• Canadian UX Blog

    [Podcast] Microsoft Designer: Ruth Kikin-Gil


    <Digimax V800 / Kenox V20 / Digimax V20 >There are about 500 designers 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. Therefore, I used my spared time during my visit to Redmond last time to chat with Ruth Kikin-Gil, who is a UX Design Lead at the Office Labs Team.

    Office Labs is a fun group in Microsoft that focuses on prototyping and testing innovative ideas within the productivity space. The popular TouchWall project was coming out of the Envisioning group within the Office Labs. Within a group that constantly strives for innovation, solves tough problems, and designs for the future, I'm curious to find out what it's like to work as a UX designer in the team.

    In my 20 minutes conversation with Ruth below, I asked her about:

    • What's your role and main responsibilities?
    • What are some projects from Office Labs?
    • How is Office Labs organized?
    • How do designers work differently in the Office Labs team than the designers working in traditional product teams?
    • What are some community outreach activities the Office Labs is doing?

    Ruth's Bio:

    I’m  a user experience designer and researcher with over 10 years of experience in working across a broad range of projects and roles in three continents. I was born and raised in Israel, studied and worked in Italy, Finland, UK and US. I worked for startups, had my own design consultancy (Max. Interactive ltd), worked as a UX consultant in Europe, and now I lead the UX team in Office Labs – a Microsoft innovation group which focuses on the future of productivity and information work. (www.officelabs.com )

    I have a Bachelor degree in Design from Bezalel academy of art and design, Jerusalem and a Masters degree in Interaction design from Interaction design institute Ivrea. I’m interested in the interplay between society and technology and in the creation of experience platforms that change the way people act and perceive their actions. I explore how existing social interactions and behaviors can be supported or transformed by technology and be better facilitated through new products and services.

    You can see some of these projects in my website: www.ruthkikin.com. Besides all that I’m a foodie, a film buff, a book worm, and a level 48 druid elf. 

  • Canadian UX Blog

    Morten's Expression Web 2 Learning Resource


    We've introduced Morten Rand-Hendriksen couple of times in this blog and followed his amazing journey from learning Expression Web to a Expression Web expert. Recently, he published his first book titled  "Sams Teach Yourself Microsoft Expression Web 2 in 24 Hours" and his article on "How to create a Pure CSS Drop-Down menu" appeared in November's Expression newsletter. Both the book and the article offers practical tips to web designers and developers on how to effectively create great websites using Expression Web. Check them out and congratulations Morten!


    Sams Teach Yourself Microsoft Expression Web 2 in 24 Hours

    "The book is a quick read and it gives you hour-by-hour instructions on how to create a web site from scratch with Expression Web. And once you’re done, you’ll have a fully working and standards based web site at your disposal. I wrote it as the book I wish someone had written when I started out and from the response I’ve gotten so far people are learning a lot from it. Which is what I set out to do."

    Morten has also created a Reader’s Companion site along with the book where the readers can download lesson files, dive deeper into the world of Expression Web through further reading, find relevant links and interact with other readers. The site is a custom WordPress installation with a highly customized theme designed from scratch using Expression Web 2.

    image How to create a Pure CSS Drop-Down menu

    "In this tutorial you will learn to create a Pure CSS Drop-Down Menu pretty much without writing a single line of code. This is done by harnessing the power of Expression Web’s innovative and intuitive Style dialog as well as the power of CSS as a design and layout tool. What is great about the way Expression Web handles CSS is that it lowers the threshold for learning, understanding, and authoring style code and gives people with little to no experience with this code language the ability to create solid standards-based web sites. The many integrated CSS functions--including the Apply and Manage Styles task panes, the Style dialog and the CSS Properties task pane--give beginners as well as advanced users a multitude of different ways of working with this powerful code language and make it easier than ever to create compelling and functional web sites."

  • Canadian UX Blog

    Design Student of the Month - AnnA Docherty


    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 November 2008 is AnnA Docherty! Congratulations!! Let's hear from AnnA.


    Who is AnnA?

    I am a fourth year Industrial Design student from the University of Alberta. Right now I am taking a year off from school and working as a product design intern for Umbra in Toronto. My focus in industrial design is on product and furniture design. I believe there is a lot of room for improvement in the objects that we use everyday. A fun fact about me is that I have a Barcelona Chair by Ludwig Mies Van Der Rohe tattooed on my back.

    What cool things is AnnA working on?

    At Umbra I have several products that are being considered for production. One of the pieces is a solid wood side table that flat packs without using any fasteners for construction. The design is for Umbra’s U+ line and will hopefully be available for June 2009. This is an interesting piece in terms of user experience since it uses real wood joints such as mortise and tenons instead of screws or fasteners. It flat packs and the user simply slides the pieces together to make the table. The table is developed on the principle of thin living. It can be used in a number of applications and incorporates two functional table tops and storage while occupying a relatively small footprint of space.

    What are AnnA’s plans after graduation?

    After I finish my undergraduate degree I will probably continue on to a masters program in industrial design. I have been looking at a few schools internationally, I would like to go abroad to gain a wider and richer perspective on design. I believe that design is as much about the designer as it is the object that is being designed. In order to have successful products and designs, a designer must have a clear division of themselves so that they can embody this in a tangible and visible form in their work. Design will therefore be derived from the culmination of experiences and understanding of the world of the designer.

    Want to learn more about AnnA?

    Visit www.theAnnA.ca for more information on AnnA.

  • Canadian UX Blog

    December Silverlight User Group Meeting



    This is the last Silverlight user group meeting of the year. Hope to see you all there!

    Time: 6:30PM, Tuesday December 2nd, 2008.

    Location: MSN Office Downtown Toronto, 222 Bay St. Toronto, ON


    6:30 – 7:30: Animations and Databinding in Blend - by Dan Borkowski & David Stubbs

    • Creating dependency properties in code to databind
    • Visual databinding in Blend
    • Animations in Blend

    7:30 – 7:45: Break
    7:45 – 8:45: Silverlight within SharePoint - by Sean Hopen

    • Overview of developing web parts for use in SharePoint - Benefits of using Silverlight in a SharePoint implementation

    8:45 - 9:30: Q&A

    Prizes: Silverlight 2 books, Expression Studio 2, and Visual Studio 2008 copies.

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

    Speakers Bio

    Dan Borkowski (Infusion) Dan is a software consultant at Infusion Development. He has worked on enterprise desktop and web applications as well as POCs and demos using the latest and greatest Microsoft Technologies - .NET 3.5, WPF, Silverlight, SQL server. Dan has been working with Blend and Silverlight for about a year, since the early days of 2.0 beta1 and expanded his knowledge by working with WPF. In his latest projects, he has been heavily utilizing Blend to take care of animations using triggers and the VSM as well as exploring the 3D aspect of controls and animations while working with Microsoft Surface.

    David Stubbs (Infusion) David is an User Experience Designer at Infusion Development. He has worked on WPF, Surface, and Silverlight projects. His area of concentration is Design, however he has also been venturing into the world of code more and more, and as such has come to understand a lot of the underpinnings of XAML and C#. David has been working with Blend/WPF for 4 months and has been doing everything from full 3d, to interactive Silverlight demos. He has had a chance to touch on many things such as the VSM, Animation, Layout, and general Blend/Silverlight nuances.

