drawing my hand. To me, this is a very important skill not only for designers but for everyone. As Mark and William pointed out in the workshop that learning drawing by hand well can help you

    • become a better communicator
    • see the world differently and engage yourself. For example, trying to draw out a conversation in a dull meeting can make you actively engaged.
    • explore possibilities. Sketches indicates work in process, so it invites others’ feedback and active brainstorming.
    • tell your stories to others. Drawing by hand can be a very powerful and engaging way to tell your story.

    However, we have all the computer technology help us draw now days. Do we really need to draw by hand? I agree with the counter-arguments that Mark and William provided. First of all, drawing with mice is really awkward. You can’t freely move across the canvas and it gets in the way of natural thinking. Many computer drawing software requires users to go through many steps in order to make a simple mark. In addition, it requires knowledge on how to use the drawing tools (e.g. Pen tool). Another problem with using computer tools is that users try to be so perfect in their drawing (e.g. drawing a perfect circle or a curve) that it breaks the natural flow of sketching out ideas.

    Drawing ideas doesn’t mean you need to produce really polished drawings. You certainly don’t need to be Piccaso. Basic drawing techniques such as pulling a line rather than pushing a line is very handy. Pulling a line means you draw the line towards you and look at where the line ends. This way your line doesn’t trail off in the end and it tends to be more straight. This workshop offers a handful of techniques like this teaching you how to draw basic shapes, people and 3D perspective better. Next, Mark and William talked about Visual Story telling. It’s a key to make sure in your storyboard, there’s a beginning, middle, and end. How to draw scenes and connecting them together using action arrows. The middle picture above is my drawing trying to convey the one pain point in doing laundry which is sorting out the lights from darks. The one beside it is the drawing about how to get involved in local IxDA groups. Sketching or drawing ideas is a hot topics now in interaction design. If you want to learn more, make sure you look out for Mark and Williams’ upcoming book on drawing ideas this summer. Also, Bill Buxton’s book on Sketching Experience is a great resource on the topic.

  • Canadian UX Blog

    Happy New (Niu, OX) Year!


    image little OX candy on B'day cake 2 by you.

    Happy the year of OX, everyone! May the new year bring you and your family joy, good health and wealth! The pronunciation of OX in Chinese is very close to the English word “New,” so it’s very popular to say “Happy Niu Year” to each other here.

    This is a special new year celebration for me personally because my birthday is on the same day as the Chinese New Year, and more importantly, I get to celebrate in China with my family and friends. Since I first went to North America 10 years ago, it had never worked out timing wise to come back home during Chinese New Year. Finally, I made it this year and it felt great. Here are some yummy birthday cakes to share with everyone. Well, hope it’s at least eye-delicious… :)

    B'day cake 1 by you.B'day cake 2 by you.

    For Chinese readers of this blog:


  • Canadian UX Blog

    Design Student of the Month – Emily Smith


    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 January 2009 is Emily Smith! Congratulations!! Let's hear from Emily.


    Who is Emily?

    Here in Vancouver, I recently earned a diploma in Digital Design with an emphasis in Interaction Design and User Experience. Before VFS, I went to the University of Western Ontario in London and earned a degree in Visual Arts. I have always thrived in an environment that offers both functional and artistic components, and Interaction Design and UX is the perfect place to exercise those perfectly.

    I am a passionate about design and draw inspiration from my interests in art, architecture, music, Sustainability, the Dewey decimal system, Cradle-to-cradle Industrial Design, DIY/Crafts, UX, Interactive and Interaction Design, Typography, Print Design, painting, drawing, and other Analogue Mediums.

    What cool things is Emily working on?

