• Canadian UX Blog

    Cozying Up to Silverlight Controls at TechDays


    image Now the words are out about TechDays and the first stop at Toronto is just around the corner. I'm really excited about the conference because I took up an exciting challenge for myself as a presenter at the Wed Developer track. The challenge has two favors...

    First is I have been talking about Silverlight as our rich web platform from a user experience perspective for the past year and most often my audience are designers or academics focusing on UX design. I demonstrated to them how to use Expression Studio tools especially Expression Blend to create rich interactive experience such as animation, control styles, event triggers, and vector graphics. This is the first time I'm speaking to a large developer audience and deliver a deep technical session focusing Silverlight Control Framework. I definitely get the chance to refresh my Computer Science roots while preparing for the presentation. At the same time, I learnt a lot about the pros and cons of creating Silverlight controls in Visual Studio vs. Expression Blend. I don't like people strictly categories Blend being a designer tool and Visual Studio being a developer tool. I believe the right tool for the right job. RIA development is blurring the line between designers and developers, and a type of role is emerging called "Devinger" or "Integrator." These are people who care about the user experience for their web applications and understand how to translate design visions into reality without sacrificing design fidelity. Either designers or developers can expend their skills and take up on this key role. In my presentation, I'll talk about how to create rich and reusable Silverlight controls most effectively in both Expression Blend and Visual Studio and share with you some best practices for designer-developer workflow in building Silverlight applications.

    Second favor of my challenge is to incorporate UX message into my technical presentation that can resonate with developers. Just to quickly clarify what do I mean by user experience (UX). "It's all aspects of the user's interaction with the product (in our case web application): how it is perceived, learned, and used." - wikipedia. It much more than the prettiness of the UI, it's about performance, accuracy, usefulness, and desirability. This is something everyone involved in developing Silverlight applications should care. Silverlight controls are building blocks of Silverlight applications, so we need to make sure they are attractive, accessible, easy to restyle to fit the overall application theme, and have consistent behaviors. The topics I'll cover are: creating Silverlight user controls, styling controls vs. customizing controls, creating simple control interactions using Visual State Managers. From the presentation perspective, my goal is to stay away Powerpoint bullets and integrate more design into my presentation.

    Finally, to sum up:

    • My session is - Cozying Up to the Silverlight Controls Framework, Web Developer track.
    • What you should come to my session:
      • get a good understanding of Silverlight Control Framework
      • learn about creating and styling controls in both Blend and Visual Studio
      • get a close look at the new designer-developer workflow in Silverlight
      • discover your inner artist, especially if you are passionate about UX
      • it'll be a fun session ;-)

    See you at TechDays!

    Qixing Zheng  |  User Experience Developer Advisor  |  Microsoft Canada


  • Canadian UX Blog

    [Podcast] Microsoft Designer: Cinthya Urasaki


    Cinthya UrasakiThere 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 Cinthya Urasaki, who is a UX Design Lead at the Unlimited Potential User Experience Team.

    I think one of the biggest advantages of working at Microsoft as UX designers is there are so many different groups with their unique design challenges you can work on. I first met Cinthya at the MIX conference this year, she talked about her group designing for emerging markets such as China and Africa. As designers in the team, they really need to understand the culture difference. Many things we may already take for granted in the way we interact with computers could be completely different. For example, you'll need to rethink the PC experience because computers are often shared by a community of people in those markets. One of my favourite blogs talking about culture and design is Future Perfect by Jan Chipchase.

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

    • what's her role at the Unlimited Potential design team?
    • what are some design projects the team is working on?
    • what are the challenges when designing for emerging markets?
    • What are Cinthya's daily activities?
    • What are some necessary skills to be a great UX Designer?

    You can view the interview below or download it here. Enjoy!

    Cinthya Urasaki is a User Experience Design Lead at Microsoft’s Unlimited Potential Group. By partnering closely with user research, Cinthya works on shaping incubation projects that addresses the needs of the other 90% of users in the world. Her current focus is on mobile solutions for Emerging markets. Prior to UPG, she led the social networking UX team at Windows Live. She was involved in creating current and next generation of social communication products like Windows Live Messenger, Spaces, Events and Groups. Before joining MS in 2004, Cinthya went to the Institute of Design, IIT in Chicago to do her Masters in Human-centered communication design, where she learned how to apply user-centered methods in innovation and design processes. Cinthya comes from Peru, where she spent 4 years doing design consultancy in Lima, Peru creating corporate identities for small and big enterprises including print, packaging, web and advertising solutions.

  • Canadian UX Blog

    Great Time at Explore Design!


    Explore Design (ED) is one of the most energetic conferences we've participated in. After ED wrapped up on Thursday, our feet and throat were telling us just how much they were overworked, but it was totally worth it. :) During the two-day conference, a couple of thousand high school students visited the Microsoft booth. It's so nice to interact with them directly and hear their unique feedback on the Microsoft Design examples we showed. Some of interesting observations:

    • Interacting with a Surface table and learning how to design games for XBOX were two biggest hits in our booth.
    • There were more girls at the Surface table than boys. Although both genders loved playing games with each other on the table, girls often explored more applications on the Surface tables.
    • Many students liked the Zune design. Actually, during my presentation "Designing Magical User Interfaces," a student mentioned Zune is a magical designed object. Other examples are Wii, iPone, and Photoshop. When I asked "why zune," he told me that he really liked the shape and the external materials of Zune. It makes him feel Zune is more sturdy than iPod. Students also liked the social feature of Zune.
    • Most of the time, instead of actively demoing Surface, we let students interact with it on their own. We found often times the sequence of how they explore Surface table is: interacting with one finger from one hand first, and then with two or more fingers from one hand, and finally with multiple fingers from both hands.
    • Many interesting questions were asked about Surface. Among those, one of them I remembered very clearly. One Industrial Design professor asked me about the bacterial concern for Surface when it's touched by so many people in public places! This is something I haven't thought about, but it's a very valid concern. Today, we do to eat at a restaurant, we hardly touch the dining table even in very high-end restaurant. If these tables are replaced by Surface tables in the future, we'll interact and play with them before, during, or after eating our meals. How can we design the surface so it'll be germ free? Maybe having hand sanitizer attached to the table.