    Sean Hopen (New Toronto Group) Sean has been developing software for the last 25 years. And is now a Senior Consultant for the New Toronto Group. He has lead development teams working on desktop, client server, and multi-tier internet applications for Health, Financial and Education sectors. SharePoint development with a Silverlight focus is his current area of concentration.

  • Canadian UX Blog

    Bringing UX to Developers - .NET Users Group Presentation


    I had the opportunity to present at the Metro Toronto .NET User Group last Wednesday. Even it was the first snow of the winter in GTA, but there were still more than 40 people showed up to listen to my talk on "Building for People: 5 Practical Tips for Creating Great User Experience." I was very excited about the presentation because it was my first time to conduct a pure UX talk to a developer audience. I've been presenting about Microsoft UX platform, stories, and tools to designer audience in the past year, so it was an exciting challenge for me to see how I can talk about UX design to developers that resonates to them.

    Thanks for everyone's positive encouragement and feedback! I learnt using practical and interactive approach to present UX topics to developers worked. I'll continue improve the presentation and bringing UX to more developers. Below are my presentation slides and a summary of the talk.

    Presentation Summary:

    • What is UX? "User Experience Design is all aspects of the user’s interaction with the product: how it is perceived, learned, and used." - wikipedia It's more than skin deep, so UX doesn't equal to User Interface. UX matters to many aspects of the product that software developers and architects care such as performance, security, reliability, and much more. The key UX elements are: Usability, Usefulness, Efficiency, Adaptability, and Desirability.
    • Why Bother? It’s hard enough to just get the things done and functional, much less make it have good UX. Because
      • Experience Defines the Product not functionality. The ROI of UX design is great.
      • A focus on UX will help you better address functional requirements: build the right thing, prioritize functions, improve users’ efficiency and accuracy when using your software
      • The final user experience is determined by:
        • What the developers can build in the time available
        • What the developers can be bothered building
        • How well User-Centred Design practice is integrated in the development cycle
        • What the developers understands of the User Interface specification
    • How? So how do I, as a developer/architect, create good experiences for my users?
      • Understand and embrace user-centred design process. Integrate the process into your existing software development cycle.
      • You don't need a degree in HCI (Human-Computer Interaction), but there are lightweight UX practice you can do now such as
        • keep an eye on popular applications and websites to see what makes them popular
        • Research and study couple of fundamental books in UX
        • Use UX principles and patterns
        • Remember the following 5 tips
          • Know your users. You are not the user, and most of the times your clients are not the users either. Your users are the people who will ultimately use the software your are building. Spend time to find out what they know and need. Don't let your ego get in the way.
          • Reduce concepts to increase confidence. Minimize the number of choices presented at any given time.
          • Communicate effectively through a visual language. Think about whether if a concept communicate better visually than text. Use as few different typefaces and sizes as possible. Follow simple visual design principles: Contrast, Alignment, Repetition, and Proximity.
          • Increase efficiency when possible. Reduce the number of steps to accomplish a task.
          • Be Consistent. Conventions are good, use consistent language, follow the users expectation, and let users existing skills transfer. Remember innovate only when you know you really have a better idea, but take advantages of conventions when you don’t.
    • Resources
  • Canadian UX Blog

    Your satisfaction matters...and it’s clear that we need to do better!


    Hi Everyone,

    In the sprit of being transparent and building connections, I thought I would share my teams mandate and goals with you.  My team is responsible for one key goal in Canada and that is to build your trust and support you in a manner in which to earn your satisfaction with Microsoft.   We don’t  focus on 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 usually in the fall and early spring.  One survey focuses on developers and the other on IT pros.   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. 

    Now, this isn’t an easy goal and there’s a lot that inputs into the results, some of which we can control in Canada and some that we in which we need be your ambassador within Microsoft.  We just got the latest results back and it seems we have some work to do.   To make sure we are doing the right things we need your help in understanding how we can better serve you and support your success.  The IT pro satisfaction numbers are flat and the developer numbers have shown a decline.  These are trailing indicators and while we’ve adjusted our current plan based upon your previous feedback, we want to make sure what we are doing is reaching you in a positive manner.  It’s very important to me and my team to earn your trust and understand how to help.  The recent broad postive feedback on TechDays, AlignIT 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.  clip_image002

    So, to better gauge and understand where and how you as a Technical Professional (IT Professional, Developer, Architect or IT Manager for example) find what you need to support you in your role we’d like to invite you to share with us where you find I.T. ? 

    Microsoft Canada is conducting a brief 10-15 minute online survey to gain these learnings.  We want to ensure that we are driving and delivering information that is of the highest value to you to the right location.  With your participation, we’ll also be able to better understand how Technical Professionals like yourself consume various types of technical information so we can make certain resources you need are readily available.  Please if you have some time give us some feedback and then sign up up for the MSDN/Technet newsletter as I want to make sure that we also share this information out broadly back to you.


      Please feel free to contact me directly as my email door is always open ..... john.oxley@microsoft.com

      See you across Canada!


    • Canadian UX Blog

      Finding Opportunities in a Recession Economy, PART 3


      Note:  This is the third post in a three post series on succeeding as a professional in IT during a recession.

      Without a doubt, most of us are experiencing the most serious economic recession in our lifetimes.  There's an awful lot of uncertainty that goes with that; everything from our retirement savings, disposable income and job security. 

      IT as an industry is certainly not immune to these worries and as professionals in this space, I'm sure the concerns I have are similar to those that you are facing.  So, in stressful times like these, what are some of the things you can do to be successful and how can Microsoft help you achieve that success?

      Well, to answer that question, let's take a look at it from a few different angles.  First, there's the personal angle (i.e.:  how do you make yourself more marketable and valuable in recession economy?).  Second there's established business angle (i.e.:  how can I make the business more efficient with IT?).  Third, there's the start-up angle (i.e.:  how can I launch a new business and make it successful?).  Let's take a look at each of these angles separately through 3 separate yet connected blog posts.  In this third and final post in the series, I will focus on Launching a Start-Up Business in a Recession.

      Launching a Start-Up Business in a Recession

      Yesterday a conference for Start-Ups called Startup Empire was held in Toronto.  Microsoft was one of the sponsors of the event and my colleague David Crow, a bit of a rockstar in the Canadian startup community, was one of the organizers.

      The tone of this conference was a bit different than your typical startup event, mainly because of the shape our global economy is in.  That being said, it's interesting to note that the speakers at this conference see great opportunities for startups to thrive in a situation like this, but you need to be ready to fail, too..

      My boss, Mark Relph, also notes some wise learnings for startups that are especially relevant in tough times like this.  Things like:

      I'd also add that finding the right industry vertical is important.  For example, while anything is possible, I'd argue as of today that a startup focusing on the retail industry is gambling in dangerous territory.  Launching a start-up in a more recession-resistant industry like healthcare or education (regardless of the economy, people will always need medical services and schools will always be open) may make more sense.  Something to keep in mind.

      From a Microsoft perspective, there's some exciting things that we provide to start-ups to help them build their dream solution.  The first is BizSpark.

