Optimizing the Silverlight Install Experience

installAdam Kinney wrote a good blog entry last week on the importance for site authors of considering the first-time experience of a visitor. I guess most readers of this blog have Silverlight installed today, but at least in these first months as we focus on getting the plug-in broadly deployed, it's particularly important that site authors take care to test the experience of a visitor who doesn't already have Silverlight on their machine. The Silverlight installation process itself is fairly straightforward: we've done everything possible to minimize the number of clicks between site visit and first-time control instantiation, but our own work with early adopter sites has shown there are best practices that can greatly improve the user experience.

To that end, here are a few helpful tips:

  • Use the inplaceInstallPrompt:true parameter in CreateSilverlight.js to present the Silverlight installer directly from the current home page rather than redirecting the end-user to the Silverlight site for the installer.
  • Use the <div> tag into which Silverlight content is presented to create pre-install content (e.g. a static image that provides a glimpse of the final site experience when the user installs Silverlight) and present the Silverlight installer button as an overlay over that image;
  • Use the Silverlight.ua.Browser property to provide guidance to the user (for example, warning them that they may not be able to install Silverlight if they are using Netscape 4.0 as their browser).
  • Use a timeout delegate to see if the installation is complete, and, if so, refresh the browser automatically so the end-user doesn't have to manually hit F5 to reload the content.

To make this even easier, we've created a small download package that provides further guidance around installation in the form of a whitepaper and sample code. This MSI package doesn't make any changes to your machine except to extract the documentation and whitepaper to your documents folder. In our experience, it's well worth the hour or so it takes to implement these changes to your site to get the most out of Silverlight: it makes your site look more professional and reduces user confusion.

Comments (22)
  1. Anonymous says:

    Tim Sneath just posted some tips for optimizing the Silverlight install experience for your site’s end

  2. RedDog says:

    Thank you.  Thank you.  Any help with that new user experience is apprecieated.  I feel like I’m constantly explaining the steps to new users – who have, of course, been trained not to download/install anything from the net.  This really needs to be as smooth as the Flash Installer.  

    (Hope Microsoft is looking very seriously at this experience, which is so far…bad.  …or even putting it into the microsoft updates <crossing fingers>)

    This experience is EXACTLY why we went BACK to our old website.

  3. Tim Sneath says:

    Hi RedDog, appreciate the mail. If you’d like to contact me offline via the email link at the top of the page, I’d be pleased to arrange for some direct help with anything you’re struggling with. We don’t want this to be a hard process. Incidentally, I’d be interested in your experiences with the Flash installer if you uninstall the Flash runtime from your machine – I’m not sure you’d necessarily find it any better… Tim

  4. Anonymous says:

    Thanks Tim!  I know in a post a few days back you referenced having this type of flexibiilty in the install experience.  I’m glad to see you follow it up with some technical direction on how to get this done.

    We’ve recently looked at doing this a few different ways for some content on blendables.com and I’m happy to see a guide to help choose the right approach.



  5. Anonymous says:

    One of the things that is important to think about when you start using Silverlight in your sites/applications

  6. Anonymous says:

    Thanks for the download.

    Any reason this has to be a full blown MSI and not just a ZIP file?!

    I hate my "Add or Remove Programs" list getting filled up with MSDN docs which are clearly NOT programs 🙁

  7. Anonymous says:

    I can personally attest that the silverlight 1.0 install is smoother than than flash. I had to restartd my browser with flash (just built a new computer and had to reinstall everything) Nice work!

  8. Anonymous says:

    Have they added "Close" or "Done" buttons to the installer?

    I had to uninstall Silverlight from my system, anytime I browsed to a page with SL content embedded in it using FireFox, my whole desktop experience went downhill fast. CPU pegged at 100%, things were still running, I just couldn’t open up anything that would let me kill FireFox.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Tim Sneath has put together a post and his team a whitepaper with information on how to do an in-place

  10. Anonymous says:

    Cioè come migliorare l’esperienza dell’utente che arriva sul nostro sito e che non ha ancora scaricato

  11. Anonymous says:

    Silverlight is still in its infancy, but its user experience needs to be top notch for it to gain traction

  12. Anonymous says:

    Silverlight Installation Experience Guide

  13. Anonymous says:

    Over the past 3 weeks, I have been touring across Canada giving a half-day briefing on Silverlight. It

  14. Anonymous says:

    Over the past 3 weeks, I have been touring across Canada giving a half-day briefing on Silverlight. It

  15. Anonymous says:

    Adam Kinney and Tim Sneath both discuss those users that have yet to install SL; Tim Stall has a nice

  16. Anonymous says:

    It would also be useful to be able to count the number of users who come to your site without Silverlight and those who then install it in response to the prompts, or leave the site still without Silverlight. Any ideas how this could be coded?

  17. Anonymous says:

    Is there a reason that the Silverlight plugin install in Firefox (and Safari?  I don’t remember…) does not make use of the get-plugin mechanism, and is not available via a link at https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/browse/type:7 ?  I mean, the guys over at port25/Technet who did the Windows Media Player plugin for Firefox (http://port25.technet.com/pages/windows-media-player-firefox-plugin-download.aspx) did that, and as a result if I go to a page that uses WMP in Firefox, without the plugin, the little "you need a plugin" bar drops down from the top of the window and lets me know what’s up – just like it does for Flash, etc.

    What are the chances Silverlight can do the same?  I mean, I appreciate it’s possible to customise this experience, but as a previous commenter says, users have been conditioned to not install things that don’t behave in standard ways that they’re used to.

  18. Anonymous says:

    随着 Silverlight 1.0 在今年9月5日的全球同步发布,在国内包括&quot;百度&quot;在内的越来越多的网站开始选择应用了 Silverlight 技术。下面就对 Silverlight

  19. Anonymous says:

    You can get the BrowserObject component with Silverlight detection from http://www.browserobject.com. Free Edition with limited feature is also available.

  20. Anonymous says:

    Happy New Year everyone! Hope everyone had a relaxed and enjoyable holiday. The peacock family I met

  21. Anonymous says:

    Silverlight is still in its infancy, but its user experience needs to be top notch for it to gain traction

  22. Anonymous says:

    Tim Sneath has put together a post and his team a whitepaper with information on how to do an in-place install of Silverlight. Using the default approach (as we did on our early work) is ok, but it isn&#39;t a great user experience. In that setup, the

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