5 Steps to becoming a Silverlight Expert

Recently I noticed something interesting on google searches and especially on bing. If you search for “Silverlight Expert” I show up near the top! Well… when google thinks that you are a Silverlight expert, then it’s time to start blogging more I guess. So here are my top 5 steps to becoming a Silverlight Expert. These are some of the most valuable steps that I’ve used as an Expert Silverlight Consultant and Trainer. We try to introduce as many of these resources in our Training and Consulting.

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5. UX Skillzes

Sorry for the haxx0r lingo… but I’ve been liking it a lot lately. So, what are UX Skills? In short, this has nothing to do with Silverlight. Silverlight (or Flash, or WPF) are technologies that make it easier to create a better User Experience. At the end of the day though, it is the developer / designer that has the responsibility of creating the experience. the platform just makes it easier to realize that designers vision. No tool can completely make up for a lack of skill.

User Experience (UX) is made up of multiple areas and disciplines. Including concepts like Information Architecture (IA), Interaction Design (ID), Visual Design, Human-Computer Interaction studies, Human Interaction Psychology, etc…

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Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/surfaceappeal/3085503904/

Some of the resources that I use to hone UX principles and concepts:

4. .NET Voodoo

My favorite feature of Silverlight 2 and beyond is that it has the .NET CLR built in to it. That means that .NET developers are able to leverage their existing skills while creating amazing applications in Silverlight. This has also opened up the door to a number of .NET libraries and resources being ported to Silverlight. Some of my favorites, Ninject, Rhino Mocks, Dynamic Proxy, SL Unity from Microsoft, WPF Pixel Shaders. To become a Silverlight Expert, be prepared to flex some .NET muscle.

3. The Way of the Web

While Silverlight is more like WPF and WinForm development than ASP.NET development it’s still important to realize that you are building for the Web. That means that learning technologies like REST (ADO.NET Data Services), JavaScript, the browser’s document object model (DOM), browser sandboxing and using tools like Fiddler are going to be important to you.

2. Blend / Visual Studio Combo

Aside from .NET being in Silverlight, the other awesome feature of Silverlight is that the UI is built with XAML, the same UI platform that WPF uses. That means that Microsoft’s design tool, Expression Blend, is what you use to design UI in Silverlight. This provides the most amazing workflow between designers and developers. Blend 3 is amazing. While Blend 2 is great for mocking a single screen, Blend 3 is awesome at quickly creating mocks for an entire applications. Including features like SketchFlow, mock application data and many more incredible features.

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1. Get Started with Silverlight –

So there you go… my last step is to go get started! I find that many people avoid the first step of working with Silverlight because they are intimidated by the newness of it all. I also find that once people do get started, they are usually surprised by how familiar development in Silverlight actually is. Enjoy!

  • Silverlight.net – the official Microsoft site for developers and Silverlight designers. Specifically, make sure to check out the getting started section and the how to videos!
  • SilverZine – Silverlight designer / developer, Alex Knight, started this great collection of links and tutorials for Silverlight designers. I found out about the site through a Silverlight insiders email list that I’m on, and I’m glad I did! There are some great insights and resources here!
  • http://twitter.com/silverlightshow – this actually is a great collection of links and pointers to some really nice Silverlight content.

OK, so those are my top 5 steps. What are yours? Did I miss anything important? Add yours to the comments.

About Caleb Jenkins

Caleb Jenkins is an international speaker, author and 6 time Microsoft MVP award recipient, he currently works for Quicken Loans in Detroit (from his home in Texas). An entertaining and informative speaker who approaches software from a fresh perspective that spans UX, agile practices and technologies for enterprise customers from across the globe. Leading UX product design teams, coaching multi-team agile transformations and architecting and mentoring at some of the largest companies in the world, As a long time community leader and former Microsoft Developer Evangelist, Caleb is well known for his engaging speaking style, depth of knowledge and creative energy. Founder and Principal Mentor of Proaction Mentors, former UX Manager and Agile Coach, Senior Architect for Six Flags Corporation, Product Architect on a Cloud Marketing Platform, Caleb has made a career out of empowering others while building products and teams that delight customers and solve business needs. You can follow him on twitter (@calebjenkins) or his blog, DevelopingUX.com and if you're still reading this, then you could also subscribe to his blog RSS feed or sign up to receive updates by email