      BizSpark is Microsoft's premier initiatives to help get start-ups off the ground.  The details about BizSpark can be found in this document, but in a nutshell, it provides Microsoft software to build the solution, gives start-ups access to partners and other global support resources and visibility on Microsoft sites like StartupZone and the BizSparkDB which potential customers can use to view solutions that might fit their needs (i.e.:  it will help you drum up customers).

      Another resource, one that is not strictly for start-ups is the Microsoft Partner Programme (MSPP).  The partner programme offers a great deal of support to companies building solutions on the Microsoft platform, including deeply discounted software in order to build your solution, free training only for partners, co-marketing opportunities and the ability to profile your solutions in the Partner Solution Profiler which customers can search to find solutions that fit their needs, among other things.


      Technorati Tags:  Recession, Recession and IT, Developer, Microsoft

    • Canadian UX Blog

      Finding Opportunities in a Recession Economy, PART 2


      Note:  This is the second post in a three post series on succeeding as a professional in IT during a recession.

      Without a doubt, most of us are experiencing the most serious economic recession in our lifetimes.  There's an awful lot of uncertainty that goes with that; everything from our retirement savings, disposable income and job security. 

      IT as an industry is certainly not immune to these worries and as professionals in this space, I'm sure the concerns I have are similar to those that you are facing.  So, in stressful times like these, what are some of the things you can do to be successful and how can Microsoft help you achieve that success?

      Well, to answer that question, let's take a look at it from a few different angles.  First, there's the personal angle (i.e.:  how do you make yourself more marketable and valuable in recession economy?).  Second there's established business angle (i.e.:  how can I make the business more efficient with IT?).  Third, there's the start-up angle (i.e.:  how can I launch a new business and make it successful?).  Let's take a look at each of these angles separately through 3 separate yet connected blog posts.  This post, the second in the series, will focus on Retaining Momentum for Established Business in a Recession.

      Retaining Momentum for an Established Business in a Recession

      Staying ahead of the curve as a business in this economy is really tough.  Cost cutting is a common theme and finding ways of doing more with less is becoming more and more a way of life.

      Development Tools

      Microsoft's tools and platform are built to streamline the process of building great solutions.  Visual Studio 2008, for example, allows development teams (including application developers, architects, testers and DBAs) to collaborate on projects as well as deliver the solution more quickly. 

      Collaboration and Line of Business

      Our server software allows you to potentially save costs that are traditionally associated with day-to-day business.  A great example of this would be our Unified Communications platform.  Business travel is something that will never go away, but our Unified Communications solution with technologies such as LiveMeeting and Office Communicator, can reduce the need for employees to travel.  You can also manage your telephony infrastructure with Unified Communications as it is VoIP-enabled.

      Another platform that may surprise you with respect to increasing the productivity of employees is the Office 2007 platform.  There are two aspects of this - desktop and server. 

      The server components include Microsoft Office Sharepoint Server (with the unfortunate acronym of MOSS) and Microsoft Exchange.  Sharepoint provides an enterprise-ready content management and collaboration platform that allows your employees to access the most up-to-date information and share ideas with others.  Microsoft Exchange gives employees access to email literally anywhere and anytime.  Regardless of location, employees have access to email on their desktop (using a mail client such as Outlook 2007), securely over the internet (through Outlook Web Access or OWA) and through mobile devices such as smartphones.  The agility that these two server products offer allows employees to be agile and respond to business opportunities quickly.

      The desktop component includes Microsoft Office 2007.  Microsoft offers a number of versions of the Office 2007 suite to fit your business needs.  That way you are not required to pay for functionality you don't necessarily require.  It also is extremely customizable.  With the introduction of Office Business Applications (OBA for short), you can now seamlessly integrate backoffice data into Microsoft Office.  This is extremely valuable as it allows employees to access and manipulate data using familiar tools (such as Excel), reducing training requirements and potentially reducing complexity in data transfer processes by eliminating some third party applications for things like reporting.


      Virtualization is a concept that is continuing to pick up steam.  Microsoft's virtualization strategy focuses on five areas:  server/hardware virtualization, application virtualization, storage virtualization, desktop virtualization and presentation virtualization. Microsoft's solutions in each of these areas is focused on allowing businesses to reduce bottom-line costs through a number of ways, including:

      • rationalizing the amount of hardware required to run line of business applications
      • lowering the number of installed software products on desktops
      • increasing the manageability of servers and desktops from a central location

      Microsoft System Center is another administrative tool that can help manage adminstrative costs associated to IT.  While associated to our virtualization strategy, it offers a number of benefits to IT departments including:

      • Configuration Management:  Allows IT departments to centrally manage the configuration and provisioning of software to the company in a controlled manner
      • Compliance:  Central management of all servers with respect to ensuring compliance to policies driven by the business (such as security policies) as well as other compliance pressures such as regulatory compliance (e.g.:  SOX, HIPAA, FISMA, etc.)
      • Monitoring:  Ability to monitor the health of servers from a centralized location and alert administrators when an issue arises
      • Data Protection:  manage the backup and recovery processes for multiple servers in a systematic fashion, both for physical and virtualized environments

      Windows Vista

      I'll admit it - Windows Vista has been getting hit hard with FUD around its value as a desktop operating system.  The interesting thing is that there is much evidence to the contrary that states that businesses that use Windows Vista actually have a lower TCO than those that use other desktop operating systems (including Windows XP).  For example, a whitepaper published by Wipro and GCR Custom Research titled Reducing the TCO with Windows Vista states that the average cost savings vs. Windows XP for mobile notebooks deployed within an organization is $251 per notebook.

      It's also the most secure operating system Microsoft has produced.  Loss of data through theft, subversion or even accidental data loss is expensive and also poses potential costs associated with it including fines (in the case of privacy breaches) as well as loss of reputation.  The Windows Vista One-Year Vulnerability Report shows "that researchers found and disclosed significantly fewer vulnerabilities in Windows Vista than either it predecessor product, Windows XP, or other operating systems such as Red Hat Enterprise Linux, Ubuntu, and Apple Mac OS X 10.4" (page 19 of the report). 

      Finally, with increasing costs associated to energy (and even if energy prices may be relaxing somewhat from all-time highs), technologies that reduce their energy footprint are certainly useful in reducing costs associated with IT.  To that end, many people don't realize that Windows Vista's enhanced sleep mode features and smart use of power can save a surprising amount of money in the form of energy savings.  A white paper from Microsoft outlines some of the potential savings and on page 6 of the report states that a typical Pentium IV running Windows Vista with a 17" LCD monitor can save $55.63 per year compared to the same PC running Windows XP.


      Technorati Tags:  Recession, Recession and IT, Developer, Microsoft

    • Canadian UX Blog

      Finding Opportunities in a Recession Economy, PART 1


      Without a doubt, most of us are experiencing the most serious economic recession in our lifetimes.  There's an awful lot of uncertainty that goes with that; everything from our retirement savings, disposable income and job security. 

      IT as an industry is certainly not immune to these worries and as professionals in this space, I'm sure the concerns I have are similar to those that you are facing.  So, in stressful times like these, what are some of the things you can do to be successful and how can Microsoft help you achieve that success?

      Well, to answer that question, let's take a look at it from a few different angles.  First, there's the personal angle (i.e.:  how do you make yourself more marketable and valuable in recession economy?).  Second there's established business angle (i.e.:  how can I make the business more efficient with IT?).  Third, there's the start-up angle (i.e.:  how can I launch a new business and make it successful?).  Let's take a look at each of these angles separately through 3 separate yet connected blog post.  This post, the first in the series, will focus on Personal Success in a Recession.

