When I promised Microsoft I was going to use their new Expression Suite exclusively when designing my next project I wasn’t really sure what I was getting myself into. A colleague put it quite bluntly: “Are you a masochist?” I don’t think so and after finishing the Zufall project I have to say my early fears were largely unfounded.
I will blog more extensively on the experience in using Expression Design and Expression Web to create this site (which by the way is for a neat little game called Zufall which is like a Magic 8-ball for your life) and create a couple of videos of the process so you can really see how these programs work and how I use them, but for now I’ll just leave you with some basic comments.
The entire site is based on a style sheet built from scratch using Expression Web. This is quite a milestone for me. In the past I’ve shied away from the CSS and often altered existing scripts rather than startig my own. But Expression Web’s ingenious live CSS functionalities make style sheet building a breeze and the result is rock solid (I hope). I had some issues with the classic Internet Explorer vs. the rest of the browsers when it came to margins, borders and such but I found a way of working around this using divs (something that is surprisingly easy in this program).
As I’ve mentioned before there are some issues with exporting from Expression Design. The bad edges and artifacting problem is persistent and as a result all the graphics on the page are huge lumbering PNG files rather than small nimble JPGs (thus the slow load speeds). I managed to work my way around the worst of it by putting some lines behind the logo (see image) but you can still see the rough edges if you look closely. It is worth noting that upon hearing of my exporting problems Microsoft contacted me and asked for my files to see if they could reproduce them. The are currently working on fixing the exporting problems and it will be interesting to see if they are able to solve them for the next build of Expression Design.
Another problem I’ve mentioned before is that Expression Design lets you export ridiculous sizes that don’t actually exist. Because Design is a vector based program it doesn’t conform to standard pixel widths and that means that if you’re not careful (i.e. if you do what I did) you end up designing a page with graphics that don’t really fit. This causes some annoying problems that will anger picky people like me best illustrated by the two grabs I’ve attached here. Notice how there is a small line between the curve graphic and the rest of the page? Or the line between the button and the white area? These were both caused by Design exporting graphics that were for instance 124.39 pixels wide. Of course the .39 does not compute in any rational sense when it comes to the web so lines appear. To remedy this problem one has to be very careful when laying out the designs so everything works on a pixel-by-pixel basis (or design the whole thing for Silverlight).
Take a moment and visit the site (www.izufall.com) to see how it looks on your computer and drop me a comment if you find anything you like / wonder about / hate / think doesn’t work.
More to come…