I hate it when a designer touches XAML..

I’ve meet with a few die-hard Silverlight developers in my time and some feedback I get at times is how designers produce bad XAML.

“..I hate it when a designer touches XAML..” – oh? why?

My first thought was, “bad XAML?” how on earth can a designer produce bad XAML. *confused look*

After digging I find out that one of the pet hates is that the designer doesn’t name their controls properly or that they’ll use a rectangle instead of a grid/canvas etc to visually represent the UI.

I then hold up my hand and say “stop”.

Here’s the lesson folks.

Expression Studio and Visual Studio allow you to collaborate with designers and developers. We’ve made it so you majority of the time never need to look at how the tools generate XAML as it just works. That all being said, it ENABLES you to work together, you still need to WORK together.

Meaning, setup rules of engagement with one another. Tell your designer that you need certain User Controls for certain contexts. You expect a clear naming convention and so on. Let the designer execute their creative vision and don’t impose too many rules on them as you could starve the process of creative flow but agree on how the pipeline will work UPFRONT.

Don’t expect the tools to automate your communication between developer and designer, as to do that would be a one neat trick.

Word for today: Communication.

Comments (5)
  1. odahan says:

    The main problem is that separting design from development is the goal of Xaml but this goal is still not reached…

    I had no difficulties explaining Expression Design to my designers, I had and still have a lot of difficulties training them to Blend. Not because Blend is hard to understand, it isn’t, but because to template a simple control you must be an IT Engineer ! I know and I feel the constraints behind a slider or a listbox and all its subparts and how it has been built and why the control is needing all those parts in this specific order, but no designer understand this. And you actually can’t create a full template (try a listbox and some other controls) just knowing how to draw mickey mouse. You MUST be an ITE. That’s the problem.

    So the problem we’re all currently facing is that the "design part" can’t be achieve by just a designer. It must be IT Engineer having artistic skill. And it is very hard to hire such people…

    MS must work a lot today to really separate technical control knwoledge from design job.

    You were saying that developers must work with designers, explaining things, listing constraints, and so on.

    I think we will not be able to fill the gap just assigning an IT engineer to each designer… The problem is not communication, it is XAML itself and the overall process under WPF that needs too much IT skill for a simple designer…

  2. Michael Wolf says:

    nice post, a good portion of my workshop at mix is related to just this idea.

  3. Interesting post, and subsequent comment from Odahan – raises a common, and age-old problem which mostly comes down to skillsets…

    Whenever I hear people talking about the designer-developer workflow (and I’ve heard a lot of that over the last couple of years of Expression Studio marketing!) – the assumption is that designers are creatures who live mostly in the rareified atmosphere of photoshop and wouldn’t know well-formed HTML if it bit them in the proverbial.  

    This still surprises me, having spent 10 years as a *web* designer who takes great pride in clean, concise, well-formed (and indented!) code and is more likely to get shirty with a Developer who doesn’t generate tidy div-based html with appropriate ID attributes 🙂

    These skills (eye for design and front-end coding) all translate into the new world of Silverlight and XAML I’ve found myself inhabiting for the last 8 months.  I (am lucky enough) to have a great workflow with the developers I work with, but it took a long while to get there… Blend/VS2008 delelopment still has a way to go in that respect, but you’re right – COMMUNICATION is key

    Regardless – I don’t understand why these skillsets are still apparently rare… this is no longer such a new industry – surely there has been time for the industry to develop these skills in combination?  Or is it a workflow thing – drawing the line between a designer’s work (user interface AND experience/behaviour) and the developer’s code that binds it together?

  4. @Nick Harewood  I don’t think the industry is undeveloped or skills are rare, it’s merely many people don’t know how to get find each other.  There are many great design firms and there are great development firms, large and small.  They just haven’t met each other.

  5. Steve Berry says:

    Great post here, I just recently blogged about this and how XAML should be presented in such a form, and developer should not be so protective and really focus more on the functional side of things. XAML is a crossover and with more people utilising Blend and VS, us designer need to have our hands dirty of basic event calls or animation playback, rest developer can bind data.

    Regardless of the presentation layer us designers are presenting a design that’s never right on the canvas and does take the knowledge behind the scenes to pass on correct ID’s to the developer, this is why I love MS move forward to mesh us "devigners" to work harmonisly with developers, as its such a neglect, and well with the introduction of Silverlight 3 its a given that the interoperability between Blend and VS2008 is going to become close nit, and a more emphasied workflow between functional and UX.

    Whether its goes from Dev to Designer or Designer to Dev, the interoperability is the key to this working, sure we can skin a great piece of wireframe XAML, but on the other hand us designers should know enough about presenting XAML to the developer in a clear and concise manner, check out my blog more about XAML standards and the white papers I’ve linked to give you more info on how we should be writing cleaner code for everyone.

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