Microsoft Sketchflow: do you use it?

6 Dec 2010 - 6:17am
5 years ago
10 replies
1506 reads
Ali Naqvi


6 Dec 2010 - 7:58am

Not yet. Anyone? Feedback?

6 Dec 2010 - 10:05am

The company I used to work with was part of the Microsoft early adaptor program and we were able to use the beta for some of the R&D projects we undertook. As a graphic designer lending herself to UX design, with my code experience limited to what i produced in Dream weaver or Visual Studio, i found some of the terms a little 'techy' and it took me a while to work out how to use certain controls etc.

The sketchflow component was fairly simple to pick up - it was similar to manipulating and linking items in visio, however I found it to be a little fiddly with linking controls and aligning the same content on different pages (I hope they implemented a master page function!). However, once you did it a few times you could get fairly good results in a short period of time, without getting hung up on the aesthetics.

  I personally found it easier to mock things up in photoshop/illustrator because I am a whizz at those products, however the feedback component of Blend/Sketchflow is amazing.  Due to the new technology the dev's wanted to play with it so we were passing feedback back and forth.. it was actually a pretty good way to engage them in understanding the importance of involving UX designers from the get-go (muhahhah!).

  The expression blend component was another story.  I found that sometimes the graphical interface wasn't detailed enough when you were trying to set nested items and we needed to edit the XML in the scripting interface.  Of course, I had no idea how to do this therefore I relied on the devs to edit it for me.  Also the libraries took a fair while to set up, however as with any new software there can be a very steep learning curve.  Expression blend has a HUGE one.

  Overall, If you had time to learn it I would say go nuts as the benefits of the reusable content, feedback capability, emotionally cheap/quick but effective sketches are worth it.   Sarah :)

6 Dec 2010 - 3:05pm

I have read about it. It seems goooood but I havent use it yet. Im looking for a demo.
Im usisng Expression web 4 and it is veryyyy goood! I like it very much!!

6 Dec 2010 - 3:05pm
Rob Strickler

> Not yet. Anyone? Feedback?

Blend, but not Sketchflow, for a WPF/C# project.

It should be interesting to see if there are Silverlight devs on the list. I suspect they're using Sketchflow.

6 Dec 2010 - 12:53pm

From the experience of Acrobat, which is another tool collecting user feedbacks, most users would not bother to use such flashy gadgets, but would rather say it and expect the designer would do what they want. 

7 Dec 2010 - 9:05am
Manoel dos Santos

I'm using Sketchflow to design a mobile game and it's been great to validate the navigation and feedbacks. I love the way it presents the screens in a flow and it's integration with Silverlight. It saves a lot of rework from implementing it.

On Tue, Dec 7, 2010 at 6:58 AM, szhangpitt <> wrote:

From the experience of Acrobat, which is another tool collecting user feedbacks, most users would not bother to use such flashy gadgets, but would rather say it and expect the designer would do what they want. 

7 Dec 2010 - 1:26pm
Sean Gerety

I use Sketchflow.  And depending on the project I end up using it in different ways.  I've used it for some quick and easy mockups that actually use white board drawings to detailed interactions.


I'd also like to add that I use it for all types of projects, not just Silverlight.

Another comment, the sample data feature is wonderful.  It has various types of sample data and will also generate the values for you like

  1. Lorem Ipsum 
  2. Address
  3. Colors
  4. Company Name
  5. Date
  6. Email Address
  7. Name
  8. Phone Number
  9. Price 
  10. Time
  11. Website URL
  12. True / False (boolean - Good for show/hide)
  13. Numbers
  14. Images (You browse to a local file store)

6 Dec 2010 - 3:44pm


Have been using Blend since it's first release for the last  2 and half years on a large enterprise application and would hate to go back to having to mockup screens to pass over to developers - this tool really does separate the presentation layer from the UI logic and the rest of the real development, but only in the .Net world - no equivalent yet for java. Will be using SketchFlow when I next usability test new releases as I'm able to link up screens to simulate a workflow .

6 Dec 2010 - 4:32pm

Used it for a bit for a Microsoft project.

The good...

You can create mockups really quickly, and for prototypes it handles state nicely. I'll probably never use Flash again for that kind of work. The demos looked really cool, and the sketchy effects on wireframes are awesome. They really look like wireframes.

The bad...

I couldn't figure out a good way to annotate, and the export to Word is 80 percent there. Many of the "well, I have to see it designed" clients won't want to install Silverlight.

18 Jan 2011 - 11:36pm

I've been using sketchflow and Blend 4 for the past 6 months and did not know about it beforehand. I am designing the interface for medical software that shows alot..ALOT of data.  I'm a UX designer, and got put into this position of using this product because "Microsoft says it for designers", and we don't have a UI Developer who would benefit from it more than I.

Here's some highlights:

1. Had to use videos/tutorials off the net to learn the product.  It wasn't an easy way to learn this tool.   Most of the tutorials/videos show more visually stimulating examples than an information heavy data application (possible, it is not the correct tool).  Also, like all video tutorials, they give you the files to learn from. this is good if you want to follow along without the extra overhead of creating assets and importing them in etc. this is bad if you need to learn that overhead for your project. This made learning not so easy.  Again, I'm designing a not so sexy application, these videos show movies, and shopping carts etc.  Far more engaging to show the cool aspects of Silverlight.

2. Its pretty evident to me, that the designer would need to know XAML, and perhaps a C#  cheatsheet to be really effective in this software. The nomenclature within the application is technical (Control, User Control, Edit Template, etc) and lacks affordance.  What is the difference between 'Edit Template' and 'Edit Additional Template' > 'EditHeaderTemplate'?  It's not self evident to me. 

I'm using purely the visual design bits - controls, assets, behaviors  to create pages, layout, and not the XAML.  When I need help, the developer goes straight to XAML to fix things up or cleans things up because it adds too much extra code into the file.  This means, I have to go through many nested controls to change the visual style of the whole component.  Gag is what I say when I'm in something 3 or 4 nested deep.  If I break something, I go to the developer to fix it because the error messages are so poorly crafted, I cannot figure out my error.

3. With that said, it seems to create a decent page, one needs to go from the Bottom up (detail, controls,as you build the layout of the page), instead of Top down (layout and then details) and sometimes the interactivity is based more on the behavior of controls where one would visually modify it to meet ones needs.

4. There does not seem to be any 'true' CSS type support, especially with cascading or global declaration of visual design. Now that does not support how the industry seems to be doing things (HTML/CSS).  But I cannot use css type concepts ID vs CLASS to do the layout, I'm using a GRID, which suspiciously looks and acts like a Table (with rows and columns), hence, I'm using table formatting for page layout.  I felt like I was working a little backwards when I'm using a GRID just to layout a page.

5. Help is useless sadly.

6. I am not quick at whipping out a prototype with this.  I'm far faster with photoshop or visio.  And at least I can annotate in those tools.

So, I'm not a big fan, I can't tell you that it's just "So Awesome", because I think it is best suited for a UI Developer with the technical chops than a UX Designer.  I continue to endeavor to learn and try my best to create within the tool, and I improve with each painful mistake. And I'm always looking for information to learn this tool better.


Haunani Pao

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