Lincoln Anderson / Design Digital Marketing / March 23rd, 2009

Microsoft's MIX09 Web Design Conference


Peter and I had a blast at MIX09 in Las
Vegas, and I’m happy to report that I did not require medical care this
time around.

Day One kicked off with the first
keynote presentation, featuring Bill Buxton (Principal Researcher),
Scott Guthrie (.NET Product Manager, aka “The Gu”) and several
other speakers from the Expression Blend team, Stack Overflow,
Rolling Stones and other organizations. Bill Buxton talked about the
value of design and creativity in product development and UX design,
and the Gu talked about many Microsoft product features, which will
be available in their entirety by the end of the year if they are not
currently in beta. Some of these features were demonstrated by the
other speakers as well, and included some really cool stuff:

  • Platform Installer (“PI”) is a
    new program that allows you to see what programs are available to
    download and install, and automatically manages them, along with any
    dependencies they might have. For any developers that have needed to
    install betas in the past, you know the pain this single program
    will alleviate. (http://www.microsoft.com/Web/)

  • Silverlight 3
    (http://silverlight.net/getstarted/silverlight3/)

    • GPU acceleration takes the burden
      off of the CPU (around 55% of the cost) and makes Silverlight
      applications run much faster.

    • Pixel Shaders allow for custom
      graphical effects, and some built-in ones like blur and
      drop-shadow.

    • 2.5D allows for perspective
      skewing of flat objects.

    • Bitmap API allows for the
      manipulation of pixels in a bitmap image, and also allows the
      developer to “snapshot” pieces of the UI into a bitmap. (Often
      used for “ghosting” a draggable object, or taking screen shots
      of a video.)

    • Deep-Linking enables the
      developer to offer specific URLs for each screen or panel of their
      application. This is great for simply sending someone a link to a
      certain part of a Silverlight application, or just for allowing
      search engines to pick up more of the “pages” of your site.

    • Text quality will be improved,
      and a “clear text” will be an option the developer can control,
      for animation purposes.

    • Multi-touch support, which
      currently is only really useful for the HP TouchSmart.

    • You can run Silverlight as a
      desktop application, independent of the web browser. This can be
      directed by the developer, or left up to the user.

    • There was also so talk of client
      validation, databinding and server-side CRUD management which
      sounds completely insane. Basically they provide a framework which
      manages the client data model and when you “push” any changes
      to that data model, it handles merging all the changes with the
      server/database. Yah.

  • Expression Web 3

    • SuperPreview is a new feature
      which renders your web page in each browser installed on your
      system, and also previous version of IE. You can see them
      side-by-side or even overlay one on top of the other, or the web
      page over a JPEG preview. It includes tools to select elements, and
      examine the pixel offset of elements if they are not lining up
      correctly.
      (http://www.microsoft.com/expression/try-it/superpreview/)

  • Expression Blend 3
    (http://www.microsoft.com/expression/try-it/blendpreview.aspx)

    • Sketchflow was the biggest deal;
      people were going batty over it. It basically combines sketching,
      UX prototyping, flowcharting and documentation in one. I can’t even
      do it justice here. Go to http://live.visitmix.com/and view the “Day 1 Keynote” and click the playback bar under
      the “e” in “Other Videos”. Everyone should watch this.

    • Integration with Adobe products
      like Photoshop.

    • XAML and C# Intellisense.

  • .NET MVC shipping now

After that, I got the opportunity to go
to a session by Group Program Manager Joe Stegman on the new
Silverlight 3 features. It was great talk which offered several
demonstrations and showed some code in action.
http://videos.visitmix.com/MIX09/T14F

That day I also went to talk by Dan
Harrelson of Adaptive Path on wire framing and prototyping, and when
to decide which to use (if either) on your projects. It also
contained tips to speed up the process and find design patterns that
will best fit your needs. http://videos.visitmix.com/MIX09/C10F

That night we went to the TAO nightclub
(http://www.taolasvegas.com/)
for a private party. Well, “private” for the 2,000 people that
attend MIX. It’s a great club that contains many floors and rooms,
and we spent most of the night on the rooftop “beach” section of
the club, eating, drinking and chatting with various Microsofties while trying not to fall in the pool.