    After graduating from VFS, I was asked back to the school to complete a post-graduate scholarship in which I was asked to create a project management application along with my classmate, Vincent van Haaff. We felt that applications like Basecamp and MS Project were really useful tools, but that information wasn’t as easily retrievable as it could be. We decided to create a single screen project management tool, in which all information would be more centrally located within a Work Breakdown Structure, a tool commonly used in project management to break down tasks into their component parts. Shaped like a tree diagram, the spatial Work Breakdown structure became the backbone of our site, upon which things like time tracking, file uploading, quality control, and delegation of tasks could be set within the nodes of the structure itself. For this project, I worked on competitive analyses, persona research, conceptual development, sitemap, wireframes, information architecture, as well as the graphical components for the site. The application is currently in the development stages and for more information about the project, feel free to contact me at me@emily-smith.ca.

    What are Emily’s plans after graduation?

    Right now, Emily is actively pursuing a career in Interaction Design.

    Want to learn more about Emily?

    My current website is www.emily-smith.ca and will be updated soon. Also coming soon as a blog at www.emily-smith.ca/blog.

  • Canadian UX Blog

    Thanks for Coming out to TechDays!


    It’s a wrap! We finished our last TechDays stop in Vancouver today. We made so many great connections along the way and learn what we can do to improve the conference experience from city to city. Here are some examples:

    Starting TechDays Montreal, we had hosts for each track so that we could better keep each track on time and inform attendees with different activities that were going on at TechDays. In addition, the host of a track made sure speakers were comfortable and ready before each talk and were properly introduced. In my case, I also helped fellow speaker and colleague Joey to complete his accordion performance.

    DSC_0042 - Copy










    Starting TechDays Calgary, we added a “Tell Your IT Story” booth which allowed us to hear about great projects you and your team are working on and give us feedback about our technology. In Vancouver, we also added “Ask the Expert” booth so that attendees could ask speakers questions and get to know the speakers after their presentations.

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    The connection I personally involved a lot is the Women in IT connection. I met more than 100 women at the conference. It was my pleasure to meet each of you and thanks for giving me the opportunity to hear from you. We shared our challenges and opportunities as women working in IT. The challenges may be different and evolving as we enter different career stage, but it’s very important to learn from each other and work together to overcome these challenges. Learning from previous cities, in order to make the WIT network area more inviting and easy to spot in Vancouver, we distributed pink sweatshirts at the area. Here’s a group photo of us in pink. :)

    DSCN0220 by you.

    Thanks for coming out to TechDays! It has been a really fun journey.

  • Canadian UX Blog

    Ignite IT Award – Share Your Story


    image Have you worked on a project recently that you are proud of? Whether it’s a mobile application, a rich interactive online service, a re-design of a website, a software solution that helps people’s productivity in a particular domain, or even an innovative demo of what IT could help improve people’s lives tomorrow, then you’ve got a great story to tell. Why not submit your story to the Ignite IT award?

    It’s an award that recognizes and rewards the efforts of people working in the Canadian IT field who are doing great work. You can be a designer, developer, or IT professional either working in the industry or at school. You can submit your own IT story or submit a project that’s done by your team. There are two main awards: Developer/Developer Team of the Year and IT Pro/IT Pro Team of the Year. Designers are often part of a developer team. Each award contains: Prize of $5,000 and the Crystal Trophy.

    The top 5 Developers and top 5 IT Professionals voted by the community will also receive a Microsoft Software Kit including a full edition of Visual Studio Pro - an approximate value of $1,000. The deadline for submitting your story is Feb. 15.

    I was looking at the submissions so far, there’s already a submission on mobile interface design, which the readers of this blog will find similar projects to it. Check it out! My colleague Christian Beauclair has also posted some details on submission process. What are you still waiting for? Submit your story today or email me (qixing.zheng at microsoft.com) your story and I’m happy to help submit your story.


  • Canadian UX Blog

    WIT @ Vancouver TechDays



    Vancouver is our last stop for TechDays. I’m sitting at Toronto airport now and waiting to board my flight to Vancouver. I look forward to catching-up with my graduate school classmates from UBC and meeting new friends at TechDays next week. Similar to Toronto TechDays, we’ll have a Women in Technology Connection area setup during breakfast and lunches of the conference. So far, I had the chance to meet close to 100 women at TechDays in other cities. It’s a common consensus among the women I met that we need to build a better network to foster communication and career development. I’m interested in hearing your ideas about how we can get this done.

