Evolving User Experience with Microsoft Expression Studio 4
- By Dave Mendlen
People demand the best user experience with the technology they use every day -- from PCs and TVs to mobile devices. The need for great applications and experiences has changed dramatically during the past few years. The bar of what constitutes a "great user experience" has been raised across a variety of devices, including mobile phones, Web browsers, gaming consoles and even kiosks. Regardless of the way content is being interacted with, one thing remains constant: The user experience needs to be relevant and engaging to meet customer expectations. Having a functional application simply isn't enough anymore.
In June, Microsoft released Microsoft Expression Studio 4 with a list of new features to help developers and designers tackle this problem head on and eliminate ugly and unfriendly applications. Developers have often assumed that Expression is for designers only. That's not the case. The truth is, Expression -- and in particular Expression Blend -- is a great tool for designers and developers who want to deliver great applications and user experiences.
This is particularly important today when considering how the traditional roles of designer and developer are quickly breaking down and becoming increasingly blurred. Expression Blend provides a toolset that effectively blends the design and development disciplines into one seamless workflow. It distinguishes itself by helping designers and developers collaborate and create great applications using their existing skills and current design tools.
One might ask, "How does Expression Blend work with a developer's existing Microsoft Visual Studio toolset?" It does so by providing the tools that enable developers to evolve ideas from initial vision into a perfect solution through features such as SketchFlow (available in Expression Studio Ultimate), which conveys ideas through rapid prototyping, enabling better customer engagement, greater design flexibility and faster time to market. This is what makes Expression Blend and Visual Studio so powerful when used together: the flexibility between the two.
The Visual Studio center of gravity is code, which is the lens through which developers view a project, answer questions and solve problems. Expression Blend complements Visual Studio by providing a reverse perspective. The center of gravity around the application's user experience determines how users interact with the application versus how it's created. The behavior feature within Expression Blend allows developers to add interactivity without code. Additional features such as the Visual State Manager, sample data, easing functions, template editing and control styling enable developers and designers to think through problems in a different way, which gives them the opportunity to rapidly explore alternate ideas and solutions for their design dilemmas.
Expression Blend and Visual Studio share the same project format and do not require conversion of files; they're like two sides of the same coin. One enables developers and designers to build robust, well-architected applications; the other delivers high-impact and effective user experiences. Developers and designers can switch environments quickly to explore and look for the best solution to a problem.
Creating great applications that meet the demands and expectations of end users takes passion, skill and inspiration. It also takes tools such as Expression and Visual Studio. MSDN subscribers are eligible to download Expression Studio 4. Those who are new to Expression Blend should check out the Microsoft OnRamp training program, which simplifies the Expression Blend training process by teaching basic fundamentals. Also, check out the trial version of Expression Studio 4 at Microsoft.com/expression and get started today!
Dave Mendlen is the senior director of Developer Marketing at Microsoft. He has previously served as the speechwriter for Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer, as well as the director of Web Services strategy in the Developer Platform and Evangelism Division. Mendlen started at Microsoft as the lead product planner on .NET and Visual Studio .NET, driving a team to bring Web services and .NET to millions of developers.