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

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