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         Tips and Techniques for Web and .NET developers.

January 14, 2010

Silverlight: SketchFlow

Filed under: C#,Silverlight,VB.NET @ 12:35 pm

If you are starting a new Silverlight project, you may want to take a look at SketchFlow. SketchFlow allows you to easily build an interactive prototype.

Building a Silverlight prototype with SketchFlow has several advantages:

  • SketchFlow allows you to quickly put together a sample user interface for your Silverlight application. This saves you time and money as you start to flesh out the application user interface. 
  • Since it is so easy to build pages with SketchFlow, you can provide multiple choices and alternate design ideas.
  • The style of the controls makes it clear that it is a prototype. (The fonts and controls look like they would if you drew them on your whiteboard.) This helps the users focus on functionality, not on the visual design.
  • SketchFlow provides an easy way to hook pages together. For example, in the SketchFlow designer, you can right-click on a Log In button in a prototype login page to define the page that should be displayed after a successful log in.
  • SketchFlow makes it easy to dummy up data to display in your UI.
  • The SketchFlow player provides an easy way to navigate through your pages without building any code.
  • Reviewers can add comments about the prototype directly from the SketchFlow player, making it easy to collect feedback.
  • You can learn how to use SketchFlow in about 20 minutes.

Here is an example screen shot shown within the SketchFlow player. Notice the Map in the lower left corner. It allows you to navigate to any page of the prototype.

image

SketchFlow is part of Microsoft Expression Blend 3.0. However, it is not immediately obvious how to use it. Luckily, there is a set of videos that provide a quick start. Each video is around 5 minutes in length, getting you going quickly. You can find the videos here.

Enjoy!

2 Comments

  1.   GCL — February 11, 2010 @ 2:31 am    Reply

    Mmm, I have been trying out SketchFlow too and so far I have mixed feelings. It is a very technical tool, in my view not really targeted at the typical UxD and has quite a number of quirks. It does not like you renaming stuff for example (it only renames half the stuff in the .xaml and .xaml.cs files) which often causes the build to crash.

  2.   DeborahK — February 11, 2010 @ 11:30 am    Reply

    Hi GCL –

    Thanks for visiting the blog. Yes, SketchFlow certainly has its quirks. For example, running on XP, I have to exit about every two hours or my system goes to 99% CPU and locks up. (Got my new Win 7 box last Friday. Can’t wait to get it up and running!)

    I have been thinking about a post on renaming in SketchFlow/Silverlight. But all I could think of to say is “don’t do it”. It is so poorly handled by the tool that you are better off creating a new page with the desired name, copying the page content, and deleting the original.

    So as with every tool, it is not perfect. But it does a good job of quickly prototyping Silverlight apps.

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