Executing against the Windows Presentation Foundation vision .. [Update as of beta2]

Jaime Rodriguez
On Windows Phone, Windows Presentation Foundation, Silverlight and Windows 7

Executing against the Windows Presentation Foundation vision .. [Update as of beta2]

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When we started looking for early adopters, it was all about business value; I had three specific scenarios:

  • enabling NEW capabilities,
  • accomplishing more with less effort -in particular designer/developer workflow-, and
  • reaching/touching end users in new ways that created new business opportunities (improved UX)


So far, we are executing extremely well against two out of three: new capabilities, and improved UX.. I weekly talk to developers and designers that tell me "WPF really allows us to do things we could not do before because it was not cost effective"..    The ROI has not been measured yet, but based on feedback, I think we are in great track..  

The third one is worth discussing a bit more: accomplishing more with less effort ..  

I must digress to share MY expectations around this: the long term goal is to have interactive designers prototype functional/interactive applications with out writing code -- from what I hear from customers that were using Flash, Flex, Windows Forms, etc. this was already quite a goal. Most interactive designers are not afraid to code a tiny bit..    
Graphics designers, on the other side should not be expected to code (now or later).. this is a topic I leave for a different day; be aware of the roles because  the game is changing; we need not use the term designer as broad as we did before.

How far from that itneractive designer Nirvana are we?
What I see is that with WPF you definitely accomplish more; the range of technologies to integrate is wider and enables many more possibilities.
I also see that designers and developers are (imho) for the first time ever collaborating in the same files via XAML ...  This is definitely an improvement from how things were done before, but there is some thing preventing us TODAY from being just GREAT in this scenario: The tools are not done and the designers often have to get around small issues. Long term, this is not a concern at all; we should get from good to great soon in a matter of months ...

Does this means you should not start today??  I don't think so, the business value is there.  I think there is just a few things that you should be aware of: how to use resources, when and how to use templates, styles,  etc..  and most importantly, be prepared to do a little cut & paste today on tasks that will be seamlessly implemented by the designer tools in a few months.. 


What about developers?
The run-time is solid; you don't have to worry too much about there being lame bugs that you have to chase for hours before confirming is a bug..
you also do not need to worry about whether starting now will cause you to re-write later ( as we did going across CTPs in the past); the churn on the OM is pretty minimum now a days.

I am sure you read some where that the developer tools are further behind. This is true, but there are other good news on that front: Expression is fairly easy to use for developers, concepts like projects, designers, properties windows, etc, is what we are in used to, so it is easy to use; it does lack the debugger, and rich editor from Visual Studio, but so far my work around is to open the same project in Expression and VS at the same time .. I debug on one, and design on the other .. Works pretty well for me ..  it even makes me be more conscious of separation between UI and business logic..


Scorecard for the 3 goals.. Two we are definitely at 100%, the third one I would say we are at 60% with the potential to make it to 85 in a few months...  I say that is pretty good specially if you consider that the current 60% is probably better than the way we did dev/designer workflow in the past - where a designer handed  an image created in Visio, Photoshop, or any other similar bitmap tool...  and the developer had to reinterpret and recreate it all using the dev tools [leading to an endless cycle that compromised design and lead us to the 'good enough/out of time' apps ...


Two Disclaimers on statements above:
I speak based on my experiences in last few months with a dozen orso enterprise customers..  Your scenario might be different, but if you have concerns drop me a line. 

Also, I did not dive into 3rd party tools like Mobiform's aurora and/or Electric Rain's Zam3d.. Adobe Illustrator plug-in, etc.  I will get to these a different time..


 [darn it I need a better editor for this ... will ask my fellow bloggers]