      Personal Success in a Recession

      Everyone in IT knows that it's tough to keep up to speed with all the new technologies that are being released.  Once you've learned one technology, another always seems to hit the market and gain buzz.

      The trick is to really embrace the idea that learning is a lifelong activity.  The reason why this is so important (especially in times such as these) is because with these new skills you are more marketable.  When there is momentum behind a new technology, you may be better positioned to hit the ground running with the new technology.  A great example of this from the Microsoft perspective is Silverlight.  We are seeing a lot of excitement in the marketplace for it and businesses are really seeing value in it for building interactive visualizations.  This presents great opportunities to you if you are a developer or a designer to expand your skillset and have knowledge of a new, in-demand technology in your toolbox.

      Microsoft provides a number of resources to help you get up to speed more quickly on our platform.  Some are local to Canada and some are worldwide.  Below are some of these resources:

      • TechDays:  TechDays is a Microsoft training conference that is held in cities across Canada.  It focuses on providing in-depth sessions on Microsoft technologies that you can use today.  While the Toronto and Montreal stops of the conference have already past, you can still register for the other cities (Ottawa, Calgary, Winnipeg and Vancouver).
      • Developer Training:  Through MSDN (Microsoft's primary portal for all things developer on the Microsoft Platform), Microsoft offers a number of Hands-On Labs, webcasts and tutorials for various technologies.
      • Technology Portals:  There are a number of specific portals for various Web and Software + Services technologies that are part of the Microsoft development platform.  Good examples of this include the ASP.NET Portal, the Silverlight Portal and the Windows Client and WPF Portal.
      • Open Source:  Microsoft is often perceived as anti-open source, which is actually completely wrong.  We have a fundamental interoperability strategy that is core to our work.  This also includes CodePlex, which is our open source repository where developers can grab applications and code that exist under open source license.
      • Designers:  Historically, designers were not part of our ecosystem because Microsoft did not have tools that could legitimately support their work.  With the advent of Silverlight and WPF, we introduced Expression Studio 2 years ago to give designers the ability to create truly interactive applications on the web and on Windows.  Accompanying this is our Expression portal which provides great information on the Expression suite of tools as well as tutorials, forums and online training.
      • Free Tools:  In addition to training materials and information, we also offer some great free tools that are good to help you learn our platform as well as the ability to create software solutions that are royalty-free from a Microsoft perspective.  These tools, known as the Express set of tools include Visual Web Developer 2008 Express (for building ASP.NET websites and Silverlight applications), Visual C# 2008 Express (for building desktop applications with C# as well as C# class libraries), Visual Basic 2008 Express (for building desktop applications in VB as well as VB class libraries), Visual C++ 2008 Express (for building managed and non-managed desktop applications as well as C++ class libraries) and SQL Server 2008 Express (our free version of the SQL Server 2008 database system)


      Technorati Tags:  Recession, Recession and IT, Developer, Microsoft

    • Canadian UX Blog

      Happy World Usability Day!



      Happy World Usability Day everyone! This year's theme is "Transportation." There are tons of webcasts on the World Usability Day website and a message from Bill Gates. We have the following WUD events in Canada. Listen to a webcast or attending an event near you. Let's celebrate!!

      • Canadian UX Blog

        Silverlight FAQ from TechDays


        Thanks for everyone who came out to the Toronto and Montreal TechDays. The three Silverlight sessions in both cities are extremely popular with long line-up of people wanting to ask questions about after the presentations. Robert Burke (Silverlight Samurai Skills presenter in Toronto), Laurent Duveau (Silverlight Samurai Skills presenter in Montreal), and I (presented Silverlight Control Framework) gathered some frequently asked questions below and provide our answers to share with you.

        1. What tools do I need for building Silverlight 2 applications?

        From the design side, you need  Microsoft Expression Blend 2 and then install Microsoft Expression Blend 2 Service Pack 1. Expression Blend 2 along with Service Pack 1 allows designers to graphically create UI's for Silverlight 2 applications. From the development side, you need Visual Studio 2008 SP1 or Visual Web Developer Express with SP1 and download the Silverlight Tools for Visual Studio 2008 SP1. For creating Deep Zoom experience, Install Deep Zoom Composer. Also, download Silverlight Toolkit. This Toolkit is a Microsoft project containing Silverlight controls, components and utilities that can be downloaded and used in your Silverlight applications. It includes full source code, samples and tests.

        2. How does Silverlight deal with multiple paged applications?

        Think about SL applications more like desktop applications in the sense that a new page can be created dynamically in runtime. The implementation is quite simple: you create your different pages as page1 (.xaml and .xaml.cs), page2, page3, … , and then create a Page Switcher (i.e. it`s the initial start page) so that it can load different pages as necessary. This way not all pages need to be created at the beginning, and when a new page replaces an old page in the Page, the old page goes to garbage collection.  Watch a tutorial on Using Multiple Pages.

        3. Do I need special servers to host Silverlight applications?

        No. SL applications are complied as .xap file which is essentially a zip file and can be hosted on any server.

        4. Expression Training for Designers?

        Yes. There are quite a few online tutorials for designers. Please see my Expression Resource blog post.

        5. How is Silverlight different than Flash?

        Using Silverlight, you can created similar experience as Flash on the web. However, there are several areas of experience we demonstrated at this year`s MIX conference that would be very hard to build with Flash.  First is the rich interactive Olympic media experience that was delivered using Silverlight by NBC in August. Flash doesn't have the adaptive streaming capabilities to host that type of experience. Second is the Deep Zoom experience that comes with Silverlight 2, which is very hard to achieve using Flash.

        Second, Silverlight is part of our UX platform, which spans from Windows to the Web, and include emerging surfaces such as the media/living room (Xbox360, Media Center PC), as well as mobile devices. Each of these platforms has shared capabilities and development tooling, but greatly different performance and integration characteristics. Similar to developing Windows based desktop application, Silverlight apps can be developed using the same tools - Expression Studio and Visual Studio. Thus, Windows designers and developers can easily transfer their skills to develop Silverlight applications

        Third, designers and developers can work together building Silverlight apps more effectively using the integration between Expression and Visual Studio. The "secret sauce" to the process is XAML which provides the ability for both designers and developers to work on assets with the two tools with little to know re-work as the assets are passed back and forth between the two roles.  The most interesting thing about Designers for SL is that your vector based graphics and layout are immediately "ready" for use by the dev's and will look exactly the way they were designed in the final product.

        Lastly, the intent of Silverlight is not to replace Flash, but rather provide a choice for designers and developers. Silverlight control can interact with Flash controls with JavaScript. Expression tools can work with adobe tools together to create compelling UX as well. For example, in Expression Design, designers can import Adobe Illustrator files and images files from Photoshop into a workspace and then export as XAML.

        6. What about Silverlight and SEO ?

        You can use some Search Engine Optimization techniques to expose Silverlight content to search engines. You can read the following links to find out more.

        7. Can I use ADO.NET in Silverlight ?

        ADO.NET is not available in Silverlight and it makes sense as Silverlight runs in the browser. The way you manage data with Silverlight is by creating a model over your db on the server and expose it with web services. You can look at this ADO.NET Data Services example.