    We actually got some media attention, too. An interview with Lisa Anderson, Director at Surface UX team, on ITBusiness.ca. Both Tech Life (CTV Online) and OMNI Television came to our both and conducted interviews.  I really hope the experience of Explore Design can encourage more students go into the field of design, especially User Experience Design for technology!

  • Canadian UX Blog

    Imagine Cup 2009 Design Competition


    A new school year starts and a new Imagine Cup begins! This year's theme is "Solve the World's Toughest Problems." So, what are the world's toughest problems? The United Nations has identified some of the hardest challenges in the world today in its Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). This year the Imagine Cup uses these ambitious challenges as a guiding light to inspire change all over the world. You can the list of problems in the picture below and click on it to learn more.

    imageI was listening to the BBC World Debate over the weekend on the progress of achieving MDGs. It was worrying to hear that based on current developing trends, we won't be able to reach many of the MDGs by 2015. The UN says that we face a "development emergency". With the current financial crisis spreading globally, is the international effort to achieve these MDGs in a serious problem? Or even reverse the success we've made in the past several years? Our own Bill Gates joined with UN and government officials to try to answer these questions and to debate the best way of forward.

    This is a serious problem and exactly the right time to have Imagine Cup based on these millennium goals. This year we have 9 categories of competition: Software Design, Embedded Development, Game Development, Robotics and Algorithm, IT Challenge, MashUp, Photography, Short Film, and Design.


    The Design category this year expends the Interface Design category from last year. Now students can explore creative possibilities not only for software applications interface, but also any other type of design creative manifestation, such as PC hardware and Peripherals. This is exciting! I hope it opens the competition to Industrial design and engineering students. Check out the details of the design competition here.

    So, start think about using technology to help a brother or sister get an education, find entirely new approaches for medicine, discover ways to counter the inequalities that exist between genders around the world, or fight global warming. I can't wait to hear what you can come up with!

  • Canadian UX Blog

    It’s “LIVE” and you can sign up now for TechDays

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    Hello Everyone! 

    While we don’t have all the speakers listed as there are over 60 across the country (most should be there for the end of the week), we do have the sessions and you can sign up for the early bird price right now.  We are going out to the masses later this week and given we’ve limited attendance to 5000 across the country…please take advantage of this as soon as you can.   As you participate in our community connection blogs, I feel it’s important that we give you an advance heads up in order to miss the rush.

    Again, Thanks for all your comments and keep them coming.  My hope is that this type of subsided conference is one that is worthwhile to each of you and you vote with your feet to attend. 


    I look forward to seeing you there!

    take care,


  • Canadian UX Blog

    Silverlight 2 Release Candidate Now Available


    Late last week, Scott Guthrie announced the availability of the Silverlight 2 Release Candidate.  This is pretty exciting news as it represents a significant milestone towards the go-live of Silverlight 2. 

    The RC release of Silverlight 2 represents a developer release with the intent of providing a glimpse of what the final Silverlight 2 product will look and behave like prior to its release.  The reason this is being done in this particular case is that so that Silverlight solutions built with the Beta code can be tested with bits that are considered very close to the go-live release to fix anything that will break with the new version.

    You can download the RC bits for Silverlight 2 here.

    For specific information on the breaking changes the RC bits introduce, you should check here and here.

    And before you ask when Silverlight 2 goes live, don’t ask me because I’m not allowed to tell anyone.  :)


  • Canadian UX Blog

    Explore Design Presented by Microsoft

    Check out the deep zoom photo collage application on the home page.

    Explore Design is less than a week! Last year I went to the conference as an attendee and had a blast. It was great to talk to high school students who were interested in Design and connecting with design professors from colleges and universities around the country. I was really impressed by the creativity on the show floor and inspired by many keynotes and design seminars which conveyed the value and excitement of design. More importantly, I was thrilled to see there are so many students who were hungry to be the next greatest Interaction, Game, Fashion, Industrial, ... Designer! I wish there was an education fair like this when I was in high school. ;-)

    This year , we are participating in the conference in a big way this year. In addition to title sponsor the conference, we along with our partners are bringing the following content:

    Two Keynotes

    Oct. 1 @ 12:00pm:  A Design Vision for Microsoft Surface: Predicting the Past
    Lisa Anderson, Director, Microsoft Surface UX Team

    A new inflection point in human-computer interaction is upon us. Along with other technologies, Microsoft Surface marks a departure from graphical user interface (GUI) into the world of Natural User Interface (NUI.) This talk focuses a lens on how one design team is thinking about designing for a new era in which intuitive interaction is the imperative. Using theoretical models drawn from a mix of history, science, philosophy, and even video game design, this presentation reveals some principles behind experience design for Microsoft Surface and beyond.

    lisander005 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.

    Oct. 2 @ 1:30pm:  The Story of the Ribbon
    Jensen Harris, Principal Group Program Manager, Microsoft Office UX Team

    Farewell, menus and toolbars! In this talk, you'll hear the behind-the-scenes stories of how the Microsoft Office 2007 Ribbon user interface was imagined, designed, and validated. You'll see never-before-shown early prototypes, hear about the mistakes we learned from during the design process, and find out the principles of user experience design we used each step of the way in creating the first totally new user interface for Microsoft Office.

    clip_image001Jensen 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.

    Two Seminars

    Oct. 1 @12:30pm: Designing Magical User Interfaces

    Susan Greenfield, UX Designer, Infusion Development
    Qixing Zheng, UX Advisor, Microsoft Canada

    Experience the no-holds-barred creativity and killer apps that are leaving the web as you know it in the dust. We'll introduce you to the interaction designer's new best friend - Microsoft Expression - the one tool for designing stunning and immersive user experiences.

    Oct. 2 @ 11:00am: Form follows Fun: Player-Centred Design in Games

    Julian Spillane & Douglas Gregory, Frozen North Productions, Inc.

