I had a great time in my Mix session today… there was great buzz in the room.
Here are a few highlights…
I started off talking about the importance of having your site “Look Great and Feel Great”.
In the demo for this section, I showed off I Expression Media Encoder.
The next principle I talked about was “Uninterrupted Flow”. The goal here is to make sure there are not obtrusive breaks in the flow of your application. I often see this when a page does a full refresh as the user browses around. It is much cleaner to only refersh the parts of the page that you need to.
Luckily this is very easy to do with the ASP.NET AJAX UpdatePanel.
To use UpdatePanel, you simple wrap part of your page in an UpdatePanel ContentTemplate. This turns any post-backs into xmlhttp calls that results in refreshing only that part of the page.
The next principle I covered was “Immediate Response to user action”. The goal here is to make sure that users are notified immediately when an operation may take sometime. With the vagaries of network connections and server load it is important to give users and indication that stuff is happening..
This is easy to accomplish with the ASP.NET AJAX UpdateProgress.
This control attaches itself to an UpdatePanel and displays the ProgressTemplete whenever a call goes out over XmlHttp and then brings in back down when the call comes back. I am using a cool animated gif to indicate progress is happening. All of this with NO code client side or server side…
The next principle I talked about was to “Suggest options”. Image the amount data you have at your disposal. Your product catalog, your user’s past choices, aggregate user preferences, hit logs and etc, etc. What can you do with that data to create a more sticky experience for users so that want to come back to your site again and again.
One way to do that is with the AJAX control toolkit’s AutoCompleteExtender
Here we take the text from the search text box and passes it to a web service where a completion list is generated, returned to the client and displayed in a drop down. All that via JSON over XmlHttp so it is very fast and standards based.
“Preserve user preferences” The user has invested time and energy into your site.. What state can you preserve so that it doesn’t have to be repeated?
I showed two ways to preserve user preferences… The first is the new asp:History support.
What we do here is provide an easy, programmatic way for the developer to explicitly manage the backbutton state in the way that makes sense in the application. We do this via a set of hidden IFrames.
The second way we manage state is to preserve the current state of the play list and the location within the currently playing video in the ASP.NET profile store. ASP.NET AJAX gives us strongly typed client side access to the profile store that we set whenever new items are added to the playlist and we load from when the page starts up.
The next principle is about “Enable Sharing”. The web is a fundamentally collaborative place. The first thing I want to do when I see a cool video is want to share it with folks. Nearly every element of our sites should enable sharing.
You can get a permalink from the asp:History control or set it programaticly… Here is an example of how that looks in the mySilverlightTV site…
And of course the resulting link works for my buddies on the mac just fine…
Next I talked about how to “Be Found”. In rich client side applications a lot of your content is often locked away in a database that the search engines can’t access… and if the search engines can’t access them, your users can’t find you. So how do you expose your database to the search engines? Luckily the search engines have agreed on a Xml format called a sitemap that provides a set of links to traverse to index all the content on your site.
It is simple to create a sitemap with the new ASP.NET search sitemap feature.
In web.config you setup a class that will return an IEnumerable of the data to push in to the sitemap. In the class, I am using Linq to pull out all the items from my database and returning those that should be indexed. Finally a search sitemap is created dynamically the moment the search engine goes to index your site.
The last principle is about letting Ads “Be Seen”. This is about using relevant, no-intrusive ads that provide meaningful impressions.
To implement this we use the power of Silverlight to dynamically shrink the video while it is playing and displaying a targeted, relevant ad in the background. The ad is fetched in the background via a web services call. On the server you can use profile information to choose the best add to show.
We also talked about a very cool plug in to LiveWriter to do user generated content