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  • User Experience @ Vitra : the sum up

    Posted on June 6th, 2009 Thibaut 12 comments
    The 2nd of June was held in Antwerpen User Experience @ Vitra, an event in a design shop showcasing Windows 7, IE8, Surface, Silverlight and User Experience. This was not a magistral conference but rather little stands in the shop where you could meet some Microsoft Belgium guys and some companies using latest technologies. This proximity and originality of this organization made it, according to me, one of the most interesting event of the year !


    The first stand I went was the Surface stand, held by Hans Verbeeck (Partner Evangelist for Microsoft Belgium). As I saw his presentation about Surface this year at Techdays 09 and already tried it there (see this post), the point was not introducing it again but rather having a more deep discussion about that, the potential, companies using it, if it’s gonna be our future louge table, etc.

    The first thing to notice is that Microsoft is not intending at all for the moment to make it come into our lounges. As a matter of fact, with a starting price of 11 000 € and reaching 30 000 € for the SDK complete kit, and with no significant price drop to be announced soon, the market clearly resides for companies. Typically, hotels, restaurants but also hospitals. Indeed, Hans showed me an application enabling users to visualize the complete body, organs, what’s in them (show/hide skin), enabling doctors to clearly explain to patients of what they are affected, where it is located and how they’re gonna proceed to heal that. There is clearly a market for that as there’s nothing more scary for a patient not to be clearly informed about his future surgery.

    We then talked about Surface as a lounge table. Indeed, I tried the chess game application at Techdays and thought it would be perfect with some friends at home. But as Hans explained me, the projector inside makes it hot and noisy (quite a big fan inside of it) making it not applicable for home using. Maybe later with a touch-screen version, but according to him, it’s not part of Microsoft’s plans for now.

    Finally, I asked hans which companies are already using Surface or developing applications for it. He mentionned Wygwam, RealDolmen and some other partners who already had started projects.

    Surface with Hans Verbeeck

    Hans Verbeeck and me talking about Surface

    Then I went to the User Experience stand, held by Katrien De Graeve (Developer Evangelist for Microsoft Belgium & Luxemburg). As I arrived pretty soon, I was the only attendent for the first round of her presentations. So we talked about Silverlight, Blend, she also showed me how to build a great wheel menu in Silverlight. Indeed, you can work closely between Blend and Photoshop, layers are automatically recognized so you can work directly on them with Blend. There is also a nice collaborative tool in Blend enabling you to get fast and easy feedback from the client, who can comment on your mockups and prototypes before going to the next stage of the development process. She also mentionned deep linking, an interesting Silverlight 3 feature enabling you to have a precise url for any location in your app.

    I then went talking with Frederik Duchi (from the BESUG) at the Silverlight stand. After showing some impressive demos of Deep Zoom and some ass-kicking business apps, we then talked about the future sessions of the BESUG, the Silverlight Belgium User Group I’m member of. Future sessions are to be announced in September but stay tuned anyway because a barbecue may be organized this summer by the group !

    I then went talking with Gill Cleeren (Microsoft Regional Director) for some technical discussions about Silverlight. My first question was about going from a WPF application to Silverlight and vice versa as presented at the Techdays 09. Indeed, things are less simple as it may seem for one good reason : Silverlight is only a small plugin, a subset of .NET power, compared to WPF which benefits from the full power. Thus, you cannot obviously change a web app in Silverlight into a WPF one that easily. We then talked about Silverlight as a platform for business apps. New versions of Silverlight are to be released each year, which is really faster than ASP.NET (2-3 years), Silverlight features and richness should overpass ASP.NET and follow a faster evolution. As well him as me think that Silverlight is the platform of predilection for building web business applications in the future. Fast productivity and the richness of user experience are the reasons behind that. I also learned from him that he’s a reader of my blog, so “hello” if you ever read this Gill ;)

    After that, I talked with Luc Van De Velde (Director Developer and Platform Group, Microsoft Belux) about the low percentage of french-speaking people at Microsoft events in Belgium and how that could be improved. So tell your colleagues that there are plenty of free great events, where you learn a lot of useful things for your career ! Check out Micorosoft Community, a website connecting the Belgian users group and listing all future events.

    Katrien De Graeve, Gill Cleeren and Luc Van De Velde

    I had the chance to talk personally with Katrien De Graeve, Gill Cleeren and Luc Van De Velde

    And to finish, I assisted at the “Silverlight test case” presentation by DigiPoint, a webdesign company based in the north of Belgium. They shared their experience about building their first Silverlight application, the pros and the cons. The first limitation they encountered was that XAML files generated automatically were way too large so they had to split them manually. Otherwise Visual Studio became too slow when opening these files. Another noticeable difference compared to Flash is that in Silverlight, animations are timebased rather than framebased. So it requires minimal programming skills. Indeed, it’s harder for a designer to cope with a language such as C# than ActionScript. As Blend and Visual Studio enable the graphists and developers to work closely, they also mentionned the importance to have conventions (naming, structure, …) in order to get the work synchronized. According to them, they felt that Silverlight was still a young technology (they mentionned the lack of documentation for designers for example). Anyway they were pretty satisfied of the final result which you can see here.

    And this is it ! You can also check out the complete flickrset of the event.

    See you ;)



    12 responses to “User Experience @ Vitra : the sum up”

    1. [...] Thibaut Van Spaandonck: User Experience @ Vitra : the sum up [...]

    2. [...] more, let me know if you have one to add here. Peter Elst: Microsoft – User Experience @ Vitra Thibaut Van Spaandonck: User Experience @ Vitra : the sum up tettinx: UXV User Experience @ Vitra Diegem (in Dutch) And to finish off, these folks from [...]

    3. You made some good points there. I searched this topic and found out that most people will agree with your blog.

    4. You are a very smart person!

    5. Wow! Thank you! I always wanted to write in my site something like that. Can I take part of your post to my blog?

    6. I added your blog to Google Reader.

    7. Hi Thibaut

      Just saying Hi as requested ;)

    8. Hello Gill,

      Thanks for coming ;) See you soon !

    9. Hi there I like your post

    10. Nice write up…usually I never reply to these thing but this time I will,Thanks for the great info :)

    11. I liked reading your blog…keep up the good work.

    12. dictatorial@hettys.rejects” rel=”nofollow”>.…

      good info!…