When we introduced Blend 4 at Mix 2010, we showed most of the new features, but not all. Now that Blend 4 has launched officially, it is time for some introductions.
In this post, I want to tell you about a few new features in SketchFlow that make distributing and collaboratively reviewing prototypes a lot easier.
The ability to explore and review prototypes is one of the most popular features in SketchFlow.
In the original release, launched with Expression 3 last year, the review model follows a hub-and-spoke concept: A designer can distribute a prototype to many reviewers, but all feedback created by reviewer is seen only by the original designer, who can overlay feedback directly on the design surface.
A frequent customer request was to allow reviewers to see each other’s feedback as well. And this is just what is now possible for Silverlight prototypes (publishing in this manner is not supported for WPF prototypes).
Sharing information between multiple users usually requires some sort of a server. In our case, we decided to use an existing, robust information sharing server that is already widely used: Microsoft SharePoint. SharePoint is also available as a very cost-effective, hosted service that is quick and easy to subscribe to. Or in other words, there is no in-house server infrastructure required to make use of the new publishing features.
Here is what publishing lets you do in a nutshell:
- Silverlight prototypes can now simply be published to a SharePoint document library. Everybody who has access to this document library also has access to the prototype.
- Publishing is as simple as choosing the “Publish to SharePoint” option in the file menu and navigating to the desired document library on a SharePoint server.
- Every time you publish to the SharePoint server, a new revision of the published prototype is created. A complete revision trail of your design evolutions is retained on SharePoint
- You can send reviewers a URL of the published prototype. Reviewers can then access the prototypes on SharePoint and explore and annotate just as any other SketchFlow prototype.
- Reviewers can simply upload the feedback to the SharePoint server with one simple command – SketchFlow knows where it is running from and where to save the feedback. Reviewers do not need to know the server URL or select a file name.
- Reviewers can use a new “shared feedback” pane in the player to see feedback from other reviewers and from other revisions
- You can see feedback from multiple reviewers concurrently in the revamped feedback pane in Blend, as well as on the art board
Not directly related, but also powerful:
- If your project is a TFS project, you can now also convert feedback items into TFS work items
- Feedback items are now also included in Word design documents generated by SketchFlow
The last screenshot is an example for how feedback might look in a Word design document.
We hope you find the new publishing and shared review features for Silverlight prototypes useful in your own work.