    The types of people who play games and the expectations they bring to the medium are diversifying at an incredible rate. Julian Spillane and Douglas Gregory of Canadian game development studio Frozen North Productions talk about the challenges in designing games for new types of player, and strategies for creating good, accessible fun.

    Design for the Greater Good Talk from Canadian Imagine Cup Winners

    Oct. 1 @ 11:30am: GreeNet and Imagine Cup
    Jin Fan and Kevin Muise, Simon Fraser University, School of Interactive Arts & Technology

    The Design Story Behind a Sustainable Interaction Design Application. Kevin and Jin will discuss GreeNet and the design story behind it and their tales from the Imagine Cup competition in Paris. They developed a prototype Facebook application that they hope will raise awareness of unnecessary energy consumption in daily life.

    Microsoft Design Showcase Booth

    Come and play our innovative designs firsthand with Surface, Expression Studio, XBOX, Zune, Home Server, Silverlight, and a big surprise that you don't want to miss!


    Lastly, you don't have to be a student or teacher to attend. If something at the conference interests you, just drop by the conference to attend one of the talks or play at our booth. Individual ticket is only $15.

  • Canadian UX Blog

    TechDays 2008 - Updates


    Hello Everyone! 

    Your feedback on TechDays has been great and I really want to thank you so much for taking the time to share your comments with me.  I thought, as there has been three major themes in all the questions, I’d share my answers both broadly and individually via direct email.

    Firstly, thanks for all the positive comments on bringing the technical conference series to Canada.  It is an exciting time. The team is pretty jazzed about doing what we can to support your development and passionate about being a positive contributor to the ICT industry.  We can’t wait until you attend and experience the event, so we can get your feedback to make it better….for next year.

    Secondly, I’ve had some comments on if there is a discount for students and user groups.  Short answer is no as this is an already subsidized conference.  Long answer: It costs a lot to bring this level of technical conference to Canada and since we wanted this type of training to be accessible to all, we’ve invested quite a bit to make the early bird price as low as it is.   Our cost to deliver this conference series on a per per person level is well over the full costs of $499.99 (2 Day event) and $249.99 (1 day event).    To that point we are committed to supporting you and your development/skills growth.....So, please take advantage of the early bird price as soon as you can.

    Thirdly, While I’m sorry that the Toronto date is the same time as the professional developers conference we did have to think about the broad audience.  We tried to get a different date and were limited in the availability due to our short booking time (I guess you need about a years notice).  On a positive note, for those not able to go to PDC, now they have the opportunity to attend a  technical conference with similar depth of content in Canada.

    Again, Thanks for all your comments and keep them coming.  Personally this is an important challenge and a needed conference that I’m excited about being a part in bringing to Canada.  Your support has been wonderful and I’m going to make it a point to be at most if not all the cities to do a listening tour in order to gain more of your feedback to make this even better next year.   So when you come, hunt me down and share your thoughts.

    The team also reminded me that…….It’s all about the BLING and if you what to show your excitement, please check out the the “badge / bling” page use it as you like to share your passion and download/use the TechDays Countdown gadget if you’re a real geek like me.

    As always, please get engaged, enjoy your journey and reach out to share your experiences.  You can connect directly to me or my team via our blogs or please don’t hesitate to email me at john.oxley@microsoft.com.



    John Oxley

    Director Audience Marketing and Community Evangelism

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


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  • Canadian UX Blog

    Upcoming UX Conferences in Canada


    Similar to last year, I'm filling up my calendar with upcoming UX conferences and activities. Here's the list I created. Feel free to add the ones you like in comments.

    Oct. 1- 2: Explore Design presented by Microsoft, Toronto 


    It's the first North America design education fair for youth. A consortium of educational institutions, associations, professional groups, and companies will provide 2 days of interactive exhibits, seminars, hands-on workshops. Keynote  presentations will be provided by internationally recognized design professionals. Explore Design explores a wide range of design disciplines such as industrial, fashion, graphics, game, and digital design.

    We are participating heavily in this year's conference including presenting two keynotes, two seminars, and showcasing the latest innovation technology from Microsoft. I'll talk about the details in a separate post.

    October 5 - 8, 2008: Associate of Canadian Ergonomics (ACE)’s 39th annual conference, Ottawa


    This years conference theme "Demistifying Ergonomics", explores the many fields involved in ergonomics design of productive, healthy and effective working environments.

    Oct. 13 -15, 2008: 10th ACM Conference on Computers and Accessibility, Halifax


    The ASSETS series of conferences is aimed at providing a technical forum for presenting and disseminating innovative research results that address the use of computing and information technologies to help persons with disabilities. This is an academic focused research conference but a great place to see the newest innovation in accessible computing technologies.

    Oct. 27 - 30, 2008: DesignThinkers2008, Toronto


    Although the conference focused more on graphical designers but I was very inspired last year by attending the keynotes and sessions. Visual design is a very important part of UX design, and more and more visual designers are doing interactive work as well. As they merge and become interactive designers, we'll see a lot more creative digital designs. You can read my thoughts on the conference here and here. The conference also encouraged me practicing more on my visual design skills.

    Nov 13, 2008: World Usability Day


    This is an important date rather than a conference. I see this as our UX professional's holiday. :) We usually  have various local celebrations for World Usability Day. You check out their site and find an event near your city to participate. This year's theme is "Usability in Transportation."

    Nov. 16 - 18, 2008: CanUX 2008, Banff


    I had a blast at last year's CanUX conference. This is the Canadian conference for UX professional. They whole conference is a very hands-on workshop and a lot of opportunities to meet and network with your peers. Highly recommended! I wrote my experience at last year's conference here.

    Feb. 5 -8, 2008: IxDA Interaction '09, Vancouver


    This is the hottest conference to look out for 2009 for UX professionals. It's an amazing the conference started from the IxDA mailing list and now a 4-day conference. Interaction 09 will be held from February 5-8, 2009 in stunning Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, in conjunction with Simon Fraser University’s School of Interactive Arts and Technology. Join several hundred Interaction Designers from around the world as we address the design of interactive systems of all types: applications (web and desktop), mobile, consumer electronics, digitally enhanced environments, and more. Start your year off with stimulating talk, fun parties, and smart discussions about our growing field.