The Day Two Keynote included a lot of
IE8 announcements…

  • Standards-compliant, with a
    front-end option for the user to display in “IE7 mode,” and a
    special tag for developers to turn this feature off on their site.

  • Web slices, which basically allow
    you to bookmark a specific part of a webpage, and view that “slice”
    as a pop-up panel in your browser without having to visit the whole
    page again and again.

  • Accelerators give you fast
    right-click access to various services we manually access all the
    time via copy-and-paste. You might be able to highlight “352
    Media Group” on a web site and right click to search for those
    words on Yahoo, or simply rollover the “Google Map” option to
    see a map to our office instantly.

  • Malware blocking up to 70%, which
    is twice as high as the next most secure browser.

  • Color-coded tabbed browsing,
    which groups and highlights the tabs of an identical domain all the
    same color.

  • http://www.microsoft.com/windows/internet-explorer/

… and a talk by Deborah Adler, who
took an medicinal accident her grandmother had experienced, and
turned it into an opportunity to revolutionize the package design of
pharmaceuticals. When she started her project she was a lowly graphic
design student, but eventually Target picked up her ideas and her
concept can now be seen in their stores. This was a great talk, and I
highly recommend that everyone who cares about user experience design
watch it. http://live.visitmix.com/

Later, I went to session by Silverlight
Product Manager Seema Ramchandani on Silverlight 3 graphics, and the
specific usage of pixel shaders and 2.5D projections. This session
provided insight into how the graphics engine works, and offered
some great tips for improving performance on any Silverlight project.
http://videos.visitmix.com/MIX09/T17F

Last was a session by Charles Duncan of
AKQA, a digital advertising firm behind the Fable II and Gears of War
II web campaigns. He showed off some projects and talked about the
benefits of “iterative work flow,” which functions in a cyclical
format of ideation and development, as opposed to a linear
“waterfall” approach, which most software companies (including
352) fall into. http://videos.visitmix.com/MIX09/T31F

Afterwards, Peter and I went to a
Silverlight partner get-together at Lavo (http://www.lavolv.com/),
but it was completely packed. We met up with a few people and
chatted, then went over to Show-Off, which Brian Keller and Dan
Fernandez were running. Around fifteen people had submitted their top
projects, which were voted on by the audience for a prize. Most
notable were a Commodore 64 emulator built in Silverlight, and a
photo gallery you could control with your mind.

On Day Three I went to absolutely
fantastic talk by author/consultant Dan Roam on “persuading with
pictures.” He talked about the way the mind works, and how simple
sketches can be the most effective form of communication. He
referenced how some of the most influential men and the decisions
they have made were impacted by sketches. I highly recommend that
everyone watch this talk. http://videos.visitmix.com/MIX09/C16F

Next I want to a talk by Ambrose Little
of Infragistics on UX design patterns. His whole talk revolved around
a community project he has worked on called Quince
(http://quince.infragistics.com/).
I highly recommend that everyone in our development teams check this
out, and the session if you have time, or don’t understand what
Quince is about. http://videos.visitmix.com/MIX09/T30F

I wrapped up Day Three with a session
by Peter Eckert and Jeff McLean of projekt202 on UX design for Rich
Internet Applications. They demoed some projects they have been
working on, and reiterated much of the points I’d heard about the
value of simplicity, creating UI as a reflection of the real world,
and the absolute necessity of understating the needs of the people
using your product. This was also a great talk.
http://videos.visitmix.com/MIX09/C11F

Afterwards I met up with Brian Keller
for goodbyes, and he introduced me to a few people including Mike
Harsh (http://blogs.msdn.com/mharsh/),
who’s been working on Silverlight since the days of yore, writing
some books and doing some interviews along the way. I felt pretty
cool until he introduced me as “hospital boy”… ah well, I’ll
take what I can get.

A special thanks to everyone at 352 who
got me set up at MIX09, especially PVR.