The Cost of Design.

It was the HTML generation that first gave mainstream hints that with a good designer in the cubicle you could in turn have a positive effect to business. That is to say by opening a simple browser, navigating to an address and interacting with “forms” that you in turn could begin taking consumerism to a new level of shop-less input(s0.

Fast forward today the cost of design has not only increased but has also gotten higher in its requirement in terms of automating the shop-less facade. User’s albeit consumers are targeted in a variety of device ridden channel delivery and the cost of having a traditional developer and designer team has not been reduced.

Specialised Teams

Cubicles of tomorrow aren’t going to be housed with team members who can write  and design for multiple devices at the same time. They will be broken into specialised teams and the more and more business(s) begin to consolidate their branding into the device market(s) the more they will look to simplifying their product portfolios and brands.

A team of .NET developers who write HTML and WPF client(s) will most likely need to include an iPhone/iPad, Android/Blackberry team(s) who mirror their offering. Companies will aggressively recruit and look for people who are agnostic in one or mediums but realistically given the complexity involved in all the current UX Platform(s) it just isn’t feasible to find that many people on the market waiting for a job call.

Browser Forking

Having a specialised team isn’t restricted to proprietary solutions, it will also factor into a more traditional medium of HTML development and design. As strange as this may sound to hear, the idea that HTML5 will bring the industry into a global position of unanimous parity of it’s implimentation amongst all browsers is simply not correct.

The only browser that i’d argue has a vested interest in remaining pure would be Google Chrome and that’ simply because having the entire globe of online consumers still accessing HTML work’s to the search engine and advertising model of Google.

Having a browser fork in API and extend beyond HTML/JS works to Apple, Google and Microsoft’s favor as well. In fact, I’d argue Microsoft are banking on the ye olde embrace / extend model it’s had in the past (with great success).

Diverse a Product Portfolio

Once companies have audited and forecasted what their internal current development team models will look like for the next 2-3 fiscals, they in turn will need to reflect on which bets to place in which markets that are dictated by their choice of development. It will depend on their choice but even then they still need to figure out how they can leverage an iPhone more than they can an Android (or substitute your own technology bet here). For every device you target brings a variety of constraints and expectations that you need to meet prior to even beginning development.

Diversity in choice will ultimately have an impact on a companies brand and consistency model in how they want to broadcast their personality to their respective users. If you target an iPhone for example you have a pretty prescriptive UI design to leverage so it pays to run with it and not against it, given it will reduce your time to market cost(s). Same applies with Android and especially with Windows Phone.

Problem with prescribed design isn’t its ability to convey a uniform user experience with an end user it’s core issue is the reduction of being able to stand out amongst your consumer(s). If you spend more you can overcome the prescribed approach but in doing so you also need to ensure you can leap beyond the baseline of expected behavior.

Metro-style could winout

Prescribed user interface design in turn will slowly become more and more weaponised in a way to again have a single designer rule many device(s). If you can invest in a smaller group of design professionals who have custodianship of a brand and the personality that comes with it, you in turn can reduce your costs on having less investment on design and more on engineering.

A company may prefer the model of having a centralised design team that works with 3-4 device teams as a way of offsetting cost’s associated with multi-targeting.

Metro-style design in turn plays a comfortable role as Android and Windows Phone 7 pretty much lend themselves well to this vision of the way design should be. iPhone/iPad however goes in the opposite way that is to say the composition found within these devices are much more detailed and focused in around theming the experience as much as it’s about enabling an input driven experience.

The design(s) to date using metro oppose the idea of having real-world objects embedded into the 2D design composition (less turning knobs, wooden textures etc). The cost for design here is hugely decreased as a result meaning in reality a design team need only wireframe the composition of what they want a particular screen to look like, layer in color and ensure it adhere’s to some basic principles that relate to consistency, minimalism and lastly shape driven pictography / typography (pattern recognition 101).

Having a metro-style solution going forward can work on all device(s) and whilst it may go against the iPhone/iPad design grain, it can still sit within and more to the point it would reduce a brand’s chance of inconsitency and personaltiy (closer to the one design on all belief).

Designers did this to themselves

Companies like Microsoft, Adobe, Google and even Apple have reacted to a problem that was created by designer(s). The problem started the day when designer’s went against the developer grain, that is they forked off onto their own technology stack which was designed for them (Apple).

In forking their work flow away from mainstream development this in turn created a workflow issue and in turn fueled companies like Microsoft to invest in a lot of tactical decisions around how to solve this said problem (WPF, Silverlight etc).

The forking also gave way to a different approach whereby companies like Adobe began to also invest not just in a x-platform tooling but also for a while there in a x-platform delivery that works with the said tools that designer(s) had grown to love (Flex, Flash).

Once Apple had also moved to an Intel chipset this in turn gave away to what I would call the “Apple Developer” generation where over time more and more of a developer centric foundation was being build to which a series of tools could also now target the designer(s) (amongst other creative professionals).

Design for the better part still remained in its own cut-off from the rest area and the more and more developer communities that didn’t have a dependency on Windows began to emerge, the more they instead crossed the divide and began to work on Apple with their designer sister & brother(s).

The developer defection to Apple created a huge amount of issues and problem(s) from within Microsoft as now they are facing a massive problem around having developers target Windows but also ensuring there are the right amount of designer(s) ready to support such developers. The more applications being built on Windows the more they sell Windows is the simplified formula.

Google also now posed an issue whereby they have no real dog in the fight, that is to say Apple or Windows it didn’t matter provided you targeted HTML and helped fuel their Advertising & Search revenue streams of tomorrow.

I won’t go further into the various competitive back and forth that has gone on suffice to say at the heart of this entire issue around choice lies the designer. The illusive designer who often costs a lot and produces what will soon become the main differentiator in a companies offering – user experience.

Function is no longer important form is

As the industry reacts to the competitive changes that are ongoing, much like a teenage boy does around the time of puberty – design in will start to become the focal point of such change.

A designer will feel suddenly more wanted, targeted and will be taunted and attracted with some quite lucrative offers. Developers will also see this and start or have began to shift career gears and start looking into ways of becoming a designer. Some will fail whilst others will discover a suppressed design gene within lurking and waiting to be unleashed.

The designer will however become the leader of the pack, so used to being the one at the back or considered replaceable, they in turn will now become the most sort after as in turn what is replaceable is engineering (the market optimised for function instead of form for over 20years).

Here in lies the issue, the designer isn’t really equipped to decide the outcome of a generation of computing, they will always prefer to take the right amount of time to do the right job in a way that adhere’s to their internal principles around how the world should look.

Winter’s not coming, a Fork is

A designer today hasn’t gone down in price or time to market, the time it takes to produce a design still takes just as much time and effort as it did last year and the year before that. It however got a little more complicated as the canvas now comes in not just a 1024×768 screen (or there abouts) it now comes in a whole host of screen sizes and operating system level imposed limitations.

Once the corporations that fork their design teams figure this out, styles like the metro-style will begin to emerge as they in turn can bypass the designer if in some fairly competent hands. As in reality the importance of User Experience Principles has become weaponised with the more specialised teams making their work public for all to borrow/steal.

Don’t be suprised if a team in the near future had a designer but now doesn’t and solutions that look like Microsoft Metro were being produced.

Google and Microsoft have began and in parts Adobe’s tooling also adhere’s to this as well.

Having real world objects in 2D design isn’t a bad or limiting thing, it’s an ongoing design evolution around trialing & erroring deeper design beyond flat monochrome wireframes that have or haven’t been colored in.

Don’t knock it as the alternative isn’t as deep in its composition.

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Which UX Platform would you bet on?

If I could get paid for each time I’ve been asked which UX technology/platform should one bet on in order to produce the next generation of software in day to day business – I’d be quite well paid!

I don’t have an answer, and what’s really sad about that is that I should have a few answers not just a single one.

Today, you’re spoiled for a choice of technologies to help you produce some user experience namely for mobility. Since the introduction of the iPhone and iPad it’s arguably put something we’ve all kind of known into the mainstream hands, which is “experience matters”. Businesses are now keen to ensure that the next piece of software they produce works like it would on an iPad or iPhone (the amount of times I’ve been given a brief that uses that as its baseline for success is almost 90%+).

Why the issue in selecting today then? Well let’s look at the brands in question.


You cannot disagree that Apple’s influence on the UX discussion has been quite loud and obvious. Almost all phones and tablet devices have pretty much copied the entire existence of their products to the point where even though they hadn’t invented some of the ideas, they now look as if they did. Having said that, Apple still is a prescribed existence in that in order to play on their hardware you have to develop & design to their standards. You also have a limited amount of agility in order to take the device and slot it into various enterprise/industry verticals (mining, finance etc).

Distributing your solutions via a closed private cloud like existence can be done with iPad/iPhones but its still a bit messy in deployment. Furthermore inside almost all large organizations your cubicles of developers don’t have “Objective-C” in their resumes.

Whilst it has become the baseline for what a device driven UI should look like in the eyes of most business and technical decision makers, it’s still got a lot of latency and turbulence around its software development life cycle (i.e. it’s fast become a specialist skill not so much as a mainstream one).

Google / Android.

Google have managed to hold strong with their device platform story, that is to say their entire development and design pipeline isn’t that bad. Having said that I’ve seen, heard and been in enough meetings to see it being instantly rejected and it has to do with versioning and security as the core reasons for rejection (right or wrong).

Furthermore Java development at its core isn’t something you see go hand in hand with design focused teams, so again you have this issue with as stated by Apple around specialist skills vs. mainstream skills mixed with some market acceptance issues.


Just read my blog for a few pages you’ll see a theme emerge. Microsoft had a few ideas around what the UX space should look like, they put some bets on the table around these ideas, they got some semi-successful acceptance worldwide on these ideas but now they’ve kind of hit reset on the said ideas, taking two steps back and pissed the developer base off in the process.

To summarize, Microsoft has a whole new round of trust issues around long-term decision making, their tooling is good enough to build large enterprise applications with and lastly they still have a healthy developer base that have mainstream skills in C# & XAML.

The downside is their entire strategy around what you should or shouldn’t do going forward is out of control and requires a focused mind to unravel.

What I would say though is that Windows 7 is likely to be around and in a healthy state over the next 3-5 years and I think the hardware market will still look into ways in how to socket Windows 7 as their native OS when possible (for business, not so much for consumers). Given Windows 8 Surface is making their own hardware it could also be a negative for Microsoft, so whilst the only real option for hardware makers is to adopt Windows 7 or other, this in turn puts a long-term question mark around whether or not Silverlight or WPF should be something you double down on?


I often praise Adobe more than I have in the past as despite how close they came to overtaking HTML as rich media technology platform, they have managed to regroup nicely around being focused on tooling.

Given the turbulence above this company may solve the problem through tooling so it could even abstract the decision making process around which is the next bet by simply saying “it doesn’t matter, just use Adobe XTool”.

It’s still a long way off before that idea is realized, but none the less Adobe Flex / Flash aren’t something one should ignore outright. It still has some legs and although its clear Adobe Flash and iOS will never meet, they do meet however on Android and potentially Microsoft Windows device(s).

Despite Silverlight’s attempt to knock Adobe Flash out of the decision process if anything Silverlight’s demise has strengthens the runtime’s position further.


I’m going to say that this has become a brand not so much a technology; in that when you say “HTML5 is the future” you’re not saying “these additional tags are the future” you’re actually saying “HTML, CSS and JavaScript are the future”.

It’s a brand now so with that I’d simply say that it plays well on all of the devices above and will most likely continue to do so. The developer base out there is pretty vast in its knowledge around HTML/JavaScript and the various frameworks they use to obfuscate the fact they are writing JavaScript.

However, if you have a subscription to most research companies around RIA in the past and present, you’ll see a theme emerge that is to say that in Enterprise (not consumer space) the whole JavaScript/HTML combination has left a very sour taste in their adoption loving minds. Furthermore the limitations and slow growth of HTML in general has also left concerns on the table that whilst it maybe a uniform technology set that helps shape UX, it’s still doing a lot of emulation and fakery to get to the point where most rich client technologies are today (HTML vs XAML vs MXML etc).

That’s all argumentative, so who’d you pick?

There the above working summaries overall and it really comes back to the question of making a decision. A decision like this is important and still necessary as when you start making architectural bets for the life of your next industrial grade solution, you need to line up how you’re going to present your connectivity to its vast user base.

Walking into a meeting and saying “all of the above” won’t fly, walking in and holding the posture of “right tool, right job” mantra also may make you feel like you’re a software mountain sage it does little for productizing ideas/solutions to a customer base who have a variety of IT environment(s) that are looking to your company as a lifeline to making the said decision.

Bottom line is someone somewhere has to be the one that says let’s go with “X, because…”

If I was asked today which one I’d pick out of the lot, given I’ve worked in all the above.

My bet for enterprise would be WPF for one simple reason – Windows 7.

Microsoft spent all of last year praising how successful Windows 7 was in terms of sales, record profits and so on. What I got from all that bravado was that whilst Windows 7 was stomping on Windows XP wind pipe, it also was replacing the old problem with a new. That is it won’t be something in which gets deleted from Enterprise machines that cubicle workers and field agents use today anytime soon.

That for me has a much further and greater ubiquity story than most either realize or choose to acknowledge.

iPads are definitely something that may get some traction going further in large business but ultimately it’s such a specialized decision that I think having those devices do anything outside of a HTML app in its first generation of solutions in the enterprise is something that I’d say isn’t a worthwhile bet (it’s still in pioneering mode).

WPF and WinForms will still have a much longer usage than most will also care to agree outloud but I think once Silverlights engines get shut down more and more the retreat position for most will be back to WPF whilst they wait for the whole WinRT story to stabilize.

Adopting WPF today gives you also some healthy amount of skills to target WinRT later on, but it also gets you into a position where there is a likely chance of some additional changes / upgrades should the WinRT vision fall flat (Which I’m thinking it may very well).

That’s what I’d say out loud, as I’d say this based simply on your HR recruitment potential, tooling story and lastly ubiquity related decisions that are made in organizations where little patience is given to solutions built in HTML of the past.

My opinion has now been noted, so what would you bet on and why?

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Windows Phone 7 Marketplace – Show me the money!


I’m not looking to pick a fight, I do however have some basic questions around what Success vs Fail looks like for an average Wp7 Developer. That is to say, I’ve worked in a few Wp7 App/Game teams in the past two years and I’ve not seen these folks talk up their revenue or commercial success.

Having recently just finished the first beta of an upcoming game, I’m now spending majority of my effort trying to settle on a price and revenue model that will accompany it. I’m also thinking about what my marketing spend should be and where etc.

My research into finding answers to questions around market size, target audience and lastly what a safe price tag should be has come up quite empty . I’ve asked various Windows Phone 7 community “experts” to which I’ve gotten blank responses or some minor links to a blog post from indie developers talking up their Ad Revenue stream(s).

I’ve also asked some Microsoft staffers internally who don’t mind giving me a leak or two of information and they too came back with answers like “come to think of it, I haven’t seen anything internally either. Just lots of adoption metrics but not actual hard revenue related data”.

This now begs the question, which is despite the market share of Windows Phone 7 what exactly does success and fail look like for those looking to target the device?

60 minutes in Australia last Sunday ran a similar interview with iPhone developer(s) and they had a guy from Brisbane on who’s made around $10million off his game(s). Ok, much larger audience but at the same time iPhone marketplace is quite a competitive and saturated user base to target, so to make $10million isn’t an easy thing but at the same time that’s a carrot we can all jump at.

Looking at the various launches / keynotes around Windows Phone, I’ve also not seen someone on stage that has come from a position of “until Windows Phone 7, I was homeless but now, I drive a Ferrari and I have two hot girlfriends” style success.

Ad Revenue is the success metric.

If I cast my browser searches on the interwebz, the likely response to the above questions is simply ad revenue. To me that’s great, it’s I guess a profitable approach but for me I’d rather not make my creation into a digital NASCAR whereby I’m hocking Viagra in-game. Instead, I’d like to either enable in-game purchasing (Windows Phone 8) and/or once-off purchase with additional seasons/expansion packs later (should the audience feel that the game is rewarding enough to invest in).

Today, there is no actual capability for in-game purchasing (ie buy gems/gemstones etc) so you have to rely on your initial once-off purchase. You also are encouraged to provide a trial version of your creation as well, so again, not sure that’s a great revenue model for developer(s) but at the same time it’s a great thing for consumers.

Metrics you can count on.

This probably boils down to bankable metrics that Microsoft is quite cagey in giving specifics around. I doubt anyone will get a clear and concise answer here around what the adoption vs active user metrics are on any given quarter with regards to the Phone(s). If that were to occur I think Nokia’s price would drop and most likely impact on Microsoft’s fumbling share price as well.

That’s of course a pity though, as being a developer you want to size your market, figure out what your potential financially looks like and given we can’t get those specific metrics from Microsoft (in a consistent manner, they do drips and drabs of random stats but they rely on a lot of external inference to size collectively) then the alternative is to come up with another position.

Create a Dust Cloud.

I’ve already committed to the creation of my game, it’s done (almost). I’m ready to hit the launch button and try my luck so right now, I’m a candidate for easy convincing given I already took the leap of faith a month ago. I need confidence that my energy and time wasn’t just a complete waste of time, I want something to hang my hat on and mirror or expand upon around success for the Windows Phone 7 market place.

I want to look at someone’s success, learn from it and expand on it in the hope I can generate my own Windows Phone 7 after glow.

Microsoft simply needs to create what I call a “dust cloud” in that just like in many war novels whereby the horses on the horizon have created such a vast dust cloud that the attacking army looks and sounds a lot bigger/worse than it actually is. Microsoft needs to create a similar affect, that is to bring a few success stories out into the light and shower them in marketing love, followed by infomercial like stories of “Look, he was poor, but now he’s worth $10million USD!!!”




Given there is no in-game purchasing today and yes it appears Windows Phone 8 will fix this, it’s clear to see why a lot of the iPhone game developer(s) haven’t likely ported their success over to the marketplace (Excluding Microsoft investing in this companies via seed funding to do so). That’s a problem and was always one that I think would become a negative for reasons to invest in Windows Phone 7 marketplace. It’s fixed though, well soon to be so I’ll not dwell to much on that one.

Not seeing success around Windows Phone 7 and more importantly getting hints or glimpses of what a commercial reality / viability of spending your time making for the device(s) to me is something that is either really bad or one of the best kept secrets that has the worst reasons for doing so.

I hopefully assume there is a revenue model beyond just ad impressions for Windows Phone 7 marketplace success, I want to see or read a story or two on an indie game developer making their annual wage and more on a single game’s success. I want to see part two of the movie “Indie Game: The Movie” whereby instead of following the success of an XBOX game developer we see the tablet/mobile phone developer.

I genuinely want to believe there’s gold in these Microsoft hills. Show me the money!

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