The immediate window is an essential tool during debugging, I use it all the time. Just now I accidentally closed it and couldn't find it anymore by looking in View > Other Windows.
Don't panic, there is an easy way to get it back:
- Press Ctrl+W, A
- This will open the command window
- Type "immed"
- Voila, you got your Immediate Window back
BTW: in the immediate window you can type "cmd" and you will get the command window 😉
What is SketchFlow?
Sketchflow (a feature of Microsoft Expression Ultimate) is a prototyping tool that allows designers to create sketchy looking mockups, publish them and in that way gather feedback from their clients/colleagues.
As SketchFlow is tightly integrated into Expression Blend, any sketched control is behind the scenes already a Silverlight control that can be styled and consecutively used by your .NET application in Visual Studio. Any SketchFlow project can be converted into a production project, so the path from sketch to production-ready solution appears to be paved...
Why you should use SketchFlow
Like any other prototyping tool, SketchFlow
- makes it clear that this is a prototype, it looks like drawn on paper or whiteboard
- is a fast, easy and cheap way of putting visual ideas in front of your clients
- allows you to link sketched pages together to create a navigable site structure
- provides SketchFlow player for easy way of navigation through your pages without building any code
- gives reviewers the ability to add comments directly from the SketchFlow player, making it easy to collect feedback
Why you should not use SketchFlow
During my research I found an article by Jag Reeha who argues that just because you can it doesn’t mean you should:
The aims and mindsets used to create a SketchFlow prototype are different from how you would go about creating a real world production solution.
- A designer doesn't (and if he does, he shouldn't) think in development details and best practices, code re-usability or testing. A designer should flat-out ramble on UI elements and workflow, navigation architecture and content. Any thought that is put into structuring the solution, creating reusable controls and resources or even laying the page out in a way it can scale are counter-productive and ineffective.
- The price tag is considerably higher (Estimated Retail Price $599 USD) than other prototyping tools like Balsamiq ($79 for a single-user, multi-computer license).
- Another big downer is the limited amount of available sketch controls, about 17 if I counted right. Here is where Sketchable comes in handy.
What is Sketchables?
Sketchables (by Philipp Sumi) is a simple framework complemented by a set of controls that allow you to quickly create common controls in a matter of seconds. Sketchable extends the limited set of out-of-the-box sketch controls offered by SketchFlow.
How to add mockup controls to your Expression Blend library?
After downloading the Sketchable libraries using the link above, copy the files (in the case of sketchables copy the complete /Sketchables/Build/SL/Debug directory, including the Design folder) to your Silverlight install directory. Well, while you are at it already, enable standard mockup controls for any SketchFlow project and copy them to the same target directory as well.
Here is how to do it:
- Copy both Microsoft.Expression.Prototyping.MockupsSL.dll and Design folder from:
Documents > Expression > Blend 4 > Samples > MockupDemonstration > MockupDemonstration > Libraries > Silverlight > Debug
- Add copied files (including Sketchables) to the following destination:
Computer > OS (C:) > Program Files(x86) > Microsoft Expression > Blend 4 > Libraries > Silverlight > 4.0 >
- Restart Blend. You can now start using mockup controls by clicking the Mockups category in the Assets panel (the appropriate assembly reference is automatically added to your project).
What are your experiences and opinions on designing with SketchFlow or Sketchables?
Really interesting research note by Gartner.
- HTML5 will become the mainstream of the Web during the next decade.
- HTML5 is a potential threat to the continued adoption of plug-in based RIA approaches (including Flash/Silverlight).
- Enterprises should try avoid becoming dependent on any one browser or client-side technology.
- Enterprise developers should “design for standards” and not browsers or runtimes.
- Developers should favor the lightest-weight technology that will meet their requirements.
- Architects should consider hybrid approaches […]
- Before purchasing or committing to a new UI technology or platform, enterprises should first invest in a user-centered design process based on objective data about user behavior.
Complete Analysis: http://www.adobe.com/enterprise/pdfs/html5_flash.pdf
On a personal note I especially like the following part (btw: brilliantly written):
- The Skinny on CSS Attribute Selectors (by Chris Coyier) - CSS attribute selectors are really useful and I've been using them for ages; here a nice summary by Chris.
- Common Misconceptions about Web Designers (by Shannon Noack) - working odd hours? When was the last time I've seen day-light? 😉
- CSS files downloaded twice in Internet Explorer with protocol relative URLs (by Robert Nyman) - and Robert gives three nice (and trivial) examples on how to avoid it.
- Create a Clean and Professional Web Design in Photoshop (by Waheed Akhtar) - Step-by-step guide for Photoshop geeks. Really basic but a nice start.
- Is Web accessibility a human right? (by Vlad Alexander) - excellent article; and Ian Pouncey's response: Accessibility is a human right.
- How to Make Your Small Business Geolocation-Ready (by Leah Betancourt) - jump on the train of geographically optimized interaction!
- The Browser Choice Screen for Europe: What to Expect, When to Expect It (by Dave Heiner) - Microsoft finally bowed to pressure by the EU (better late than never).
