Prototyping Made Easy

Former Slalom Consulting Practice Lead Peter Tweed

Peter Tweed was a Practice Lead for Technology Enablement in Slalom Consulting's San Franciso office when he wrote this post.

by Peter Tweed

So I blog a good amount about Silverlight. I think it’s a great technology with a lot of power and very easy to develop in to deliver world class rich internet applications.

But there is a tool that is in the toolbox for a Silverlight developer that can and should in my opinion be used by a wider audience. Packaged up with Expression Blend 3 is a capability called SketchFlow. This is a tool whose sole purpose is quick prototyping of user interfaces for applications.

SketchFlow lets the user build screens with all the available controls for Silverlight or WPF, integrate navigation between those screens (e.g. click on a button and display another screen), and implement animations on a screen to provide demonstration of what UX experience can be developed. On top of that, a style is provided in Expression Blend for use with SketchFlow that deliberately makes the controls and pages look like they are drawn in pencil, so that someone viewing it “should not” believe it’s a finished application. This would be a good solution in itself and a useful tool for Silverlight and WPF projects to prototype a UI in a quick manner.

What I love though is the ability to build the SketchFlow project into an application that has all the project files and a tool called the SketchFlow Player included that someone else can view the prototype, without needing to have Expression Blend installed. On top of that the person viewing the prototype in SketchFlow Player can draw comments on the prototype. When they are done they can export the feedback to a file that the prototype developer/designer can then use to import back into the project in Expression Blend. The developer/designer can then view the feedback exactly as it was written by the reviewer. Fantastic! Tools that enable quick prototyping, with packaging and viewer tools to provide feedback offline from a reviewer and then incorporate it back into the original project. This is a solution that has been sadly lacking in many platforms for a long time.

But wait – we aren’t finished. What, there’s more you say?! Yes! Once the prototype is completed and ready to move forward into development, the SketchFlow project can be converted into a Silverlight/WPF solution that a developer can then take forward. Yes! The only drawback is that the conversion process is a manual process at this time . I hope that Microsoft will provide tooling to do the conversion for you. Once they have this in place, I see this as a really compelling story for the prototyping and developing of Rich Internet Based applications in Silverlight.

Given my background in application development across .NET, Java and other platforms, I will be using SketchFlow as a valuable prototyping tool on any platform I work on.

– Peter

About Slalom Consulting
Slalom Consulting brings business and technology expertise together to help companies drive enterprise performance, accelerate innovation, enhance the customer experience, and increase employee productivity. We deliver award-winning solutions in areas such as business intelligence, mobility, and cloud through a national network of local offices across 10 North American cities. Founded in 2001 and based in Seattle, WA, Slalom has rapidly grown to more than 1,100 employees and has earned recognition from Microsoft as the "United States Partner of the Year" and "Online Services Partner of the Year," as well as one of the "Top 10 Best Firms to Work For" by Consulting Magazine. For more information, please visit www.slalom.com.

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