    Other great UX conferences south of the border

    • Oct. 5 - 8, 2008: Design Management Conference, Maine

      I often listen to the DMI (design management institute) web seminars. This conference focuses on design management. This year they are exploring what happens when you mix traditional approaches to design, identity, and branding with new ways, tools, and influences.

    • Oct. 22- 24, 2008: UXTV08, Silicon Valley

      The uxTV 2008 conference will bring together researchers and designers of interactive user experiences for TV and Video from academia and industry.

    • Nov. 3-4, 2008: Future of Web Design Conference, NY

      The Future of Web Design brings together leading talents from the world of contemporary web design to share their knowledge and insight. An audience of over 800 professional creatives will listen to the people who have designed some of today's most successful sites.

    • March 18 - 20, 2009: MIX 09, Las Vegas

      Of course, MIX is on next March again and we'll see you at the Venetian. MIX is an intimate opportunity for cutting-edge technical, creative and business strategists to engage Microsoft in a conversation about the future of the web.

    • Mar. 13 - 17, 2009: SxSW Interactive Festival, Austin

      It's a big show every year. SxSW Interactive Festival celebrates the creativity and passion behind the coolest new media technologies.

    • Apr. 4 - 9: CHI 2009, Boston

      The HCI conference to go every year! CHI 2009 will be the showcase for the technologies, designs and ideas that will form the new world of digital life. There are many exciting new ways in which computing can improve life in many parts of the world. CHI 2009 will be the place to see that happen.

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  • Canadian UX Blog

    Design Student of the Month - Danielle Lottridge


    There are a lot of creative students in Canada who are doing innovative work to improve people's life through interactive, visual, informational, and other aspects of User Experience Design. I invited them to introduce who they are and share their work with you. To nominate a Design Student of the Month, email us. The Design Student of the Month for September 2008 is Danielle Lottridge! Congratulations!! Let's hear from Danielle.

    DSOM  image

    Who’s Danielle?

    I am halfway through a 4-year PhD program in Human Factors, in the Department of Mechanical & Industrial Engineering, at the University of Toronto. I have had the benefit of learning from gifted mentors who have inspired me and instilled in me a life-long goal of learning. I am passionate about the pursuit of meaningful questions with appropriate and rigorous methods. I have deep enthusiasm for the foci of human factors and human computer interaction; my work aims to improve the design and evaluation of interactive systems.

    Teaching is also important aspect of my work: I aim to provide my students with motivation and tools to pursue their own questions and learning paths. I always try to approach the world with curiosity. This is one of my favourite quotes: “Judge a man by his questions rather than by his answers.” - Voltaire

    What cool stuff is Danielle doing?

    I will highlight two projects from my two main research areas: design methods and emotional evaluation. Please see the video below where I talked about my two research areas.

    Wendy Mackay and I developed a method to sketch design spaces.[1] Low-fidelity sketches that include design dimensions (axes), point designs (devices) and boundaries (inclusion-exclusion criteria) can help designers generate ideas, select among alternatives, re-frame a design project and iteratively refine a design. We purposefully include technology, design and social science dimensions to frame design spaces from a multi-disciplinary perspective.

    My research on emotional reactions aims to provide users with an effective way to communicate their emotional experiences, in the context of system evaluation. Today’s standards of likert scale items with common labels (happy, angry) do not provide enough granularity for an account of continuous interactive experiences. I created several prototypes to report emotional responses: including tangible components and dynamic animations on a touch screen. The prototypes are based on the two-dimensional psychological model of emotion: valence (positive-negative) and arousal (excited-calm). I recently completed a study with 12 participants to assess correlations with psychological measures, reliability and cognitive load. I plan to use the results to iterate for an improved design. This work aims to contribute a rigorous, continuous method of measuring self-reported emotion as a valuable addition to traditional HCI evaluation methods such as response time, accuracy, usability, satisfaction, and workload.

    1. Lottridge, D., and Mackay, W. 2008. Sketching Design Spaces (Interactive Poster). CSCW’08

    2. Lottridge, D. 2008. Emotional response as a measure of human performance. In CHI '08 Extended Abstracts on Human Factors in Computing Systems. CHI '08. ACM, New York, NY, 2617-2620.

    What are Danielle’s plans after graduation?

    I love exploring questions from multiple viewpoints: theoretically, empirically and through design and practice. Universities are great places to engage with other people in pursuing this type of multi- and trans-disciplinary research. The next step after my PhD is to do a post-doc. After that, I plan to pursue a tenure track-faculty position.

    Want to learn more about Danielle?

    Check my website for my contact information and a list of my publications: www.imedia.mie.utoronto.ca/~danielle

    A summary of my thesis, presented at the CHI 2008 Doctoral Consortium, can be found here: http://portal.acm.org/citation.cfm?doid=1358628.1358728

  • Canadian UX Blog

    Deep Zoom Functionality for PowerPoint


    Back in April Qixing wrote a post about how Deep Zoom could provide an innovative way to present slides.  Apparently others have found this idea interesting as well as the Microsoft Office Labs team in Redmond has released a plug-in called pptPlex that allows you to view your PowerPoint 2007 slides in Deep Zoom format. 

    You can download the plug-in here, but I highly recommend you visit the pptPlex page to view some of the videos describing it and how it can be used.

    The Microsoft Office Labs team has a number of great ideas that you can use to extend the experience for Office 2007.  I highly encourage you to visit the site and see what else piques your interest!  For example, one of the ones I have been playing with is Community Clips, a viewcast recording tool that is great for recording video of your desktop as you walk through a tutorial you are presenting.


  • Canadian UX Blog

    Canadian Design Story: DiscoverIT.org


    Earlier this summer, a brand new design for DiscoverIT launched! A great Canadian design story is waiting to be told...


    Story background

    DiscoverIT.org is a site aimed at high-school students to help them discover career options in IT. It was first created by the Information & Communications Technology Council(ICTC) of Canada 5 years ago. Since then, many new web technologies have emerged, the ICTC corporate branding has changed, and new programs needed to be added to the website. More importantly, the old information architecture cannot meet the user needs. Therefore, it's a time for a re-design.

