Archive for the 'expression blend' Category


designers Throwing things over the wall…

The workflow for both desktop and browser based apps using Expression Blend and Visual Studio is very much in the mould of the ‘designer’ builds the visual look and feel of the application in Blend and the ‘developer’ codes against those UI elements in Visual Studio. In some workflow scenarios the designer/developer are different people, in others, particularly if you are coming from a background of Flash, they are the same person.

The Blend/Visual Studio workflow doesn’t favour one or the other.

I think Ryan’s comment about ‘throwing things over the fence’ is generally true of a traditional designer/developer workflow when a Photoshop comp is thrown over to a developer to be made into a functional application, in this scenario the end result would almost certainly look different from the designers original visualisation and the smallest change would often involve a fair amount of work. Thermo, from it’s early showing definitely seems to be going in the right direction to help solve this sort of dilemma.

Expression Blend and Visual Studio, well it’s just different from the traditional model. There is no throwing over the wall, it’s more… a very slick passing of the baton 🙂

Both products use exactly the same file formats, open the same project files, and the designer and developer can work on the same project at the same time seamlessly. The end result at the UI layer will look exactly the same as the designers original vision as there is not slice and dice, no trying to stitch together in code what the designer created with pixels in the first instance. The exact same visual the designer created in Blend (Design, Illustrator), is the exact same visual that is delivered as part of the final project, now it simply has some code behind it to make it interactive.

In my case my workflow is simple.

I have Blend open as my Interaction Design tool (either Expression Design or Illustrator if I want to do more serious graphical work), Visual Studio as my code environment and my browser as my test environment.

Once I’ve tested the project once I leave it running in the browser. After I’ve written or changed code in Visual Studio I literally hit browser refresh to check the interactions and see if I like the changes. Exactly the same from the design side, if I’m not happy with the look and feel I simply go back to Blend, make the changes I need, save, and hit browser refresh and look at the updated application.

The visual aspects of the application are decoupled from the code, there’s no set limit on what you can do in each environment, and when you do handover from design to code the transition is seamless.

I see this as much more of a design/developer continuum than just throwing things over the wall.


Expression Blend 2 May Preview Available Now!

That’s right at the MIX 07 keynote today not only did we annouce the shipping of Expression Studio but also announced that you can download a preview of Expression Blend 2.

This new preview allows you to start building great media with Silverlight today!

You can get the download from here:

Expression Blend 2 May Preview Download


Expression Web and Expression Blend available on MSDN premium

Yes it’s true – you asked – we listened. I’m constantly saying to people tplease feedback to us about feature requests, direction of the products, workflow issues, things you like/dislike etc, we do listen and happily this shows it.

 You can read the full post over on our ukagency blog.


Expression: New Beta Versions

The title pretty much says it all but another milestone has been reached on the road to release… and you can now download Beta 1 of Expression Design from:

And… Beta 2 of Expression Blend from:

Enjoy 🙂


XAML – the future of the designer developer workflow

Since the day I got started playing with web technologies back in 96, (I was early but not there right at the start as I was still too busy doing print design) the same question has always been asked… but never satisfactorily answered.

How do designers and developers work together. 

This has never been resolved and today there is still a lot of friction between designers and developers. Why is this such a difficult problem to solve? Designers have great tools to build the graphics and interactions of the application (both desktop and web), developers have great tools to build the underlying architecture and business logic but gluing these things together has always been so difficult.

Maybe the issue is that simple, the term gluing. Designing and developing shouldn’t be glued together, they should be treated more like ingredients that get mixed together in the right quantity. Sometimes a little more design, sometimes a little less.

In the projects I’ve observed and worked on with designers and developers, they have generally worked as separate teams, not side by side, and I mean literally side by side in the same room. Over the course of a project no real understanding of each others art has been built up. And up to now it probably wouldn’t have made any difference anyway because the workflow would still have been broken.

Designers get frustrated when developers fail to understand the importance of why a button needs to be 3 pixels further to left, or why the shade of blue that looks the same but isn’t, really matters that much. Conversely the designer doesn’t understand that it might take a lot of effort on the developers part to actually recode the application to move that button 3 pixels to the left.

This is a difficult cycle to break because developers don’t speak JPG or GIF and designers don’t speak code (or at least they shouldn’t have to). So you are left literally gluing the different pieces together.

What XAML does is it allows us to break down the barriers in this designer developer workflow. It enables designers to use the same common language as developers and visa versa. This is a key change, and has probably been easier for Microsoft to address as we’re entering an established market (visual design) but without the baggage of multiple versions of previous products. This has allowed us to actually address and solve the real issues rather than just putting sticking plaster over them and hoping it all hangs together.

So what is XAML – a short definition from :

“XAML is a declarative XML-based language that defines objects and their properties in XML. XAML syntax focuses upon defining the UI (user interface) for the Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF) and is therefore separate from the application code behind it.”

Great… but what does that really mean in terms of workflow?

What it actually means is designers and developers can now speak the same language, XAML, for both Windows desktop applications through WPF and the web through WPFe).

Expression Design enables designers to build the UI elements of their applications and export them as XAML.

Expression Blend allows you to take those graphics and add an interaction model and build out the presentation layer of the application. The native format of Expression Blend… is XAML.

If a developer is working in Visual Studio to build the underlying architecture of the application the language used to describe the presentation layer is XAML… designers and developers can for the first time work seamlessly together.

In fact Expression Blend and Visual Studio even share the same project files.

If a designer has been working on an application and the developer needs to do some additional work to the architecture this can be achieved without disturbing the presentation layer. And the reverse is true to, designers can work on the presentation layer without disturbing the underlying application architecture.

Separation, yet integration of presentation and logic. The holy grail… and it works.

Already XAML exporters have started to appear in early form for many different products, Illustrator ( and Fireworks (, Maya ( as well as complete applications such as XAM3D (

XAML is a great step forward, but it’s only as good as the tools around it. Luckily for me tools like Expression Blend already go far beyond what any version 1 tool should be capable of. Seeing peoples eyes light up as you edit a button, or a data bound list box by simply right clicking and then visually editing the components template complete with live data… is just superb fun… excuse me sir would you mind picking your chin up off the floor… 🙂

I’ll talk/ramble more indepth about XAML. But for now… must dash… I’m off to the Vista launch geek dinner… and running late… eek… very late!!


They’ve gone and moved it…

If you’ve been using Expression Interactive Designer over the last 12 months and have recently upgraded to the Expression Blend Beta 1 you may be wondering where the work space zoom control has moved to.

If you’ve not seen this, it’s great 🙂 and the answer for anyone with a high DPI screen… Blend allows you to zoom the work space to make the panals and text perfect for any size or dpi of screen.

You can find the control here, under options:

Once you’ve chosen options you’ll be presented with the following window:

Workspace zoom allows you to alter the scale of the UI. This is fantastic and everytime I plug my machine into a 23in or larger monitor the speed that I can make the UI usable still makes me smile. No more squinting at tiny fonts!

Just in case you’re wondering the theme option allows you to change from the default dark UI, though why you’d ever want to? Using Blend again for the first time after Christmas just felt so right, it was like saying hello to an old friend. Hmm… ok… so maybe I’m sad…