Expression Event at MSN Studios

Hey guys, guest blogger Mark Z here. Wanted to post a review here written by Jason Yong, of an event he organized at the MSN Offices downtown Toronto to show people some of the Expression products that are being released pretty soon:

Hello All!

My name is Jason Yong and I'm the coop intern in the DPE Marketing Team. For those of you who have been following the recent designer audience initiatives from the Microsoft Canada perspective, one of the main things currently underway in this area is the driving of early adoption and exposure to the Microsoft Expression ( line of products for the graphic, interactive, and web designer.

One particular event that occurred on Friday Oct 27, 2006 was targeted at designers from a variety of firms in the industry. Hosted by our one and only developer tools Product Manager Jeff Zado, with Audience Manager Daniel Shapiro, the Microsoft Expression Designer Presentation was held at the MSN Office in Toronto from 11:30 am to 4:00 pm.

Event Coverage

After a sumptuous lunch and informal gathering Jeff kicked off the presentation with a round-table discussion. With a brief introduction given by each attendee consisting of role, current tools used at his/her firm, and experience in the design field, Jeff focused on identifying key design challenges and issues unique to each individual in the audience. Among the issues raised during the discussion were challenges regarding a lack of an existing platform for rich web application development, standards compliance and accessibility issues, and more specific concerns with managing SharePoint Services 3.0 with the MS Expression products.

Following the detailed round-table discussion and noting the most prominent challenges shared by most of audience, I gave presentation overview of the Microsoft Expression Products. I talked about some of the key features, benefits, and team collaboration features of the Expression product suite. I also addressed the target consumer and goal of each product to help define and differentiate the Expression products from the existing tools out there including Adobe Suite and Macromedia Studio. The WPF support within the .NET 3.0 Framework was briefly covered to establish that a common platform for design and development team collaboration can be realized.

My overview was followed by two consecutive demos of Expression Graphic Designer and Expression Interactive Designer. Mark Zielinski demonstrated some of the cool features of each product and how some of the designs could be accomplished within minutes from start to finish whereas using competing products would require more extensive knowledge and experience to handle adequately. Mark also mentioned the new XAML (Extensible Application Markup Language) support from WPF and how it offers a common representation for all UI elements within the Windows development platform. A certain emphasis on the ability to create fully-featured web and Windows applications was also used when discussing the development for different form factor devices within Expression Interactive Designer.

I concluded the demonstrations with a demo on Expression Web Designer. I demonstrated some of the key features of Web Designer including full support for standards and accessibility compliance, CSS (cascading stylesheets), support for ASP.NET 2.0 and the lightweight development server (similar to IIS) , and some useful reporting tools within the design environment. Following the demos were some questions from the audience in addition to oral and written (survey) feedback. Some good responses to audience questions and concerns were provided by Daniel who helped in the understanding of the Expression product direction.

One of the interesting things to note was that some of the challenges addressed during the demos and presentation weren’t originally brought up as major concerns in the audience but ultimately these issues received some consideration from the audience in hindsight (standards compliance). Some things that the audience found impressive included the ease at which designs could be realized within Graphic Designer (particularly for the novice), support for XAML, and some features such as the Web Designer’s Development Server and real-time reporting tools for compliance. However, most of the acclaim was given to Expression Interactive Designer which showcased the most appealing features and support for creating both web and windows platform applications.

Concluding Remarks

Thanks goes out to Jeff, Daniel, and Mark Z. for helping to make this event happen! Again, as the first event of its kind, it was a successful and great opportunity to reach out to the regulars in the industry and I look forward doing this again to both internal and external audiences. I look forward to seeing you out there!


Jason Yong