    Design goals

    Macadamian Usability team took on the challenge, and their senior usability specialist, Monique Catner, led the redesign of the site. I visited Monique in their Ottawa office and chatted with her about the project. The high level design goals for the project are:

    • Create an appealing site for high school students to discover information about IT careers and showcasing cutting-edge technology on the site
    • Provide information for parents, teachers and ministry people as well in addition to students on the site
    • Raise awareness and interest in Focus on IT (FIT) program and help teachers to organize and share information about FIT program
    • Ability to generate certificates for students that have completed the FIT program

    Design Process

    imageAfter talking to users and ICTC, they discovered the profile design of the old site is outdated. The three major profiles (or type of users) for the site are: students, parents, and teachers. In the old design, there are a lot of overlapping information across the three profiles, so the unique information for each profile was buried. In addition, parents will probably care about both the student and parent information in order to give better advice to their children. A profile-based site made navigating between multiple profiles hard.

    Monique and her team implemented the design/usability process which integrates with standard business and technical best practices to create great user experience (see the picture on the right). In my 12-minute interview with Monique below, she shares with me how she got into the field of UX, her role for DiscoverIT project, deep dive into the information architecture of the new site and how the new IA solved the business problem and so on.


    DSCN1605Monique Gatner is a senior usability specialist with over 10 years experience in user-centred design.  She has worked on a diverse range of products from enterprise-wide applications to telecommunication systems, and has benefited from the experience of a wide variety of roles throughout her high-tech career.  Most recently, she has worked on a variety of public and private sector projects as part of the Macadamian Usability team. She brings to the table an expertise in information architecture and design to the benefit of her clients and team members. 



  • Canadian UX Blog

    So much to Learn and so little time!


    clip_image002Hello Everyone! 

    While I guess the surprise is out.  TechDays is real and no longer just a dream.  We’ve been working hard over the last year to bring a similar experience as TechED across Canada.   Yes, not just in Toronto …..our pilot experience is also in six other cities across the country.  This was not easy, we had many challenges and while we not 100% there…. It will happen!  We are passionate about this conference series, as you’ve told us that this type of experience is very important.  From the many focus groups, your comments in our surveys and direct conversations, you’ve made it clear….. less marketing and more focus on your skills growth.  Our technical events and programs should be about learning, connecting and supporting you!   Oh yeah…. and it has to be local.    We had hoped to do this conference series in more cities and with your help in making this year’s pilot successful, sharing your ideas then perhaps next year we can.

     TechDays 2008 is our largest technical education conference series for IT Professionals and Developers in Canada ever. It focuses on providing you with skills development through deep technical training, a place to connect with your peers and the opportunity to learn and evaluate across a wide range of technical sessions. The broad technical education at  TechDays is delivered by Microsoft, Partners, and industry experts. 

    You can get an great overview and perspective at Darcys and Miguel blogs.  I think they have expressed the overall experience in their words very well.

    I’m excited about this as our hope is for the technical sessions and onsite experiences combined with the TechDays learning kit  to help you grow your skills, share best practices and build connections.   We also want to see if we can support you with more learning tools as continue your learning journey after the conference. 

    I know that there is so much to learn, so little time and given that we made the commitment to take on this big challenge to increase supporting your development…..  techdays_canada

    I’m really glad that with your support and the teams passion to announce that TechDays 2008 is real!


    Over the course of the next few days the team will be sharing many more details on this experience here and at our other blogs as I’m sure (and hope) you have lots of questions.  The registration site will be up soon and watch for some early birds specials….:-)

    Please get engaged, enjoy your journey and reach out to share your experiences.  You can connect directly to me or my team via our blogs or please don’t hesitate to email me at john.oxley@microsoft.com.


  • Canadian UX Blog

    Microsoft Expression Social


    Today we released social bookmaking capabilities for there major Microsoft resource sites: MSDN (targeted at developers), TechNet (targeted at IT Professionals), and our own Expression Community site. I checked out the Expression site and made my own "social footprint." I like the social networking direction our online resource team is going. Able to network with other designers who are interested in Expression and exchange learning experience is important, especially for a new community like this. However, we need community participation to make this work, so hope to see you at Expression Social! Here's a video explaining the social booking site in more detail.


  • Canadian UX Blog

    Silverlight for Flash Experts


    Flash, Silverlight.  Silverlight, Flash.  The debate started a little over a year ago when Silverlight was introduced and as time has passed, the debate continues stronger than ever.

    While some people are attached to a specific RIA toolset and platform due to a strong preference or sense of loyalty to a company or its technology, in most cases people are pragmatic and try to choose the tool that best suits the problem they are trying to solve.  This pragmatic approach is also beneficial to you as a designer or a developer building RIA applications because the broader your skillset, the more valuable a resource to your company or your clients you become. 

    If you happen to create RIAs using Flash for a living and you are interested in learning about the Silverlight platform, it may be a little daunting to find the right resources to get up to speed and start learning the technology.  So where do you start?  There are a few resources out there that can help you learn the Silverlight platform, particularly if you are a Flash professional.  My colleague Tim Heuer (a Microsoft Program Manager for Silverlight) in the US has created a great blog post with some resources and I’ve listed them below for your convenience:

    • Project Rosetta:  A site built by Microsoft to provide guidance to Flash RIA creators on how to build Silverlight RIAs.  A great beginning of a series of articles on this topic can be found here on the website.
    • Shine Draw:  A great blog for Flash and Silverlight RIA creators to learn more about both platforms.
    • The New Iteration:  A great article on how Silverlight and WPF enhances designer/developer workflow.

    Do you know of any other great Silverlight learning resources for Flash RIA creators?  Let us know through the comments section!

  • Canadian UX Blog

    Now Everyone Can Play with Photosynth!


