Mike Swanson

May, 2007

  • Mike Swanson's Blog

    Bad Design by Example


    I was shopping at our local Ace Hardware store this afternoon with my wife, and I saw this package of SUPERthrive™ hanging in the aisle (image shows front and back of packaging). Having recently returned from our MIX07 conference in Las Vegas and hearing so much about user experience and good design, I purchased a bottle to illustrate what I'd consider very bad design. Granted, I'm not a designer by trade, and one could argue that I was compelled to buy a product I have no need for (score one for SUPERthrive), but even with those two points against me, I think you'll agree.

    To start, what a mess! I'm not even sure what to read. It took me a few seconds to figure out the name of the product...certainly not a good thing. There's also no use of white space; to the contrary, the "design" seems to want to take up every available nook and cranny of the packaging. There's no sense of alignment, and even with my limited designer skills, I count at least eight different fonts (how many can you find?).

    If you decide to actually read all of the text (click the image for a larger view), I can tell you that it'll take some time. You will be rewarded, though. Check out some of these claims:

    • Greatest Guarantee-Offer PROOF Ever (say what?)
    • 65 YEARS, unchallenged, $5,000 GUARANTEED to be World CHAMPION (hmmm...)
    • Dozens OF THE WORLD'S science MIRACLES IN EACH DROP! (I assume this text goes together, and I'm intrigued about the miracles I might witness when using the product)
    • Unchallenged guarantees — proven best. 5 ways, on every continent, by millions of people on billions of plants. (can someone send us up the bomb?)
    • "Best product known, for any purpose." — say many leaders. (my favorite claim of all...makes me feel confident that I've purchased the right stuff)
    • TO START NEW ROOT AND FOLIAGE ACTION, SHOOTING DOWN, UP and filling-in, sidewise (sounds like the Wonkavater)
    • SUPERthrive saves plants from waiting to make many life-process complexes, carbon-hydrogen-oxygen groups. (gonna have to pull out my sixth grade science textbook to figure this one out)
    • NON-WARRANTY: Makers cannot be responsible for use, whether or not thought to be according to directions (which have seemed valuable to 100% of users following them.) (NON-warranty???)
    • Lifts the world (not sure how to test this claim)

    Oh...it looks like they used the same designer to assemble their SUPERthrive web site. Don't miss the Questions & Answers page.

    I haven't used SUPERthrive myself, so I can't make any claims about its effectiveness. For all I know, it could be a fantastic product. Please don't let my comments about the package design prevent you from giving it a try.

    I'd love to hear some feedback! What do you think about the design?

  • Mike Swanson's Blog

    Introducing Microsoft Surface


    We're announcing our first surface computing product today at The Wall Street Journal’s D: All Things Digital conference in Carlsbad, California. The product is called Microsoft Surface, and it's a table that integrates a 30-inch display that allows one or more simultaneous users to interact directly with images on the screen. Users can paint with their fingers, move and resize items like photographs, and manipulate content—all without touching a mouse or a keyboard.

    Watch the 18-minute interview with Mark Bolger on Channel 10 to see a great demonstration. I love the object recognition features. I recently upgraded my cell phone and can identify with the phone configuration scenario in the video. Although I've seen versions of this technology in my seven years at Microsoft (my anniversary is this week), the fact that I will actually be able to use this at retail locations in the coming months makes it even more real.

    If you want to know more, check out the press release and executive Q&A. For historical purposes, you might even enjoy watching the Channel 9 video interview with Stewart Tansley and Andy Wilson from August, 2005, where he shows off a "touchlight" prototype.

    Update: Popular Mechanics has a great article that goes into more detail about the underlying technology.

  • Mike Swanson's Blog

    MIX07 Session Recordings


    It's been awhile since my last post! The group I'm in, Developer and Platform Evangelism (otherwise known as DPE), is responsible for both MIX and PDC. If you hadn't heard, our sold out MIX07 event took place earlier this week in Las Vegas, and the weeks leading up to it were hectic for many of us. The event itself was a blast, and Silverlight stole the show.

    If you weren't able to attend in person, or if you couldn't make all of the sessions, there's good news. All of the keynotes, breakout sessions, and panels were recorded, and many of them (I just counted around 80) are already available for viewing and downloading online. Traffic to the site has been very heavy, so please be patient if it takes a few moments to load.

    To "up our game" this year, we decided to see if we could publish a rough version of each session within 24 hours. By rough, I mean a version that contains whatever was displayed on the screen in each breakout room with audio from the presenter. On average, we were able to turn each session around within 15 hours, and we had nearly every session up and available within 12 hours after MIX07 finished. That's pretty amazing!

    Each recording is available (or soon will be) in four formats: Silverlight, Zune, video iPod, and downloadable WMV. We added the portable formats this year based on user feedback from last year. I hope you like them.

    This isn't the end of the story! In a few weeks, we'll start to release higher quality versions that include video of the presenter (the "talking head") along with what you see today. Plus, we'll tweak the interface a bit and include index points for each presentation. If you watch one of last year's MIX06 recordings, you'll see what I mean. Subscribe to the RSS feed to be notified when new videos are published.

    A few of the sessions won't be published until they've had their audio edited. Why, you ask? Well, it turns out that some conference attendees like to rip off the tape covering the sockets in our audio/video power strips (which are unregulated and could easily fry your laptop, by the way). By plugging their laptops into this line, it introduces a very noticeable hum in the audio track. To make the recordings useful, we need to edit the audio a bit, and this takes some time. :-)

    Last, I need to congratulate and thank Brian Keller for driving the whole session recording process this year. I had this task for both PDC05 and MIX06, and I know that it takes a lot of work to pull off. Brian has done an outstanding job, especially considering the 24-hour turnaround times.

    Let us know what you think! We read all of your feedback and will consider it for our next event.

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