A Silverlight CSI Challenge


One of the peculiar things about Silverlight applications is that, while SL provides the tools to create new and interesting user interface paradigms, most Silverlight apps currently being written look like revamped winforms or web form UIs.

This smells like a missed opportunity.  The problem, of course, is that it is difficult to come up with new ways for people to interface with their computers.  Developers and designers tend to fall back on the metaphors they are familiar with.

If you want to find interesting UIs, you need to look at your TV or the movie theater.  Movies like The Minority Report, while even more confusing than the Philip Dick story it is based on, succeeded mostly on its ability to show us what the future would look like.  Shows like the various CSI franchises succeed in making that future look like it is available today.

At the office, we get a big kick out of recounting the latest weird, impossible software being used on last night’s procedural drama to catch the bad guy.  What we rarely examine, however, is the fact that we can use Silverlight to build apps to look like – if not actually function like – those fictional software programs.  So why don’t we?

If we want to find new metaphors for the UI experience, it makes sense to go to the experts – television designers.  They have already done the hard creative work.  All we, as software developers, need to do is copy them and see what actually succeeds. 

So put on your Horatio sun glasses and build something from CSI, or Bones, or Criminal Minds, or The Minority Report, or any other technologically fictional world and see if you can make it real.  And when you are done, you can peer over your shades and drop a cheesy line like “Looks like his XAML finally got rendered.”