    Another great thing happened during my vacation last month is the public launch of Photosynth. Now everyone can play with Photosynth and create their own synths. It's one of the Microsoft innovations really caught my attention when I first saw it earlier last year. I've been showing demos to different UX community groups and got great feedback, but today, I finally had a chance to create my own synth- stuffed animals on coffee table. :)

    Just a quick reminder for what is Photosynth - based on a large set of photos of a space or an object, Photosynth program recreates a 3D point model of the space or object. On the Photosynth website, an inspiration for Photosynth is:

    Imagine being able to share the places and things you love using the cinematic quality of a movie, the control of a video game, and the mind-blowing detail of the real world. With nothing more than a bunch of photos, Photosynth creates an amazing new experience.

    You can play with my synth below. You'll be prompt to download the Photosynth viewer if you haven't already. Once you have the viewer, you can check out all the great examples on photosynth.net. Since it was my first time creating one, I took 52 photos and 81% was synthable. I think I could have got better 3D model if I took more close up photos. It takes practice! Once you took the photos, the creation process is a no-brainier. It's very similar to use DeepZoom composer that I talked about earlier: import photos and then create your synth. With your Windows Live ID, you have 20G space on your Photosynth account for you to play with. Photosynth was featured on CSI:NY ealier this year as a crime fighting tool!  Watch the highlights here.

    Here is the video explaining how to create your own photosynth examples. You can download the video here.

    Why don't you start creating your own synth and share your synth with us?


  • Canadian UX Blog

    The Mojave Experiment


    I'm back from my vacation in China now. In addition to watch Olympics with my family and friends, I did quite a few things I haven't done before like climbing water falls with metal chain, ride on the those bamboo rafts that I saw so many times in Chinese Kungfu shows, flying on top of forest though cable cars. I hope you had some time to relax and recharge in the summer as well.

     Guilin Trip 104 by you. Guilin Trip 066 by you. Guilin Trip 082 by you.

    During the month I was gone, there are several things cumulated that I'd like to talk about. One of them is the Mojave Experiment. It's an experiment we conducted to see what do people think of Windows Vista when they don't know it's Windows Vista. We told the experiment participants that they were looking at the next version of Windows operating system, codenamed "Mojave." There are 140 participants. We demoed the new features of Mojave to the them. These are the people who never used Windows Vista, and we let them decide how much they like the "new" OS. Some interesting stats came out the experiment:

    • 94% of the respondents rated Mojave higher than they rated Windows Vista before the demo although they never used Windows Vista before.
    • The average pre-demo score for Windows Vista is 4.4
    • The average post-demo score for Mojave is 8.5
    • 19% of the participants rated Mojave an overall satisfaction score of 10

    You can learn more and watch many interview videos on the site. I actually thought about doing this experiment myself earlier this year when I heard my friends talking about how much they dislike Vista when they never used it. They always say that "I heard Vista is blah, blah..." They were treating their perceived opinions as the reality. Why not give it a try and truthfully decide yourself? I tried and find something I like about Visa (e.g. Start-> Search) and something I don't like (e.g. annoying security check windows). This experiment was a clever way to find out how much people may actually like it. Some experts in the blog sphere pointed out the weakness of the experiment was that the demos were shown by experts, so if it were let alone for people to use the OS for a longer period of time by themselves, they may not have such high satisfaction toward Mojave.  This is a good point, and I know the Windows UX research team has done many and is continuing doing longitudinal studies on how people are using Vista.

    I think the negative opinions is partially due to that we didn't do a good job in communicating to the public why you should excited about Vista. How can vista help you improve your experience when using your computer: be more organized, be more productive, and have more fun. When we sit down with participants in Mojave experiment and "show" them the new features, they get it. So, how can we scale this and let the public at large get it or at least give it a try and decide themselves? Mojave is just a start. 

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  • Canadian UX Blog

    UX Improvements in IE8 Beta 2


    Scenario1: when you browse the web for some foreign food, you come across words you don't know. You want to find out what do they mean quickly in your own language.

    Scenario 2: you'd like to keep up with your friends status on Facebook. Instead of going to Facebook homepage and logging in, is there a easier way to subscribe to any update changes and be notified when your friends' change their status automatically?

    Scenario3: tabbed browsing is a great innovation but it also generates its own usability problems when you have many tabs open at the same time and some of them are from the same domain. Something like the picture below. Don't you wish there's a way they can be grouped!


    Scenario4: when you search in a web or browser search box, wouldn't it be great if the search starts to work immediately as you typing in the search term. This way before you finish typing what you want to search and hit "enter," it can already preview visually the suggested results for you. You can choose the result you want and finish your search much faster.


    Have you encountered these scenarios or figuring out your own shortcuts to do these day-to-day web browsing activities? What about a single solution for all these scenarios? Let's look at the UX improvements in IE8 Beta 2 then.

    You probably heard by now that we released IE8 Beta 2 for public download on Wednesday. I started to use IE8 Beta 1 earlier this year after the MIX announcement and found it was a great platform for developers and designers to build standard compliant websites and learning about integrating Web Slices and Accelerators (use to be called "Activities") into their web projects. However, I didn't see Beta 1 generating excitement in everyday users. IE8 Beta 2 is all about improving people's everyday browsing experience. The IE team blog has a great series of posts talking about IE8 Beta2's "Better Everyday Browsing" features. (post1, post2, post3) I've borrowed some of their screenshots and definitions to talk about the features according to the scenarios above. My teammate Jean-Luc David also interviewed a Senior Product Manager on the Internet Explorer team focusing on how IE 8 is important to Web developers.You can see the video here.

    UX improvements

    • Accelerators (Scenario1): "Copy-navigate-paste is old. Accelerators are services that you access directly from the webpage in the context of what you’re doing, letting you bookmark, define, email, map and more with a simple selection.Some Accelerators provide previews so that you can view the result without having to leave the current webpage. Clicking on an Accelerator opens a new tab with the full result."  This is a great example of how web services can connect together seamlessly and help users to accomplish their activities faster and easier. In the picture below, the user wants to know what does "Kimchi" mean. He/she just need to highlight the word. An "accelerator icon" will appear, he/she can click on the icon to get a list of web services. Hovering on the "Define with Encarta" will preview the definition of "Kimchi." 


