I was having dinner with a friend yesterday (non-Microsoft) who manages a software development team and he told me that he was excited about the potential of Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF) and Expression Blend for his company's products. With that excitement also came some questions about how he could integrate the designer/developer workflow that Blend supports into his existing team. For him, it was clear how the interaction designers would use Blend to create XAML that would then be wired up to business logic by the software developers. What wasn't clear was the workflow further down in the development process once bugs and enhancement requests are then submitted against the code in development. Would the interaction designer then be responsible for fixing bugs and making changes in the XAML?
I answered him that in the short term the developer would use Blend in conjunction with Visual Studio. In my opinion, the interaction designer would probably not be involved in minor maintenance and bug fixing for the XAML, only major interaction changes. Because developers would get Expression Blend as part of their MSDN Premium subscription, they could use Blend to do visual XAML editing. Another option is to use Visual Studio 2005 which does have a XAML visual editor as a free download, part of the .Net 3.0 Extensions, but it is not as robust as Expression Blend. The upcoming version of Visual Studio, codename Orcas, will have a much more fully functional visual XAML editor for WPF.
Now that Microsoft finally has tools and technology that separate interaction design from code development, I think that we're going to see many companies reexamining and changing how their software development teams work to build better user experiences. Putting that in context with yesterday's release of the iPhone, we really see that great user interaction does matter. I see the increased importance and legitimacy of this very important role in information technology, so half-way through 2007, I would like to name this year:
2007: The Year of the Interaction Designer
Let's see if it sticks!