Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Simple Facebook Integration

So strickly speaking this isn't about Silverlight but it is cool and relates a bit to what I do when I blog or build sites that use Silverlight. Basically here is how to add a facebook 'like' feature to any site. The HTML looks like thus:

<iframe src="" allowtransparency="true" style="border: medium none; overflow: hidden; width: 80px; height: 21px;" frameborder="0" scrolling="no"
> </iframe>

when you run that html is should show up in your browser like this:

[ ]

So going back up to the html code above you'll note its all an iframe referencing the facebook 'like' php file via an http reference (url). when looking closely we can see that there are a number of query string parameters. for the most part the only one you need to edit is the last one which should be the url of the page in which you embed this html. and thats pretty much it. :)

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Making the MS Adcontrol REALLY work on phone 7

So you want to use ad's in your windows phone 7 apps as a revenue stream and you followed the directions and it seems like it 'may' work but alas everyone that that has your app never see's an ad and come to think of it you haven't either save the test add...? Hmmm...

You went out to this site:

and created an 'ad unit' and gotten an application id for your app.

you then have downloaded the phone 7 ad SDK from this link

included and referenced the ad DLL and created the xaml that looks to the effect of :

(at the top of your xaml)

(some where on the page)
<advert:AdControl x:Name="AdvertControl"
ApplicationId="[Guid here]" AdUnitId="[ad unit id here]"
RotationEnabled="True" Width="480" Height="80"
Margin="0,-1,0,0" UseLayoutRounding="False" VerticalAlignment="Top" d:LayoutRounding="Auto"
d:LayoutOverrides="Height" >

you've compiled and uploaded and even went so far as to test your app using the test values they provide for the application id and ad unit id... your app is approved but your not getting any hits...

hmm... what you have over looked... oops they left out one tiny detail... at least in all the directions I have found... in your constructor or in our override onnavigateto try adding this little bit of C#...

AdControl.TestMode = false;

really? as much as it makes me tired all over... yes this is all the magic I needed todo...

Friday, December 3, 2010

Windows Phone 7 Socket Support...

or not...

if you have a dev account and or otherwise unlock your phone you can run unmanaged code... again Jeremiah does a wonderful hack with source using sockets on phone 7... don't worry this is another hack that won't get through the phone 7 market place vetting process but its fun to play with. check out Jeremiah's project here with source code:

What I tell Designers to give me... Integrating and Digital Zen

Having composite teams with designers, integrators, dev's and the like on staff on the same time and working all in a unified set of tools like say, Expression Blend, Visual Studio, Silverlight etc etc etc for most of us is a luxary that we don't have. I have worked on teams like that and its awesome and all but not realistic all the time. Wirestone (the company I work for) is a great example what I would call the best interactive experience design firm in the world especially in the public facing/retail space (kiosks, touch walls, media marketing integration, social media marketing etc). We are truely awesome... But amazingly enough even though alot of these experience we build are based on some XAML related technology it doesn't mean that we have a zillion designers in blend for example. Like us it is not cost effective from a business standpoint to retrain all the designers out of Adobe, nor are most designers eager to switch...

Your response probably depends alot on your background. If you a ms zeolot you might think, why the heck not? if your a designer you might think 'dah' and there is a spectrum in between but as it turns out the biggest reason that its not cost effective is that there is a way... a straight and narrow path to a User Experience 'Zen' like team that works much like the above w/o using all microsoft coolaide (*gasp).

shhh... don't tell the ms ninjas...

As it turns out Microsoft did a bang up job with expression blend and probably the key thing is that blend does a wonderful job of importing adobe assets so well in fact that with a little bit of communication and learning to work together we still are able to achieve that zen state of designers, developers, IA's and the like working together at the same time on design and implmenetation. But there is a bit of a list I like to give my designers :) (don't worry there is another list for dev's;) for work on digital experiences

item 1. a pdf of everything they send me showing what they see looking at the assets (wiresframes, comps, redlines etc) native format is awesome too.

item 2. all typography with any font of any element that could maybe ever be dynamic as part of a digital experience I want a PSD typographic red line.

item 3. TTF's for all the special fonts that didn't come over in the PSD typographic red line.

item 4. all the UI elements are in AI (Adobe Illustrator). why? because it comes into blend almost as native XAML as its all vector based.

item 5. make sure all the elements are grouped in illustrator and named with something meaningful to humans... :)

item 6. illustrator elements must be inside the illustrator canvas or they don't work at all.

item 7. communication, communication, communication. talk about it. lets design together, walk me through the vision.

item 8. be nice to developers, not all of them understand the difference between Verdana and Helvitica nor do many of them appreciate the difference between padding=5 and padding=5.56793845. they are handicapped that way frequently.

now we can build some hot and sexy ui which is the only way I like my ui. if I don't have an emotional experience when I look at the ui the first time its not good enough.