    If you are attending TechDays Vancouver, I’d love to connect with you at the WIT area. Here’s a picture of me taken over the holidays for your reference. Below is my contact information. Feel free to drop me a line or give me a call to schedule a meet-up. 



  • Canadian UX Blog

    Why I want to try Windows 7 Beta?


    After coming back from a week of professional training at Microsoft headquarter Redmond, I finally got a chance today to watch Steve Ballmer’s Pre-CES Keynote. The public availability of Windows 7 Beta was the big announcement, and starting last Friday, everyone can download the Beta to try out. Of course, as a UX designer, I’m interested in Windows 7 UI improvements. As I was watching Charlotte Jones demoing Win7 Beta UI, the phrase “Small Multiples” came to mind.  Just a brief look at UI, you probably don’t feel there’s much changed from the Vista desktop. However, through her demo, I was impressed by how these salient changes that were made such as in taskbar, windows management, and network setup made a big difference in people’s productivity. That’s why I want to try out the new Windows desktop and will keep you posted about my experience.

    Windows 7 Center has a detailed blog post on changes in UI in Windows 7 from Vista with great screenshots. One UI feature I’m not sure about and waiting to try out is the “jumplist.”

    Users access an application’s “jumplist” by right clicking the icon in the taskbar. This gives users the quick access of recent work and frequent tasks. I like the idea, but I’m not sure about the discoverability of this feature since there’s no visual indication why users would want to right-click on the icon. However, once the an user discovers the feature, I think he/she will be able to use it no problem. I’m interested in hearing about the usability study result behind this.

    Anyway, my manager John Oxley has started trying out the Beta build of Win 7. If you are on twitter, you can use the hash tag #cdnwin7 to share your experience with him. I’m looking forward to getting mine installed tomorrow. Happy Beta testing! :)

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  • Canadian UX Blog

    Microsoft Innovation News


    Here is a list of innovative projects from various Microsoft labs. Many of these projects are handy tools that you can try out today.

    From Live Labs


    Thumbtack lets users collect snippets of information from Web sites and share the collections with others.

    Political Streams

    "Social Streams is a Live Labs project whose mission is to aggregate, store and mine all social media content. The Social Streams Platform has been used to support a number of applications and research efforts, and to date we have made one of these applications called Political Streams."


    Seadragon AJAX was written from ground up using JavaScript allows users to zoom in large images, which provide a similar experience as DeepZoom in Silverlight. However, the difference between Seadragon AJAX and Silverlight DeepZoom is that the later allows collection creation. In other words, developers have much more control to manipulate the sub images within the DeepZoom composition.


    Seadragon Mobile "Seadragon has gone mobile.  Now you can try out our first mobile version to see graphics or photos on your iPhone in greater detail than ever before. Create your own content with the Deep Zoom Composer or PhotoZoom and view it on your phone. "

    From Office Labs


    "Touchless enables touch without touching by using a webcam to track color based markers. Touchless includes two parts: "Touchless Demo" is an open source application that anyone with a webcam can use to experience multi-touch, no geekiness required; "Touchless SDK is" an open source SDK that enables developers to create multi-touch based applications using a webcam for input, geekiness recommended."


    Sticky Sorter is a desktop application that allows anyone to use it to collaborate and organize ideas electronically, using a familiar sticky note interface.

    From Startup Business Accelerator


    Response Point is a an advanced software-based telephone system for small businesses. It supports voicemail and multi-party calling in addition to two party VoIP calls. It features innovative voice recognition technology to manage calls and voice mail. Voice mails can also be sent to e-mail where they can be retrieved and archived.