    • Web Slices (Scenario2): "A Web Slice is a subscription to part of a web page; when an update is available, IE8 bolds the title of the Web Slice so you know there’s something new to see." I've included a description from one of my colleagues talking about using Facebook Web Slice in more detail.

    Web Slices – you can keep up with frequently updated sites directly from your Favorites Bar. If a Web Slice is available on a page, a green Web Slices icon clip_image001will appear in the upper-right hand corner of the browser. You can then easily subscribe and add the Web Slice to your Favourites Bar in IE8. When new information becomes available, the Web Slice will “glow” for a second or two and then remain bolded. When you click on the Web Slice in the Favourites Bar, it previews relevant information (a slice of information) from the web page. Clicking on the preview takes you directly to the site for more information. The web slice I use the most is a facebook Web Slice. It allows me to easily tell when my friends make updates because the Web Slice is of the “Status Updates” area on my facebook site. Give it a try.


    • Tab Grouping (Scenario3): "IE8 opens keeps these pages grouped together and color codes them. As you close tabs in a group, IE takes you to the next one in the group; similarly, if you open more tabs from the first site, IE appends them to the group rather than adding them to the end of all the tabs. With this, it’s easy to read and use all the related pages together."


    • Visual Search Suggestions (Scenario 4): "New to IE8 beta 2 are Search (text) Suggestions and Visual Search Suggestions which are wired into the Search box. As you type in the Search box, the selected search provider can offer query suggestions and display search results right in place! Not only can the search provider provide text suggestions, they can include images as well. This way you can dynamically narrow down your search results quickly and get single-click access to the web page without having to leave the Search box." In addition to live preview search suggestions from your search providers, the search box also gives the lists of previous searches and the matching sites you've visited in your History. All these great search suggestions are in one place for you to quickly find what you are looking for.


    I've just mentioned a few UX improvements for IE8 Beta 2 here, there are many more improvements which enhanced people's performance greatly such as the Smart Address Bar and Find on Page as well as provide users a more safe and private environment to browse the web. These are all UX designs coming from tons of user research. I'll post more detailed posts on IE8 UX in future posts.  Like Office 2007, I see IE8 growing to be another great UI innovation for our flag product. It's in Beta now and is working in progress, we love to hear your feedback!


  • Canadian UX Blog

    Live Mesh is in Canada!



    All my sister blogs (IT Manager, CanDev, and CanITPro) have shared the great news that Live Mesh is now available as Technology Preview in Canada without a sign-up wait list. So, you don't have to wait to try out the cool software-plus-service technology. Here's the official description of Live Mesh:

    Live Mesh is a “software-plus-services” platform and experience that enables PCs and other devices to “come alive” by making them aware of each other through the Internet, enabling individuals and organizations to manage, access, and share their files and applications seamlessly on the Web and across their world of devices.

    I can't wait to try it when I'm back in Canada from vacation. To see what the Live Mesh platform is capable of, check out the Channel 9 videos.

    What I'm excited about Live Mesh from an user experience perspective is that we are hiding the complex solutions for file synchronization and sharing, data and device management, efficient collaboration between people by provide users a very simple interface to interact with and administrate their digital life. Everyone is facing more and more problems with information overload, handling different types of data from Internet, mobile devices (camera, cell phone, PDA, etc.), to computers (laptops and desktops) at work and home. I like how Windows Live Mail can bring in all my emails to one place, how Windows Live Photo Gallery can publish to both my flickr and Windows Live accounts to share my photos, and how Facebook keeps me updated with my friends status. If a solution can bring all these specialized solutions together, it'll make my life much easier. I love the fact that I can access and synchronize my information anytime and anywhere. Note: it's more than anywhere on the web but potential on any web connected devices as well. Live Mesh shows me the promise with its platform capabilities. Lastly, I like how the description on the Live Mesh homepage puts users at the centre. It's also how the fundamental platform architecture is designed according to this white paper. Good example of user-centred software-plus-service platform.

    Although Live Mesh is still in its early Tech Preview stage and the earlier adopter will probably be tech savvy individuals who owns multiple computing devices, I'm looking forward to designers and developers innovating on the platform so that average computer users can really benefit the technology and make their everyday life easier.


  • Canadian UX Blog

    Microsoft Surface as a Line of Business Platform


    By now many people have seen the capabilities of Microsoft Surface.  If you haven’t, you can check it out here.

    While it has generated a great deal of buzz for being innovative and compelling, most of the press around it has been focused on the consumer aspect of the platform (for example, being used in select Sheraton Hotel bars as a way to order drinks without a waiter or as a new kind of kiosk).  There hasn’t been much press about Microsoft Surface being an innovative way to deliver line of business applications, but those types of applications are coming out of the woodwork now.

    Guy Barrette found this amazing video of a great application built in WPF (Windows Presentation Foundation) for the Microsoft Surface platform.  In a nutshell, it is an application that allows a doctor to view a patient’s anatomical information (stored in the cloud in Microsoft’s Health Vault) as well as powerful visualization of the data.

  • Canadian UX Blog

    One World One Dream - Watching Olympics in China


    DSCN1670It's the best time to be in China right now and I'm so happy to spend my summer vacation here with my family and friends. Hope you enjoyed the opening ceremony. The picture on the left is the front page of my hometown(Suzhou) newspaper saying "this is a historical moment, which fulfill our dream for 100 years." Being Chinese, it's a truly moving moment for me.

    From the experience design point of view, I really liked the story telling techniques throughout the show. In particular, the opening  video showed traditional paper making and brush work. What's brilliant is at the end of the video, we saw a scroll of paper, which then transferred to the huge physical paper scroll that was the main platform of all the performance followed. The experience was  very continuous for viewers as it moved from a look at traditional Chinese culture to the modern China. Of course, during the show, we got to leverage the fact that we have 1.3 billion people. :-) The 2008 drummers countdown at the beginning to the 2008 people forming a peace dove at the end, show China's love of harmony and unity.