        8. Would you recommend Silverlight for line of business application ?

        Silverlight has everything you need to do data driven apps: data controls like DataGrid, rich Networking (WCF, SOAP Web Service, REST, ...), LINQ, Data Binding.
        The question is more on who your users are (Win, MAC, Linux ?) and where they are (Internet, Intranet ?).
        You can read more on this blog post for more information:

        9. Is ASP.NET dead ???

        No!!! Silverlight is not a replacement for ASP.NET and both technologies have different goals. Silverlight is a cross browser, cross platform plug-in for building rich interactive application inside the browser. ASP.NET runs on the server and needs the .NET Framework as well as Microsoft IIS web server. Aspx pages generate html in the browser, you can add richness with AJAX (JavaScript). ASP.NET offers high level services (Membership, Role, Profile) not yet available in Silverlight. In fact ASP.NET can nicely complement Silverlight!

        10. Can you set/read cookies in Silverlight ?

        Silverlight runs in a sandbox and do not have access to local files on the client. To store app settings, user preferences or small pieces of data you can use Isolated Storage: http://silverlight.net/learn/learnvideo.aspx?video=65677

        11. Compare Silverlight vs WPF XBAP

        XBAP (XAML Browser Application) allows you to run Rich Internet Applications that look and function like WPF desktop applications in browsers (IE and Firefox on Windows). A restriction on XBAP is that it needs .NET framework 3.0 or higher to be installed on the client machine to run.


        • Only Targets IE and Firefox on Windows
        • All WPF Features/controls are available
        • Supports 3D
        • Deployment is harder as we need to take care of deploying all .Net Dependencies on client Machines
        • Heavy Weight
        • Better for Intranet Applciations


        • Cross browser, cross platform
        • Subset of WPF features
        • Easy deployment (xap packages) and light Weight
        • Better for Internet Applications

        12. Can you store .NET objects in Isolated Storage ?

        Yes you can write any .NET object or collection in the local cache and read(cast) them later. However, remember avoid saving sensitive data like passwords or connection strings as user can get access to these files.

        13. Is there any reporting control with Silverlight 2 ?
        There is no Reporting component in Silverlight but you can use the new charts controls in the Silverlight Toolkit.

        Robert Burke's Blog: http://robburke.net/

        Laurent Duveau's Blog: http://weblogs.asp.net/lduveau/

        Thanks, Qixing

      • Canadian UX Blog

        TechDays à Montréal


        3007412891_a161a92824_bBonjour Montréal ! C'est Philippe Riel, Directeur des communications stratégiques, marchés francophones.


        L’équipe de Microsoft est en ville cette semaine pour la conférence TechDays, tenue au Palais des Congrès.

        C’est l’événement de l’année pour la communauté des développeurs québécois et tous les professionnels des TI de la province. Au programme, d’excellents ateliers animés par nos cracks de la technologie comme Christian Beauclair, Pierre Romain, Georges Maheu, Éric Renaud, François Tanguay, Joël Quimper et Laurent Duveau, entre autres, qui partagent leurs connaissances techniques sur 5 sujets principaux : Développement Windows, Développement Web, Virtualisation, Plateforme Microsoft/Veille stratégique et Infrastructure. DSC_5686

        Les participants ont reçu une trousse de logiciels d’une valeur de plus de 1 000 $, comprenant entre autre les versions complètes de Expressions Web, Visual Studio 2008 et l’inscription pour 6 mois à TechNet Plus, le tout bien empaqueté dans une boîte de Techie Crunch !

        Pour ma part, je suis fier de constater les progrès réalisés par la compagnie au cours des dernières années au point de vue des communications françaises : une large partie des ateliers et des présentations sont effectuées en français et toutes sont produites avec traduction simultanée pour les auditeurs. C’est un grand pas pour nous :-)

        De plus, les présentations seront éventuellement postées sur techdays.ca, pour ceux qui n’auront pas eu l’occasion d’assister aux TechDays en personne.

        Voici la première vague qui se conclut à l’instant et mon ami Joël s’apprête à aller charmer la foule avec sa propre présentation – je vous quitte donc là-dessus.

        TechDays Learning KitDSC_5675

        À bientôt !


      • Canadian UX Blog

        Election Ballots Design


        The above figure is taken from Effective Designs for the Administration of Federal Election

        As the whole world is waiting for who's going to be the next US president, I came across this interesting interview on ballet design and usability this morning. I learnt a lot about the history and design thinking went behind designing election ballots, and hopefully there's no "Florida recount" again.

        Below are some highlights I found particularly interesting from the interview:

        • The design specifications for printed ballots are published by the US Election Assistance Commission called Effective Designs for the Administration of Federal Elections
        • "How difficult has it been to get legislators and politicians to understand the value of design and usability? Some of the problems are the same in the public and private sectors. How do I fit this into my already-tight election cycle? How do I get design and usability for free (or for cheap)? What if there are hideous things that I don’t have time to fix? In the end, it comes down to two things: a) the possibility of getting bad press; and b) how much will it cost if something goes wrong and we have to do recounts (which usually also involve multiple law suits)."
        • "What can designers and usability experts do to help support improving ballots in the future? Sign up to be poll workers. It is estimated that 2 million poll workers will be needed for the election on November 4. There’s nothing like observing real people use a design in real time. Take note of the types of questions voters ask."
        • And lastly the tragic failure example at a voting booth is hilarious: Voting a completely empty ballot on an electronic machine because the touches on the screen did not register. When we asked the participant how confident she was that she voted as she intended, she said she was very confident. When we asked her if she had noticed that the things she touched on the screen did not change color (as the instructions said they would, as she had read aloud to us), she said, “That’s the way computers work.”

        Check out the full interview conducted by Scott Berkun.

      • Canadian UX Blog

        WIT at TechDays Toronto


        image Women in Technology at TechDays Toronto by Barnaby Jeans. DSCN0050

        Thanks to all the ladies who joined us at the Women in Technology (WIT) Connection Area at Techdays in Toronto! It was our pleasure to meet everyone.  This was the first time we had a networking area and it gave us an opportunity to hear from you. We really appreciate everyone's participation and would like to share the notes we captured during our conversations.

        The main challenges for women in technology

        • Mentoring and guidance are important to help women going through different stages in their careers but also in their life. However, it is so difficult to find women in the technical field to connect and get support.
        • There is a need for networking platform. This connection area idea is excellent. It would be great to have this at other technical events.
        • There is a need to balance difference aspects of life. Flexible hours is important for this.
        • Women typically don’t ask (promotion, salary increase, etc). It would be great to get them feel comfortable about selling what they do.
        • There is a tendency on not to speak up about the challenges as it might be difficult for others to relate to these challenges.

        Why did we choose IT?

        • Technology itself is an international language and it enables people to have a job wherever they want. If you would like to live in different parts of the world, technology is the best industry to be in.
        • Analytical skills and being good at math
        • Very positive perception about IT in India
        • It helps to feel confident and it is great to be called as “cool Mom!” or “Ms Gates”
        • “While keeping up with the technology, I feel like I am being a good role model who values learning all the time”

        What do people think about the WIT connection area at TechDays?