  • Canadian UX Blog

    Community Silverlight Site



    I came across SilverlightShow this morning. It's an independent Silverlight community, and the goal of the site is to "help Silverlight developers to find solutions to common problems, to stay up-to-date with the latest news, to learn the best practices by providing quality articles, tips, examples, showcases, books and many more." The site has lots of great information. For example, they aggregate Silverlight news by day from popular blogs and provide a summary for each. I'd like to point out one piece of news in particular because it's a great follow-up to my TechDays talk on Silverlight Control Framework:

    Steve from the team blog of the Expression Blend and Design products has published the article “A UserControl base class for Visual State Manager”. If you want to write your own UserControl  then you will need to add your own states to the control and you will also need to know how to handle events and call VisualStateManager.GoToState() to transition between your states. In this post you will find one base class which could be a good starting point for you.

    SilverlightShow team also launched a contest called "Silverlight: Write and Win." Developers and designers, enthusiasts and professionals from all over the world are encouraged to enter. The goal is to share what you've leant, made, and know. You have to simply write an article about your concept (application, control, whatever) related to Silverlight 2 and provide the code (under an OSI approved license) and you’ll be entered – submit as many times as you want.  A mix of community members and Microsoft folks will be reviewing the content and code. The contest ends on Jan. 31. I know many of you have created tutorials and write papers on your own blogs, so why not enter the contest and share your knowledge with the bigger community?

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  • Canadian UX Blog

    Happy First Day!


    As we are getting ready to celebrate the First Day of 2009, one of my colleagues from Brasil sent me the following note. I really like his way of thinking about First Day. Here I wish everyone Happy New Year and many Happy First Days!


    Below is an electronic holiday greeting card signed by all my teammates from Microsoft Canada. You can click to see the animated card in Silverlight. The art work of the card is created by a 9-year old girl, Catherine Chen, from Eastview Boys and Girls Club in Toronto.

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  • Canadian UX Blog

    Interaction Designer's Elevator Pitch


    j0438696[1] There's a very interesting discussion thread going on at IxDA forum, called "Interaction Designers: What is your elevator pitch?" I consider myself an Interaction or UX Designer who is evangelize UX to the designer and developer community. Although UX Design is a broader term than Interaction Design because it could be any aspect that affects the user experience of a product, these two terms are often used interchangeably in software design. In many social situations, I need to first give the elevator pitch of what is UX design. My answer has evolved over the years:

    Q: What is Interaction Design or UX?

    A: [when I first got into HCI field]: It's like a fashion design but for computer software.

    A: [when I was in grad school]: It's a study of human behaviours when interacting with computer technology through user research, design, and usability evaluation.

    A: [Now] I help people improve their user experiences with they technology they rely on everyday through designing useful, usable, and attractive software. I would like to design compelling User Experience that puts a smile on people's faces.

    Here are my favourite elevator pitches from the discussion thread:

    • I design how digital products and humans interact with each other.
    • I plan and build online experiences for people by focusing on making things easy to use and enjoyable. I do that by listening to people and working to incorporate solutions to meet the needs of the people that will use it. I pretty much just love efficiency and optimizing things for others as best as I can.
    • I help spread the smile when dealing with products and the products could range from a simple website to physical products to entire systems.
    • "I'm an interaction designer"
      "What's that?"
      "I design how things should behave and then get ignored by everyone else."
      "Oh, like what?"
      "Like that your TV remote should have a dial, like a mouse wheel, for volume and channel changing. Because you can skip ahead much faster and count how many notches you've clicked. It could even depress so an on-screen number could rapidly change, and then pressing shoots off to that channel."
      "That's a good idea, why aren't they like that?"
    • To General Public -  "You've seen the TV ad for that Easy Button?  I do that."
      To IT Manager - "Making your 50,000 lines of code  usable by Normal People"
      To Marketing - "I'm the Competitive Edge."
      To CIO - "What's the main difference between a conventional IT shop and a professional software development house?   Me."
    • I design software and websites that people don't hate.

     What's your elevator pitch?

  • Canadian UX Blog

    Merry Christmas, Happy holidays and Happy New Year!