    Enjoy the games! - cheers, Qixing

  • Canadian UX Blog

    Design Student of the Month - Benjamin Coe


    There are a lot of creative students in Canada who are doing innovative work to improve people's life through interactive, visual, informational, and other aspects of User Experience Design. I invited them to introduce who they are and share their work with you. To nominate a Design Student of the Month, email us. The Design Student of the Month for August 2008 is Benjamin Coe! Congratulations!! Let's hear from Ben.


    Who's Ben?

    I grew up in Fergus, Ontario, a small town close to Guelph. I attended the University of Guelph and completed a Bachelor of Computing Honours degree in 2007. I am currently pursuing my Master's degree in Computer Science at the same University.

    I am interested in Natural Language Processing, Philosophy, Human Computer Interaction, and Cognitive Science, and I look forward to applying my research in these fields to User Experience Design. I would like to develop deceptively simple interfaces that leverage an ability to understand language and to 'think' beyond the capabilities of current systems.

    What cool stuff is Ben doing?

    My research primarily involves computational linguistics, cognitive science, and artificial intelligence. I'm very interested in applying cognitive theory, AI and web-ontologies to a field that currently uses mainly statistical approaches to information processing. I'm interested in showing how this technology could be practically applied to web applications, creating intelligent systems that the average Internet user can help build, train, and maintain -- at the same time benefiting from their capabilities.

    In my spare time I have been developing a massively multi-player online game, which has been a very interesting (if not yet profitable) experience. Hack Wars, which has 5,000 registered users, has been a valuable learning experience, teaching me about managing online communities, developing complex parallel applications, security, and other user-centred issues directly applicable to my field. Hack Wars is a virtual hacking game which incorporates aspects of programming and web-design, essentially giving players access to a pseudo operating system.

    Please see my list of work in the video below.

    What are Ben's plans after graduation?

    I have been considering continuing my education at the doctoral level, but I would also be very interested in running my own company offering high-performance computing solutions for research and industry, having learned a lot from courses on the subject as well as from running Hack Wars. Having friends with a similar ambition has also made me interested in moving in this possible direction.

    Want to learn more about Ben?

    My Online Game at http://www.hackwars.net.

  • Canadian UX Blog

    Silverlight Training in French


    One of our great partners out of Quebec, RunAtServer Consulting, has just created a great, three-day course on Silverlight 2 and they will be conducting it in various cities in Quebec.  The details of the course can be found here and here, but it is a very in-depth course for those of you interested in building really solid and compelling RIAs (Rich Internet Applications) with Silverlight 2.

    The dates and locations of when and where they will be conducting the course are below for your reference:

    • September 3-5, 2008 (Montreal)
    • November 5-7, 2008 (Quebec)
    • November 19-21, 2008 (Montreal)
    • January 26-28, 2008 (Montreal)

    I've worked with one of the principals of RunAtServer Consulting (Laurent Duveau; his blog is here) and their knowledge of Silverlight is very deep.

  • Canadian UX Blog

    Microsofties in Residence Silverlight Training - Day 5


    This is it! Day 5 was the last day of our training, and we were scheduled to present our project at 3:30 in the afternoon. The atmosphere in the training room was very intense, and nobody felt there was enough time. From the design side, I needed to restyle the main UI, adding a logo component for our application and a DeepZoom component to indicate the distance between two individuals who are sharing the virtual table. From the development side, John needed to attached drag-n-drop interactions to all the objects on the table and hopefully to work out the detection component so that we can fire intense glow animation when two people's hands are touching each other.

    Here's a screenshot of our final application.


    Want to see it in action? Check out the video below:

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  • Canadian UX Blog

    Microsofties in Residence Silverlight Training - Day 4


    Day 4 involves a lot of hard work (9 am - 12 am). It feels like the crunch time before final projects back in grad school.  At the start of the day, we reviewed each other's progress and decided the underlying messaging framework for two Silverlight applications to communicate with each other was too time consuming to implement. Our priority should be integrating XAML with backend code logic and demo the use cases locally by creating two surface tables on one page.

    Things we learnt today from our designer-developer workflow:

    • Since Blend doesn't integrate with source control services like Visual Studio and we have a very short timeline, we used Office Groove to be our source control (see the image below). We keep track of version by attaching time stamp with the names.
    • Our integration workflow works like this: I first uploaded my version of LACT project. The project folder includes all the XAML, images, user control files. John then worked with this version of the project as the base to wire the states and animation of user controls with user interaction events in Visual Studio. From this point on, the John controls the latest version of the project. I only send him updated XAML files for him to replace the existing ones. This workflow worked very well. We were both very happy about how easy it is to update pieces of UI with new XAML files and everything still works. The key is to keep object names consistent.
    • By using Live Meeting and sharing our desktops, I was able to guide John on what user interactions to implement next and making sure he accessed the right objects, visual states I created in Blend. One thing which is difficult with remote collaboration using LM is that we can't share both of our desktops at the same time. There's quite a bit of time spending on switching sharing either my or John's desktop, which slows our work.
    • One major challenge I found in Blend is that some XAML components, which are supported in Silverlight 2, can't render in Blend design time. For example, I added "tooltips" controls in XAML because there's no UI option for me to add tooltips to a button for example in Blend. Once I added the tooltip XAML code, my design can't render in Blend anymore, and I get an "Invalid XAML" error. What I have to do is temporarily comment out the tooltip XAML code and make it available when I run the project.

    At the end of the day, we were able to complete

    • adding a gift box onto the table, sparks gift box opening animation
    • choosing flower from the gift box and add to the table, the other table receives the flower, which is shown as the glow state
    • once the receiver accepts the flower, flower starts to grow
    • placing (e.g. adding) the hand tool onto the table, sparks the hand tool animation
    • placing a single hand onto the table and sends out vibration animation, the other table notifies the the hand. 


    On Day 5 (our last day), we'd like to accomplish

    • user can move objects on the table to anywhere, and the other table will mirror the movements
    • when two hands are placed together, the intense vibration should occur
    • restyle the main UI (page.xaml) so that we have: logo, different look of the two tables, visual cue for whose hand it is in the hand touching scenario
    • add a deepzoom component to indicate the distance between the two individuals sharing their tables virtually
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