The first Silverlight Designer and Developer Network (SDDN) meeting, held last Thursday, was set to be a great evening with Shane Morris and Jonas Folles lined up for some presentations, over 80 people in attendance and a $20K MSDN subscription up for grabs.
One of the organisers Jordan Knight opened the evening in front of an impressive looking SDDN screen saver with bouncing stars/balls which definitely distracted my attention on a number of occasions.
Of the 80 people there only 6 owned up to being designers, which was anticipated, but disappointing for the organisers. Microsoft has never really focused on designer software before the Expression product suite and it's fairly obvious that Silverlight won't hit the mainstream unless they can get designers onboard using their products alongside developers. They are hoping for more designers to come along to future meetings ... personally I don't know of any designers geeky enough to attend a user group meeting, but hopefully some more will show up in the future.
Other than introducing the evening Jordan mentioned...
possibilities of more advanced topic talks and perhaps even breaking presentations into multiple streams
talk of a low cost training day to be held next year
a call for speakers in future meetings - hmmm
Shane's presentation was about User Interface Design and how to create a great user experience, and how Silverlight can help to achieve those great experiences.
His key take away was "you are not your user" which is a fair enough statement and one that is often forgotten when creating software. A software project can easily produce a functionally complete product but be completely useless to the end user if not enough thought is given to the user interface/experience.
He pushed the idea of user centred design and how designers/developers need to understand how the people they are writing the software for really work - their environment, tasks, tools, skills, fears, motivation, etc. The best way to achieve this is by observing your users at work. In my first job I was lucky enough to spend some time with one of our clients and observe them using our software. It's very much an eye opener and really makes you think a lot more about the user interface.
He finished by mentioning a couple of competitions that are around at the moment which pricked the ears my college Tarn, who recently came second in the Devsta competition.
The break in between the two speakers allowed many of the attendees to have a go on one of the only Microsoft Surface computers in Australia. I jumped straight in and as pretty impressed, definitely looking forward to these machines becoming more mainstream, and better still being able to write some software for one.
Tarn and I had seen one of Jonas presentations recently at the last VIC.NET meeting and were extremely impressed, so we were expecting more of the same - we were not disappointed.
In a jammed packed marathon session he took us through some of the goodies that came out of the PDC with regards to Silverlight;
Mesh-enabled Silverlight applications
sneak preview of the Silverlight Business Application Framework
touched on Silverlight 3 announcements from the Gu
The toolkit currently consists of 12 controls and 6 themes which you can view when you download the sample application from the codeplex site. Apparently there will be a monthly toolkit drop containing more controls/themes as they become available, all open source and unit tested!
The Mesh-enabled Silverlight application was based on Jonas' Divelog example and although he blazed through the demo we got the general gist of it's power. Will have to get a key to play around with that a bit more. See...
I was very impressed by the Silverlight Business Application Framework and for the first time it really sunk in how full business apps could be done well as an RIA. It made me instantly think of rewriting our Adminstration website ;-) Can't wait for it to be fully released.
So all in all a good first meet, with much promise for future. Oh, and no we didn't win the prize - the guy sitting next to us did, and I had lent him my pen to fill in the ticket - douh! ;-)
The sessions were recorded and will be available shortly - I'll update the links here once they're done.
Here are a few pictures taken that night