Sketching an actual solution.

It’s been a while since I’ve posted, project commitments have been drowning me. But the tide has now receded.

Last night (Tue 30th of June) I attended the Melbourne Silverlight Designer and Developer Network (SDDN) event, always great fun and interesting and always has free pizza (if you get there early).

With presentations from Mahesh Krishnan @ blogesh.wordpress.com about new features in Expression Blend 3. The most interesting to developers of business systems being; sample data generation, and IntelliSense support.

Which was followed by a great demo of SketchFlow – A rapid prototyping tool (that works) by Shane Morris a User eXperience (UX) guru from Microsoft.

SketchFlow looks to fill a gap well for designing something that can actually be played with and fine tuned by designers, users and business analysts. Having been involved in projects where UI’s left up to the control of developers have resulted in lots of rework when clients begin to use them as part of UAT such a tool if used properly should improve the process greatly.

Some of the great uses for SketchFlow are to quickly explore possible flow paths in an application, screen layout design and actually begin to setup associated actions such as animations and transitions. The deal-maker being it’s ability to create actual, usable code. Without the designer/business analyst writing code. This code can then be “harvested” out when development begins. It also includes a feature designed for testers and other lovers of long documents, it can output a word document of the screen designs, annotations and possibly feedback elements. The feedback element of the system allows a redistributable (via silverlight package or central web location) for users to navigate around the application screens, and draw and add notes. With the most typical example of a “simple request” – *big circle around logo* with the text: “can we make our company logo bigger?!”.

There should be a Beta release coming soon, so get a hold of it to actually witness it’s potential. It’s worth checking out the AU Remix 09 videos including the key note where SketchFlow is mentioned.

I won a copy of ‘Sketching User Experiences: Getting the Design Right and the Right Design’ (Interactive Technologies) available at Amazon. I hope to get a chance soon to start reading parts of this, and may make a post out of it.

I won the book by raising a question about how one could go about using SketchFlow to help design a “Version 2.0” of an existing system. Attempting to incorporate actual real world looking components from the real operational system side by side with new additions, including mixes and matches for modifications/overhauls on existing system screens. The flexibility of the tool seems to lend itself to using it in a variety of scenarios and project types.

Update (10 Jul 2009): Download Blend 3 RC & SketchFlow Release Candidate here.
Update 2: That link isn’t a wise choice… Stay tuned to : seethelight.com

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