        • It is an excellent idea and it is important to get together. It helps women to talk about the challenges, exchange ideas and share insights.
        • This has been extremely helpful and it would be great to have a discussion forum to continue this discussion.
        • “This discussion helped me to see clearly that I am not alone or I am not the only one who has these challenges”
        • “This is a great initiative; it is great to become part of it”
        • “I have a very shy personality but the connection area gives me the opportunity to learn from others. I feel like I can make a difference”

        Other Women in Technology Activities in Toronto:

        Both of these groups are fantastic and helps you network with other women in IT.

        Feedback around the event

        • This event has been fantastic to get the knowledge around what is possible with new technologies
        • Great speakers and demos. It is great to see how we can do things
        • Looking at new technology and learning where the resources are extremely helpful.
        • It would be great to see follow-ups and have sessions in more technical details
        • Time management at the event is very good. Thanks to Rick!
        • Getting introduced to new technologies is very valuable as it helps to make the business case
        • The sessions are very informative
        • Microsoft needs to focus on vitalization more as companies are moving onto consolidation of their servers
        • It is sometimes intimidating to ask question in front of all these people, it would be great to have an online Q&A section and we can submit the questions.

        This is just the beginning of our WIT conversation. For the challenges we face as women in IT, it's very important to learn from each other and work together to overcome these challenges. If you want to share your advise on how to deal with these challenges, feel free to comment on the blog or send your thoughts to me and Cigdem directly. Again, it was so nice to meet everyone and we had a lot of fun chatting with you all.

        Cigdem (Pronounced “Chee-dam”): cigdemc (at) microsoft.com

        Qixing (pronouced as "Chi-shing"): qixing.zheng (at) microsoft.com

      • Canadian UX Blog

        TechDays 2008 Toronto.....it’s a wrap!


        Hi Everyone,

        I can’t express how excited and how tired I am.  It has been a wonderful journey to bring this type of conference to Canada.  I received some great feedback on how we are going to adjust the experience for the next cities and I'm floored about all the positive feedback that  shows we are on the right track.

        Here’s a summary from the context of a TechDays guest.  I’ve tried to take a scenario approach to capture the experiences as we’ve had many individuals share their experience and comments with us.

        When I first heard of TechDays, I was excited and a little be skeptical that you can move so far from the marketing sessions to deliver on this technical conference.  I arrived on the first day and was pleasantly surprised as the logistics and breakfast was unlike any of your past events.  Being treated as a guest vs. an attendee was a nice touch.  Oh yeah, the TechieCrunch  box was pretty neat as well......it took me a while, but I got it.....the spoon is a pen.   Then it was time for the rubber to meet the road....the first session.  Bringing real world speakers that have been then and done it was a nice touch.  You can see they were nervous and as there some early logistics to work out as we got started….so it was sort of slow to get going.  But after that, it seemed to pick up and it took stride, especially day two.  There were lots of great speakers, some needed some more work and can use some practice, yet the speakers, their experience and the content really made the difference.  There was so much content over the two days it was hard not to find something for anyone.  We found ourselves mixing it up and went to 3 or 5 tracks.   Here are some ideas I’ve gathered to help improve the experience.

            • It really did show it was your 1st event - which I find REALLY weird since you have been in business how long...glad you are taking the focus off marketing
            • I would recommend it to others, and I would go yearly to such an event....please make it yearly and give time in advance to know when it’s coming
            • Provide some more healthy snacks, the food was great...(nice touch with the break snacks) and there was lots
            • Provide the ppt in soft copy or allow access for attendees onsite...maybe provide all demos and ppts on a usb key
            • Bring in more of the real world speakers and invest some time in supporting them with speaker training
            • A little confusing to realize that I got copies of all the platform software....as part TechNet subscription
            • Need more interaction, fun stuff to drive connection as it was great to share and meet people that are deploying the technology
            • Great clarity.....Techdays is about current technology which I can deploy today.....PDC and EnergizeIT is about looking to the future
            • Overall a great start and we can see the possibilities
            • Having access to the speakers was great….can we get more time with them….i.e. open panel at the end of the day or lunch?
            • Sessions need to be longer so not to rush and have more time to discuss the topics.
            • Love to see some sort of hands on built into the sessions….maybe access to onsite demos?

        On to the next city and continuing to improve and refine the experience as we go.  From the Toronto event it’s clear that we need to support this type of conference across Canada and we will.  Please keep sending me your comments and feedback as that is what has gotten us this far.  We can only make it better and build this into a yearly conference based upon your desire to help us make it happen.

        Please feel free to contact me directly as my email door is always open ..... john.oxley@microsoft.com

        See you in Montréal!


      • Canadian UX Blog

        Design Student of the Month - Adam Bourret


        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 October 2008 is Adam Bourret! Congratulations!! Let's hear from Adam.


        Who’s Adam?

        I’m a recent grad of the Centennial College Centre for Creative Communications in Toronto. I came to this city after graduating from Brock University with a degree in Fine Arts, intent on becoming a graphic novelist. I started designing web sites to pay the bills and wound up making something of a career of it.

        What cool stuff is Adam doing?

        I just finished my first book - “I’m Crazy” and I’m taking on a variety of sites, principally for arts organizations. I think the web is such a great place for learning and free expression, so I think it’s important that arts have a presence there. Sometimes I feel like the whole web is moving towards this boring template style. I want to bring a sense of originality, personality and fun to my work. The internet is not a boring place.

        Recently I’ve been working on flash games. I’m a big geek in my private life and making flash games is like a whole new level of geekiness. My favourite game so far is an adventure game I built out of old Super Nintendo graphics. I’m also very proud of a little game called “Science Fair” a deductive reasoning adventure for kids. I loved computer games as a kid and I think they’re a wonderful tool for teaching.

        What are Adam’s plans after graduation?

        As much freelance work as I can muster. I’m working on developing a series of flash games that follow a soap opera story line. I’m really interested in how user input can influence a narrative and I think it would be an interesting fusion of comics and code.

        Want to learn more about Adam?

        I’ve launched an online portfolio at http://www.bluespaceship.com/adam_bourret/, most of my web projects are featured there, and some of my art projects as well.

      • Canadian UX Blog

        Had your Techie Crunch today?


        Techie CrunchWelcome to day TWO of the Toronto edition of TechDays 2008 in Canada. As our first two day event, it was a little strange going to the hotel last night, remembering that we had to be back bright and early at the Toronto Convention Centre.

        I wanted to introduce you to our Learning Kit - A.K.A. Techie Crunch. Instead of a giveaway bag full of marketing material, this box is packed full of learning goodness.

        • 6 month TechNet+ Direct subscription
        • 30% off Certification Voucher (any MS exam)
        • Virtualization Kit
        • Visual Studio 2008 Professional (full version)
        • Microsoft Expression Web 2 (full version)
        • Complete TechEd DVD set from TechEd North America 2007
        • $100 discount coupon for Dev/SQL Teach
        • Exclusive access to online training portal
        • A Brain Warming Toque
        • A spoon you can take notes with

        The cereal boxes are at hit! You can get yours exclusively by attending a TechDays event across Canada. Before anyone asks - they are fully recyclable and made from paper containing recycled content.

        Pierre and Rodney are thinking of doing an "unboxing record" of the cereal box in the not too distant future. Stay Tuned.