    It’s a pleasure connecting and supporting each and every one of you through the year, both personally and from a team perspective … I am lucky to have a role and great team that is focused on supporting and helping you make a positive difference in Canada.  I also feel so lucky to have this relationship with you. You’ve given us great feedback to help better support you , adjust our programs and hopefully we are earning your trust and building a foundation of satisfaction!

    Canada has so many great developers and technical professionals that really make the difference in their community, business and individually.  Over the year, I’ve had the pleasure to hear so many stories of heroic, life and business changing activities/solutions that you have impacted and delivered.  Hearing your stories makes us even more compelled to support you.  Your impact and feedback give me and my team  the energy to try and do more.  You are such a great group of people to support and I look forward to 2009Family-Pic-1

    Merry Christmas to you and your families from me and mine … wherever you travel, whatever specifics you “celebrate” … may you find some time to BE with loved ones … and relax a little.  Happy 2009!

    As always in the new year… please feel free to contact me directly as my email door is always open ..... john.oxley@microsoft.com


    Director Microsoft Canada

  • Canadian UX Blog

    Microsoft Arc Mouse and Simplicity


    Last week everyone on the team received a Microsoft Arc Mouse. I've been wanting to try it for a while since the first time I saw it in Oct. The arc shape of the mouse really attracts me and invites my hand naturally to hold it. As I'm reading the book "Laws of Simplicity" by John Maeda this week, I can't help relating the Arc mouse design with the laws of simplicity.

    The first law of simplicity is REDUCE. As John stated: "The Simplest way to achieve simplicity is through thoughtful reduction." The Arc mouse reduces 40% of its size when folded. It not only easier to carry this way but the folding design also reduces an extra power switch present in other mice. Users unfold the mouse to turn it on and fold it to turn it off. The power light indicating mouse on/off is placed between the left and right mouse button. The Arc design also reduces the mouse weight because the centre of the mouse is hollow. Holding a much lighter mouse than my previous one took me some time to get use to. I find myself placing my small finger under the arc to hold it.


    The seventh law of simplicity is EMOTION. Sometimes simply designed objects can be considered as ugly or cheap. However, this is not the case in the Arc Mouse. Besides the initial attraction of holding the elegant arc object, the finishing material design of the arc could make it much more attractive and expensive. For example, one style of the arc mice is finished with red wood on the top (see the picture below on the left by Kerry Chin). When explaining this law, John introduced "nude electronics" in his book. The idea is "while the core object remains its pure, simple, and cool nakedness; its clothing can keep it warm, vivacious, ... the combination of a simple object together with a host of optical accessories gives consumers the benefit of expressing their feelings and feelings for their objects." Check it out: I've now dressed my arc mouse in a Chinese style carry case rather than using the default carry case it. Its small and convenient size allows me to personalize it. Now I like it even more, and no one can say its cheap or ugly. :-)


    DIFFERENCES is the fifth law of simplicity. "Simplicity and complexity need each other." I still like and use my Microsoft Presenter Mouse 8000. It has a lot more functions than the Arc Mouse, and I can't live without it when I'm presenting. However, I appreciated the simplicity of the Arc Mouse more when I compare it with the Presenter Mouse. The micro-transceiver of the Arc Mouse snaps into the bottom of the mouse, which makes two separating parts into one.

    DSCN0079 DSCN0080

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  • Canadian UX Blog

    [Podcast] Imagine Cup Final Experience


    JinandKevin Remember Jin and Kevin from SFU? We showcased their project on CanUX earlier this year and followed their journey of winning the second place worldwide in the Design Competition for Imagine Cup 08. As Imagine Cup 09 is underway, I sat down with them over Explore Design conference find out what's it really like to be at Imagine Cup Final and competing with peers from around the world. In the 20 minutes interview below (sorry about the noise in the beginning), you'll learn

    • how did they come up with the project idea
    • their competition experience in Paris. Check this out: there were 20,000 students from over 100 countries!
    • what did they do for the final round of the competition - very intense but exciting
    • the judging process and award ceremony
    • tips they offered for this year's contestants

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