User Experience @ Vitra (UX@Vitra) events write-up

During the last two weeks Microsoft Belgium organized four events at different Vitra locations. Vitra is a well-known furniture brand, which seemed like the perfect location for these informal events. The title was User Experience @ Vitra.

In this post I’m writing my experiences with the event, if you are looking for resources that I mentioned during the demos you might want to skip to the second part of the post.

The events

The goal of the events was to bring together people in the web & marketing world and get them in touch with what Microsoft is doing in this space. Since we wanted an informal event setup we had different product/technology corners. With subjects such as Microsoft Surface (demoing the table), IE8, Windows 7 (touch), Silverlight, SharePoint, and more.

The events were the work of a lot of people and departments at Microsoft, but driven by my colleagues at the Partner group.

In the period of June 2nd to June 11th we held the event at these locations, every time at a Vitra store location in the city: Antwerp, Diegem (Brussels), Gent and Liège.

The atmosphere

See for yourself, take a look at the pictures:
Microsoft UX@Vitra by Pieter Baert. Microsoft UX@Vitra by Pieter Baert.Microsoft UX@Vitra by Pieter Baert. Microsoft UX @ Vitra - Brussels by Pieter Baert.

Antwerp event pictures:
Diegem (Brussels) event pictures:
All pictures taken by Pieter Baert (@pietel).

What was shown

We had several corners in which there was a chance for people to come around, watch a short demo, ask some questions, exchange ideas and see something new. While some corners were actual technology demos others were simply a chance to get talking about a certain technology.

The start of each event was given by Luc Van de Velde (Director Developer & Platform Evangelism) and/or Tom Crombez. Tom is THE contact person for agencies at the Partner group. We kicked off each event with the showing on the Microsoft Future vision video, and how many of the future technologies shown here are already present and possible today, be it in a different form. Go watch the video, it’s really worth it!

After the introduction the different corners started their demos, with a chance for every attendee to do the tour and spend some time at the chosen corners. Not the typical conference type of presentations but I think this went really well with the type of event.

People could watch, touch and play on the Surface table, go for a demo of some cool Silverlight applications delivered by folks from the Silverlight user group, get some more info on IE8 light-up features, touch some Windows 7 devices, see some SharePoint, have a look at some great cases by the Microsoft Advertising team, talk to Microsoft folks about the web platform, and of course get in touch with the Partner team. Not to forget, drop by the Mojito bar which was very much visited corner ;-)

Folks from the community were also there at the Expert bar, where all questions around the technologies were answered: Gill Cleeren, Kris Van der Mast and Kevin Dockx.
I would like to thank the members of the Silverlight user group for their presence as well: Frederik Duchi and Kevin DeRudder.

Resources on Expression Blend, SketchFlow and Silverlight

My corner was around creating a unique User Experience, focused specifically on showing some new Expression Blend 3 capabilities. While 15 minutes is really short to show a lot around this, I chose to show some of the highlights: SketchFlow, importing from Photoshop, new sample data capabilities and styling.

Demos were centered around Silverlight but the goal of my corner was also to talk to people about the XAML + .NET technology stack. By using XAML (which I call the UI language) together with .NET you get to implement to different media:

  • Reaching the web, on multiple platforms and browsers: Silverlight
  • More richness and full access to the client windows machine: Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF)
  • Other devices: beginning with the Surface table. Surface development can be done by using WPF and the Surface SDK. Note: XNA can also be used to develop for Surface.

I think it’s important to highlight the fact that XAML is really used as the glue between all of these technologies, and that even if each of the technologies offers different advantages, from a learning perspective you don’t have to completely start over. It’s always going to be learning the XAML and .NET (no real need to learn .NET if you a are a designer using Blend 3).

Following are some links that give you lots more information around what I presented.

The technologies:

The products:

Not to miss is also the site of the MIX09 conference, where all of the sessions are online and free to watch. Specifically for Expression Blend, check out “Sketch Flow: From Concept to Production” and “Creating Interactivity with Microsoft Expression Blend”.

The UX@Vitra thank you page also contains resources around the other technologies presented during the event.

What others wrote about the events

I found a few different posts about the events, also worth a read if you are looking for an attendee’s view on the whole thing. There might be more, let me know if you have one to add here.

And to finish off, these folks from Microsoft Belgium are on Twitter:

And for those who asked, I was using a Twitter client written in WPF before the sessions started: the Twitter client is bDule. Still in Alpha but I love how you can split up your interface in several ways, follow several tags at the same time and even several Twitter accounts. By the way, another cool WPF Twitter client is blu.