Archive for January, 2009

Here’s another interesting data visualization idea.  Take the Google news feed and generate a heat map.   Click on an item in the heat map to read the news story.  The application, named Newsmap, sports a number of filters, color codes the items by category (Technology is green) and uses color to signify the age of the article (darker colors = older links).  Written in Flash.


Read the latest NewsMap.


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When you need a spark to light your creative fire it sometimes helps to relax and look at something besides your current project.  Peruse a design or architecture journal. Pull out your Clip Art DVDs and take a look.

Most important, see what other designers are creating.  I don’t mean to look at their work and copy it.  For me, looking at fine design inspires me, and helps me think in new directions.



 Oliver Jeffers


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One of my favorite features in WPF and Silverlight is the control template.   You can make powerful changes to your UI via templates without effecting the implementation behind the UI.

Since templates are saved in XAML files you can borrow other designers templates and apply to your UI.    With their permission of course.  Alex Knight is giving you one of his Silverlight templates.  Check out this dark beauty.


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Our UI tools constantly grow more powerful.  We collect massive amounts of data from countless sources.  It is tempting to try and combine the heaps of data and show them in new and interesting ways.

Pioneers in this field call this idea Data Visualization.

Want some examples?

Brain Scan

Earthquake 3D

The spread of obesity in a large social network

Microsoft releases Descry

Project Descry demonstrates the power of data and information visualization as a communication tool. As a part of Descry, we are releasing a set of open source, web-based visualizations and an article written by the Jon Udell that serves as a broad introduction to the topic.

Microsoft has created a tool set to enable data visualization.  They have created four sample Silverlight applications ‘The Visualizations’ for you to experiment with. 

Here’s a screenshot of a Silverlight DeepZoom application called ‘A Website Named Desire.


For a sobering look at the fat epidemic in the US look at the The Obesity Epidemic

I was impressed with an animation in the ‘Their First Words‘ application.  Check out how the information balloon rotates as your mouse moves horizontally across the screen.

This toolkit looks very promising.

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There are a huge number of 3rd party tools for Flash Developers.  This is a natural phenomenon when you have a successful platform with a large adoption in the marketplace.  The same growth in prominent in the .NET tool space.  Now that Silverlight 2 is alive and doing well we should expect to see more commercial and open source tools released that target the Silverlight developer and designer.

SWF Editors

In the Flash world you create your application and store the source in a .FLA file.  The FLA file is compiled into a SWF file for deployment.   There are a number of decompiler tools for SWF files.  Surprisingly another set of tools has emerged – the SWF editors.  These editors can open an SWF file in edit mode.  Then you can modify the flash application and save the changes back into the SWF file.  Some of these editors are quit powerful and enjoy a wide audience.

Turning their eyes toward Silverlight

It seems that some of these companies are beginning to take notice in Silverlight.  SourceTec Software makes a number of Flash tools including their Sothink SWF Quicker editor.  They have just released a beta of Sothink Quicker for Silverlight

Apparently it is useful in creating Silverlight animations.

Other features

  • Supports creating various animations, such as Motion Tween animation, Guide Line animation, Frame by Frame animation.
  • Provides full suite of Drawing Tools for you to create graphics, shapes whatever you desired.  
  • Provides powerful shape editing functionality.
  • Supports importing Flash SWF files and the elements of SWF, such as image, graphics and sound into Quicker for Silverlight to create Silverlight animation.
  • Supports importing & editing Sound, Image and Video in various formats.
  • Supports exporting movie.

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Which of these two web site designs do you prefer?  The one on the left or the one on the right?


What about the next two?  Which has the better design?


Voting chooses a winner

It’s a simple idea really. Take screenshots of two candidates from a pool of submitted web sites.  Show them to a visitor to and ask then to vote for the better site.  Show two more to the voter and let them choose.  Do it over and over until the visitor finally tires and flees.

Repeat this procedure for thousands of visitors and eventually you amass a list of the best and worst design in the pool.

That the idea behind the  http://commandshift3.com site.  Currently they have 16,000 sites vying for the top design honor.

Want to see the top voted site?


And here’s the worst.


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