        Rick Claus

      • Canadian UX Blog

        TechDays Social Networking - Show Your Colours!


        I am taking a couple of minutes of rest to have an diet coke in-between sessions here in Toronto. Man - if I had a pedometer, I'd swear that I had walked a couple of kilometres so far today.


        I acted as host for our lunch time session and reinforced the opportunity people had to make connections with other TechDays guests who had self identified themselves with the track colours. It's something new we are trying to help facilitate some of these networking opportunities. It's self identification by attaching a matching track colour ribbon to your conference badge.


        Look for other like minded individuals in the halls by matching the colours and you are set to have a common ground of interest. At Lunch time - we even had "recommended seating areas" based on colour, to increase your odds of connecting even more. A couple of members of our team decided to take this to another level and organize a "Women in IT" roundtable.


        When you come out to TechDays - seize the opportunity to connect up with others and makes some new connections to strengthen your network. We'll have the colour tags at the front of every room and will be continuing this trend across all the cities.



        Rick Claus

      • Canadian UX Blog

        TechDays and PDC


        It's such an eventful week! 80% of our community team is at TechDays today, and the rest 20% at the Professional Developer Conference in LA.  I presented the last session of the day in Web Developer Track and the first session on Silverlight. I was very anxious to hear the feedback from developers about my session because I was trying to talk about Silverlight controls from both design and development sides. Below are my first and last slides. At the end of the session, I was happy to hear from several developers that they found Expression Blend was very interesting, and they were surprised that it was so easy to create a user control and changing visual states in Blend. At the same time, they better understood the designer-developer workflow from Blend to Visual Studio. I'd like to keep improving the session as I'm going on the TechDays tour around the country. If you attended my session, feel free to contact me on the blog and give me feedback.

        image image

        Also, at TechDays today, I had a chance to network with many women at the conference. We had a Women In IT networking area where we shared our passion in IT and some common challenges of being a woman in IT. It's great to see people use the area to meet other women in the field. Below is a snapshot at breakfast.

        DSCN0051 by Rickster-CDN.

        See more TechDays coverage on my sister blog CanITPro: http://blogs.technet.com/canitpro/

        See more all the excitements from PDC and a comparison between TechDays and PDC at CdnDevs blog: http://blogs.msdn.com/cdndevs/archive/2008/10/29/on-the-eve-of-techdays-2008.aspx

        Technorati Tags: ,
      • Canadian UX Blog

        <3 Your Web at MIX09


        clip_image002MIX09 registration is open now! We are going with a funky and modem look. The website gives some highlights on what's new in MIX09:

        There’s something different in the air at MIX09. Some might call it love - love of the interaction between designers and developers; love of inspiration and innovation through interactive media; love of everything that makes the Web truly great. <3 Your Web at MIX09.

        • MIX09 weaves UX into the very fabric of the conference. Join the conversation with world-class thought-leaders on a range of user experience topics. More
        • Come early for the pre-event workshops, designed to provide in-depth focus on practical skills and topics. More
        • how your passion for the Web and win a trip to MIX09 by entering the MIX10K and ReStyle challenges, or support your friends and co-workers by voting for the community choice winners. More
        • We’ve heard your feedback loud and clear — keep MIX intimate. Space will be even more limited this year, so register now to reserve your spot at MIX09. More

        The first set of sessions are listed. Some of them look very interesting:

        C# for Designers, AGI

        Having some programming knowledge as an interactive professional can set you apart from the rest. Come learn the essentials of C# for creating interactivity in Microsoft Silverlight and Windows Presentation Foundation in this session, and add another weapon to your design arsenal.

        The Future of Microsoft Expression Blend, Doug OlsonMicrosoft Corporation

        Introduced in 2007, Expression Blend is already revolutionizing the design and development workflow for creating highly immersive, interactive applications for Windows and Microsoft Silverlight. In this session, Expression Blend’s leader Doug Olson discusses the future plans for Blend and reveals some amazing sneak peeks straight from the workshop. This session focuses on design and shows how Blend improves the productivity of visual designers, providing better access to data and enhanced tools for interactivity. This session also shows how designers can be deeply engaged and remain in control of the creative decisions while enjoying improved collaboration with developers throughout the project lifecycle.

        Go Beyond Best Practices: Evolving Next Practices to Prosper in the 21st Century, Lou Carbone

        It’s obvious that times have changed. We are nearly a decade into the 21st Century and awash in all the capabilities and benefits that technological advancement has lavished on us. Yet we are still stuck framing business management the way we always have—from a mental model that originated in the early days of product manufacturing. It is a framework that is outdated, irrelevant and will not get us where we need to be to prosper and remain influential globally. In this session, Lou Carbone cites evidence and outlines next practices based on sensing and responding to customers’ needs versus a world of making and selling in which product manufacturing is rooted. Come learn why you need to view business differently—to evolve from best practices to next practices—if you are to survive and prosper in the years to come.

        Join the MIX social crew at Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, and subscribe to the RSS feed for MIX09 Headline news. See you at MIX09!

        Technorati Tags: ,,

      • Canadian UX Blog

        [Podcast] Interview with Lisa Anderson


        Hope you enjoyed my podcast with Jensen. During Explore Design, I also had a chance to sit down and chat with another Microsoft design leader, Lisa Anderson. Lisa has worked in several large companies as their UX director and very passionate about designer's career in technology companies. It's great to hear her insights on Surface UX design and her view on Microsoft design culture in general. Below, I broke my interview into two segments (about 10 mins each) to share with you. You can listen to Lisa's answer on the following questions.

        Surface specific questions

        • Tell us about your role and main responsibilities as a director at Surface UX team?
        • How is Surface UX team organized?
        • What are some challenges in multi-touch design?
        • What's the future for Surface?
        • How does the Surface UX team work with other Microsoft Experience design teams?

        General questions about Microsoft Design

        • What is the design culture at Microsoft?
        • In your mind, what are some great design successes from Microsoft in the past 3 years ?
        • What are top 3 UX design areas/opportunities for Microsoft in the next 5 years?
        • What is career path for UX designers at Microsoft?
        • What contributes to a great UX designer?

        Lisa C. Anderson is currently the Microsoft Surface User Experience Director. Previous to this role, she held similar positions at Intuit and Autodesk in the Bay Area. In years past, Lisa acted as User Experience Director for several other teams at Microsoft: Windows XP, MSN, Real Time Collaboration. She was also Executive Producer at Corbis for several years, where she produced award-winning, high-end documentaries on CD-ROM (Leonardo da Vinci;  Critical Mass: America’s Race to Create the Atomic Bomb; FDR; The Barnes Collection). Her background and education are in Design, Art History, English Literature, Writing, Editing, Publishing.

      • Canadian UX Blog

        [Podcast] Interview with Jensen Harris


        During Explore Design, I had a chance to sit down with Jensen and ask my specific questions face-to-face. Jensen joined Microsoft right out of college and has been with Office team for 10 years now. It's very interesting to get his perspective on Office UI design and Microsoft design culture in general. Below, I broke my interview into two segments (about 10 mins each) to share with you. You can listen to Jensen's answer on the following questions.

        Office UI specific questions:

        • Tell us a little bit about your role and main responsibilities.
        • Office 2007 has shipped for almost 2 years now, it got great recognitions for its innovative UI. From the feedback you've heard, what do people most like about the Ribbon UI? What are some improvements people suggested for the Ribbon UI?
        • What's the future for Office UX?
        • You recently blogged about Office Labs, can you tell us about the relationship between Office team and Office Labs team?

        General Microsoft Design questions:

        • What is the design culture at Microsoft?
        • In your mind, what are some great design successes from Microsoft in the past 3 years ?
        • What are top 3 UX design areas/opportunities for Microsoft in the next 5 years?
        • What is the career path for UX designers at Microsoft?
        • What contributes to a great UX designer?

        Jensen Harris is the Group Program Manager of the Microsoft Office User Experience team and was one of the key designers behind the new Ribbon user interface introduced in Office 2007. Jensen joined Microsoft in 1998, and has focused on the overall user interface of Microsoft Office since late 2003. Prior to working at Microsoft, Jensen graduated with degrees in music composition from Yale University and Interlochen Arts Academy. He publishes his thoughts on software and user interface design on his blog: http://blogs.msdn.com/jensenh.

      • Canadian UX Blog

        Silverlight 2 is Released!



        Earlier this week, we shipped the final release of Silverlight 2! This is an important milestone for us in terms of providing rich media and interactive experiences on the web. Scott Guthrie has a very comprehensive blog post on the improvements of Silverlight 2 RTW.

        Many of you may already have upgraded to the RTW version without knowing it because we've migrated Silverlight.net to the RTW version over a week ago. Later this month, people who have previous versions of Silverlight will be automatically upgraded to the final Silverlight 2 release. Couple of weeks ago, Paul talked about the breaking changes between Silverlight 2 Beta 2 with Silverlight 2 RC. If you've already updated your site with RC, then your websites should work fine under the RTW version. There are no breaking changes from Silverlight 1.0 – our goal is to maintain100% compatibility between published releases.

        The tools you need to download to create Silverlight 2 RIAs are:

        • Expression Blend 2 and SP1. If you had Expression Blend 2.5 Preview, you need to uninstall Blend 2.5 first before installing Blend 2 SP1. The Service Pack exposes two key new features of the Silverlight 2 platform, control skinning and the Visual State Manager, which give designers the visual freedom and power they need to build even more compelling Silverlight 2 applications. Control skinning gives designers the ability to visually customize controls to enable them to exactly fit the function they play within an application, while the ‘Visual State Manager’ gives a flexible and visual way to control precisely how each element of a control will behave and look in a given state. I'll be posting mini-tutorials on both features.
        • Silverlight 2 tools for Visual Studio 2008 SP1 and . If you had the old Silverlight 2 Beta 2 tools installed for VS, the new toolkit will replace the old one during installation. Make sure you also install VS2008 SP1 before installing the Silverlight tools.
        • New Deep Zoom Composer for creating rich zooming experience.

        Have fun with Silverlight 2!

      • Canadian UX Blog

        TechDays Early Bird Pricing Has Been Extended!!

        Technorati Tags:

        Hello Everyone! 

        During this time of global economic instability, It’s important that IT Professionals and Developers remain focused on delivering value, enabling business and increasing the impact it has to across your organization.   From speaking with many of you, without a doubt, the current economic situation is a topic that is on everyone’s mind. In uncertain times making sure you have the right skills to make an impact is important.  I see this is a real concern and feel we need to help.  I’m not an economist, I can’t predict the future or the end of the economic uncertainty, but, what I can do is focus on what we can control and extend the early bird price for TechDays 2008 to Oct 29th!  image

        Act now to take advantage of this opportunity as TechDays not only provides you the right skills you need, it also gives you the tools and the support necessary to ensure you can have an impact and support you in your career.

        Help Grow your Skills:

          • This is definitely not your “typical” MSDN/TechNet tour.  It is not a marketing event - it's is a professional development event We truly are focusing on helping you to grow your skills across a breath of products and solutions while learning from someone that has the real world experience. 
          • With over 30 technical sessions with a technical depth of 200 or greater the content will be technically deep, and delivered by an array of great speakers. We truly are focused in on helping you and ensuring you have a great experience at the event with content reigning supreme.

        Provide you with the Tools you need:

          • You get a lot of great free stuff.  A 6 month subscription to TechNet Plus (which includes 2 free support incidents), Microsoft® Visual Studio 2008 Professional - Full Version, Microsoft® Expression Web 2 - Full Version, the TechEd 2008 DVD Set, a 30% off Certification voucher - applicable to all Microsoft Commercial Certification Exams, Microsoft® Visual Studio Team System 2008 Team Suite - Evaluation Software, Microsoft® Expression Studio 2 - Evaluation Software, Office Communications Server 2007 - Evaluation Software, and A $100 Discount Coupon for DevTeach/SQL Teach Training

        Provide you the support you need:

          • Included in the TechDays Learning Kit - TechNet Plus subscription helps you prepare for critical issues and plan for future deployments by providing fast and convenient access to the latest software for evaluation without time or feature limits, beta releases, 2 complimentary Professional Support incidents and other technical information and tools to get your jobs done faster. Here is what’s included:
            • Full-version evaluation software without time limits
            • Beta software releases
            • Technical Information Library
            • 2 Professional Support Incidents
            • Managed newsgroups
            • Online concierge Chat
            • Technical training resources and Microsoft E-Learning Courses

        I look forward to seeing you there!

        take care,



      • Canadian UX Blog

        Oct. 22 Silverlight User Group Meeting


        In the last Silverlight user group meeting,  Mano and Chris gave everyone an overview on Expression Blend and demoed the workflow between designers and developers using the new toolset to create Silverlight applications. In the next user group meeting, I'll take a closer look at the latest version of Expression Blend and show you some practical examples of creating Silverlight rich user experience using Blend and how both designers and developers can take advantages of the tool. Some topics will be covered include:

        • Blend UI editing features overview
        • Create an interactive button using Visual State Manager
        • Create a user control in Blend vs. VS2008
        • Control styling vs. Control skinning

        Carlos Rocchetti from Navantis, who has more than a year now developing in Silverlight will also present. Here's the meeting detail:

        When: 6:30PM, Wednesday October 22nd, 2008.

        Where: MSN Office Downtown Toronto,  222 Bay St. Toronto, ON


        6:30 – 7:30: A Close Look at Expression Blend – presenter Qixing Zheng, Microsoft
        7:30 – 7:45: Break
        7:45 – 8:45: Silverlight Model-View-ViewModel design pattern with LINQ and WCF data service  - presenter Carlos Rocchetti, Navantis
        8:45 – 9:30: Q&A

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

        Speakers Bio

        Qixing Zheng, joined Microsoft Canada as its first User Experience Developer Advisor, in which she talks to schools, IT communities and companies about Microsoft's investment in UX, finds 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.

        Carlos Rocchetti, is a technical architect at Navantis, and has been in the IT industry for over 12 years.  He has been involved in various projects, including a Hospital information system called CCIS for which his team received the 2007 Tech-Net innovation award.  Carlos has been working with Silverlight since beta 1, and is very keen on practically applying this technology and WPF to line of business applications. Carlos is a Microsoft Certifified Technology Specialist – ASP.NET, enjoys sports, strategy games and loves spending time with his wife and son.

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