From a business standpoint its not cost effective to re-train and re-purpose when we can do the same thing and still keep people in the tools they enjoy.

note: there is also a rumor aobut FXG files but I haven't tried yet but promises to be better the AI files.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Performance Optimization on Phone 7

A preview of an article I wrote for Code magazine. For the rest you'll need to wait for the magazine to come out. (oh and this is the unedited version so don't get to upset about things like passive voice or other what I call minutia)

For those of you that know me, you might wonder why I would be writing an article on Performance Optimization for Phone 7, I mean sure it’s Silverlight; and phone 7 has this coolness factor but I always talk about User Experience right? So what gives you ask?

Well when it comes down to it, without performance you don’t have much to experience. The dirty little secret is that performance optimization is a critical often ignored part of good user experience design more so when we are talking about a device barely bigger then a pocket calculator. Time and time again I’ve seen user studies where users see nothing changed for 2 seconds and they navigate away or otherwise assume the application is broken or the device is broken or the web page is broken. Users have no patience and the worst part is that 99% of performance optimization is… wait for it… managing user expectations or in other words ‘perceived performance’

Perceived Performance

Perceived Performance, what is that all about? Perceived performance is the difference between letting the user know that your app is doing something (by say using a loading animation) verses just a black screen. In fact much of the requirements around getting Windows Phone 7 applications into the market place are about perceived performance. Take the preloaded image that is included in your default project, if you don’t have one of those preloader images in your application then your application had better be bleeding fast or no market place for you. Applications only get a few seconds before they have to be up and loaded. For building ‘perceived performance’ and a great user experience start here with a custom preloader. Don’t just go with the default from visual studio either:

Figure 1: Default Splash Screen Image From Visual Studio

Start by building anticipation on phone 7 for your application with making this default preloader screen cooler or more ‘engaging’. You’ll note that in the default project this file is called ‘SplashScreenImage.jpg’. When you edit this file make sure it stays a ‘JPG’ too. JPG rendering on phone7 is much faster than PNG’s and certainly don’t stick other formats on your phone. The one exception to this would be using PNG’s when you need transparencies for example when making app bar icons. Here is an example of a great preloader that builds anticipation:

Figure 2: Customized Splash Screen Image

In this case the user is so caught up in the preloader that in this example the user generally wants to figure out how to get back to this preloader screen. Not only does this build anticipation but the user is generally so engaged that they don’t even notice the slow load and even might complain it loads to fast.

Perceived performance is about engaging the user quickly even if you app isn’t ready and this was one example. If you expect to sell your app your UX (User Experience) needs to be more than just a pretty face it needs to be highly optimized even if that just means perceived optimization. Let’s look at other ways we can make our apps scream.

9/10s of the law

Perception is 9/10s of the law figuratively but after the splash screen what is next? After your splash screen or preloader is thrown up on the screen next your app has the chance to load. Making sure you app loads quickly is critical again to over all perceived performance. In practice this means that your constructor should not execute more than it needs to quickly get something up. If you start some doing some huge work in your constructor then you are going to quickly start blocking your UI. Don’t do real work in the constructor as this will slow your UI loading. The less code between your preloader image and the app the better, but you ask what if I have a real app that needs to do real work?

Ok fine you’ve written a real app that needs to do some real work before it start working. Again part of managing user expectations is about ‘perceived performance.’ This doesn’t mean your app can’t do real work on such an under powered device (compared to my dual proc quad core 64-bit, liquid cooler desktop dev box), it just means you have to do it more intelligently. Our first real trick in learning to do this other then learning what not to put in your constructor is to use elements that are pushed onto the composition thread to keep people waiting.

What? Composition Thread? What is that about?

Threading on Phone 7

A big part of performance on the phone 7 is understanding the threading model. On the phone 7 we don’t get back ground process’s that we can run when our apps are not on the screen but we do get a few tricks that allow us to do some simple threading in the app. Basically on the phone you have 2 threads, the UI (User Interface) thread that is basically your app plus you have can some user defined threads but you also have this idea of a composition thread which you don’t have direct access to but you can take advantage of.

What is cool about the composition thread is that it is not blocked by the UI thread. If you have work that can be done on the composition thread it can continue even if your app is completed blocked via the UI thread doing some huge work. Typically you might have a waiting animation or a progress bar when something like this happens.

Say our app is loading something and we block our UI thread so we and the default progressbar control that is build into the Phone 7 Silverlight framework like this... (the rest will be in Code Magazine)