Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Sharing What We've Learned about Silverlight

We’ve always been very big on visualization. The complex applications we’ve built and deployed as Apprentice Systems made extensive use of Microsoft Visio for knowledge capture, diagramming and drawing generation; we’ve even used interactive 3D successfully. But nothing has excited us as much as Silverlight.

With Silverlight we get two things our customers have consistently asked for: compelling visuals and web-based deployment. Our use of Visio required that we stay on the desktop, but increasingly customers have been demanding solutions that run inside a browser. Also, big upfront licensing fees are getting increasingly difficult to sell; software as a service is the business model that fits our tough economic times. Silverlight is a perfect fit for the direction we wanted to take our business.

But it’s also a great fit for the way we work, because I do most of the design work, and Steve is the developer. I handle everything Adobe and FrontPage, do most of the Visio shape work, and know next to nothing about .NET and C#. We used to pass things back and forth A LOT, interrupting the workflow, waiting for a project to return for my input, then handing it off again. The move to Silverlight and Expression Blend has made me more self sufficient, and from what I’ve seen of Blend 3, I’ll be even more so in the future. Also, the integration of Photoshop and Illustrator will really unleash creativity as control skinning gets much, much easier. I can’t wait to get my hands on a version of Blend that has all the new features, including SketchFlow!

I have learned Silverlight by reading a lot of blogs and watching hours of video. I feel like I have attended Mix07, Mix08, Mix09 and PCD08 from the web coverage. I have been learning from the bloggers and tweeting with the Twitters: Jesse Liberty, Tim Heuer, Shawn Wildermuth, Mike Snow, Brad Abrams, Nikhil Kothari, Jeff Wilcox, John Papa, Tim Sneath, Scorbs (Karen Corby), Shawn Oster, Erik Mork, John Stockton, Joe Stegman, Laurence Moroney, & Scott Gu. is my home page, and I bought an iPod to listen to shows like Sparkling Client, .NET Rocks, Herding Code, and Stack Overflow.

The writing is on the wall and you can see it in the Silverlight 3 and Blend 3 Betas -- this is a platform that is going to change how many people will think about software and the web.

In the past year we have completed five significant Silverlight projects: Buzzoggi (a web mashup), Robot Arena (a game), an association list box control, a product configurator for CinemaTech (home theater furniture), and a narrative storytelling device currently being tested at Silverlit Art. In the process of building these I have built over a hundred test projects to explore the patterns used to develop Silverlight applications.

This blog is about sharing what we have learned and sharing the journey.

No comments: