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A couple of years ago Robby introduced me to the term “McGuffin”, via this post. In his explanation, he admits that he is probably stretching the original intention of the word, and since I’m now interpreting his interpretation, it may be safe to say that my usage of the term is now far from its original meaning. You be the judge.
If you’re reading this blog, you’re probably also reading Josh Smith‘s blog, and you’re probably aware that I’m working on a new skin for Podder, his WPF podcast reader. Throughout the design process, I’ve had lots of different ideas running through my head – I really have a clean slate to play with here, and any of you who have designed an app or web site from scratch know how challenging that initial blank page can be. There are so many possibilities, so many directions you can take the layout; ultimately, you just have to go with something then tweak until you go crazy. It’s definitely a different process than designing something that works (visually) with an existing product line. There, you have an established aesthetic that drives the design.
So, as I go into the polish stage and really have a feel for the direction the layout is going, I’m looking at ways to make the application feel responsive, alive. One way I’m doing this is through my “McGuffin”-Enabling Image Converter. This converter is bound to an Image’s Source property and then returns an “averaged” Color – I take a random sampling of pixels then average their color values. The resulting color represents the generalized color of the image. In Podder, I’m using this converter to set the background image of the application to a color that works well with the image of the selected podcast, so as the selection changes, the color of the application changes to match, and the plot advances (my McGuffin).
I’ve added this converter to the Infragistic ToyBox assembly that I started a while back (and haven’t actively added to in a while). Download the sample project to see the converter in action. (Note: it currently only works with local images, not images whose source points to a web address).
With the release of NetAdvantage for .NET 2008.1, we’ve also rolled out an update to the infragistics.com home page. Front and center on the home page you will see our updated product icons. These icons served as a starting point for artwork updates throughout the site and product, from updated box shots to control landing pages. We actually introduced site-wide artwork updates with the WPF 2007.2 release in January, I just didn’t get a chance to call out the changes. The icons were very much a team effort within the Visual Design Group, with everyone contributing in some way. I feel like we’ve done a good job of abstracting the target platforms into representative icons. We actually spent more time fine-tuning the final colors than we had to spend creating the illustrations. You hit the limit on the hue spectrum pretty quickly when you’re trying to create unique colors for a large number of products.
The updates on the sub-pages are subtle, a face-lift really. If you’re a frequent visitor to the site, you probably won’t be able to identify the changes, you’ll just feel the difference. The control pages, like the xamRibbon page, have all been updated with new background and menu treatments. We had received a few comments from site visitors saying they couldn’t find certain pages, even though they were available directly on the side nav. So, we updated the treatment of the menu items on the side nav, left aligning each item and adding separators. With the changes, the left nav should look more like a menu and not fade away into the periphery.
The updated icons and background treatments can also be seen throughout the product, from installation screens to about dialogs. I think it’s a nice, fresh start for the 2008 releases.