- 25 Beautiful Examples of “Coming Soon” Pages (by Tyler Denis) - get inspired; and Walter offers similar A Collection of “Coming Soon” Web Pages
Which browser platform should we design for? To most web developers this question is a nightmare and dilemma at the same time, but yet again we face it almost on a daily basis. Just to show you how difficult an answer might be is the disparity between two projects I'm involved in, one for a federal government body that by definition only supports IE6 and another that is expected to be finished in 6 months and therefore was hoping to target IE8. Are these expectations realistic?
Let's have a look at some website analytics that were collected over the past year (July 2008 - July 2009), taken from Fanposter.org, a social media website with over 5000 registered users from almost 100 countries and collected through Google Analytics.
Note: While I'm aware that the audience of this website might not be representative for all age groups or countries/regions, it still provides valuable hints about browser usage and trends.
Lesson 1: Internet Explorer on the fall
Internet Explorer is historically bundled with Microsoft Windows Operating Systems. IE6 was released August 27, 2001 just months before WinXP; IE7 was released October 18, 2006 and included with Windows Vista and Win Server 2008; IE8 final was released March 19, 2009 and will be included with Windows 7.
The combined total market share for Internet Explorer over the past year was 76.5% but the trend shows a clear decline over the past months from 74.0% in May to 68.8% in June and 53.9% in July.
Will this trend continue to hold true?
A lot will depend on the upcoming release of Windows 7 in October 2009 with Microsoft's power in reaching the people to upgrade their browsers. But almost certainly Microsoft will loose its dominant position of 95% in 2002 and 2003 (IE5 & IE6) or over 75% in the past year to its numerous very capable competitors.
Lesson 2: IE8 on the rise
When comparing the 3 current versions of Internet Explorer out there (IE6, IE7 and IE8 with IE5 and lesser not appearing in the analytics anymore and therefore being disregarded) it seems to be evident that IE8 is on the rise. Though the really surprising observation is that this increase cannot be accounted to users abandoning IE6 but rather to users upgrading their version of IE7. How come? The answer seems to lie in fact that many companies and their IT departments as well as governmental bodies still continue to hold on to and enforce the use of IE6. Can Microsoft overcome these - mostly security-related - concerns through IE8?
Lesson 3: IE6 might not die as soon as we all may wish
As discussed above IE6 is still a requirement for many users. A quick look at Google Trends reveals that searches for IE6 (Figure 3: blue line) have been pretty stable over the past 4-5 years while searches for IE7 (Figure 3: red line) are declining and searches for IE8 (Figure 3: yellow line) are in the lead. This goes hand in hand with the observations in Lesson 2 above.
In the meantime let's join the numerous battles to kill IE6 like Norwegian Websites Declare War on IE 6 and IE Death March or more seriously at Bring down IE6. Joke or not, IE6 will be around for some more time and therefore needs to be considered if we want it or not.
It won't even help that Digg is discussing to drop support for IE6 or YouTube Will Be Next To Kiss IE6 Support Goodbye. Both sites don't need users that cannot upgrade IE6 e.g. due to limitations at work because exactly these users have limited access restricted by their companies anyway.
Lesson 4: Firefox stays on top
A very interesting observation is the fact that Firefox does a really great job in staying on top of things and keeping their user base up to date. In the last month of the observation period less than 5% of all Firefox users had a version lesser than 3, or in other words, the great majority of Firefox users was using version 3 and higher. And with versions 3.7 and Firefox 4 in the making, a huge base of motivated developers and fascinating plug-ins the future looks bright. Firefox's marketshare seems to climb steadily also, as of July 2009 it showed 32.1% (20.5% average over the past year) with the majority Windows versions and only 0.6% on Mac and 0.2% on Linux. Obviously we all love the high commitment to standards compliancy that makes developing web apps a blast, right?
Lesson 5: Chrome & Safari
Google Chrome was released December 11, 2008 and first received as Google's never-ending battle against Microsoft (see graphic by Federico Fieni) but more likely just another smart move to keep users on the web - the faster, the better - or like Ben Parr explains "Revenue = Amount of Time on the Web".
As far as marketshare is concerned, Chrome rose to 2.3% in July according to my analytics. This is still fairly small but not to be underestimated. In terms of testing Google's developer page for Chrome suggests that "if you’ve tested your website with Safari 3.1 then your site should already work well on Google Chrome". But what about Safari?
Safari accounts for 1.3% in the yearly average (with 1.2% on Mac and the rest on Windows). Should we test Safari with a marginal share like this? It really depends on your budget and company structure which might require unjustified additional resources for your QA team. Do the math for yourself: 1% of 10k visitors are 100 potential customers - is it worth the effort?
Lesson 6: Opera is the misunderstood genius
Opera shows an average of 1.1% with an unexpected peak in July 2009 - I need to continue observing where and why that came from. Needless to say, Opera is strong in European countries like Russia and on mobile devices such as mobile phones, smartphones and PDA's (personal digital assistants). It's a shame that Opera is not further ahead, it has been and still is innovator and spearhead in terms of new useful features as well as standards compliancy and implementation.
What are your experiences?
Without giving any decisive conclusions I'd like to hear your experiences or analytics to this subject. For which browser platform do you design for? What do you tell your clients when they ask you this question?