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MarketsPlus Evolve: UX Inspiration from a Great Silverlight Application

Pete Brown - 27 June 2011

At Microsoft we often talk about "consumer" applications and "line of business" applications as separate classes of apps. Sometimes, applications that intersect both worlds come along. A few weeks ago, I was turned on by Scott Hanselman, to a soon-to-be-launched Silverlight application named MarketsPlus Evolve. My immediate impression was that this was an app with an attractive UI with very crisp UX, showing that a lot of thought went into the design.

Just want to jump into trying it?

http://www.marketsplus.com.au/evolve use userid of "demo" and password of "demo".

Here are a few screenshots of parts that just jumped out at me.

First, they have a nice pre-loader, without any spinning default blue orbs animation. That is such an easy thing to include in your own applications, but many folks leave them out. It makes an impression, especially when it comes to consumer apps.


If you visit the app and don't have Silverlight installed, you get a very simple, but effective, "Install Silverlight" prompt.


Once the app loads, you'll get a login screen. Login, and you see the default workspace (this may be different on yours, I'm using a demo account). Each of the panels is a nice movable window pane, with intelligent tiling built-in. If you click the little "+" button at the left of some of the single-column panes, they expand to take up two columns.


You can also run the application in out-of-browser mode. It's not an elevated permissions application, so there's no custom window chrome, however, but it's still a nice looking app.


You can expand individual charts using the small "full page" button to their top right. In this case, I expanded the candlestick chart and modified the slider to change how much data it displayed.


You can also change the chart type to be a line rather than a candlestick. Here's a partial image from the main workspace


Reports are displayed using a child window that sits above the other content. This is the balance report, selected using the small "Reports" menu from the bottom right.


There are a number of things I like about the UX in this application. You may or may not personally like the semi-gloss charcoal color scheme, but the overall design is very appropriate for many of the behind-the-firewall applications I've seen over the years, and both you and your fellow developers may find it helps inspire the design of their own business applications:

  • Simple color scheme, with subtle textured gradient for background. I like the dark scheme in this application, and also like that it is very simple, without too many embellishments.
  • Consistent styling throughout
  • Workspace management of windows is crisp. The layout is flexible, but without the overwhelming options a user may find confusing (like docking). Instead, you just drag things around to insert them into the right position in the columns.

As food for thought, there are some things I'd likely change if I were designing this UI:

  • I find the white (or near white) text to be a little too bright against that background. I might tone it down just a little, but couldn't say for sure without trying it. It's difficult to balance "popping" the data without being too hard on the eyes
  • I found myself wishing some panels could be expanded to three columns. I'm likely an edge case in the consumer space, as I have a 30" display with this app on it.
  • The bevel effect on the text on the buttons makes the text look a little fuzzy in my eyes
  • It would be nice to be able to expand the height of some of the scrolling panes
  • I'd offer a light color version as well, if this were for other types of applications. For a market trading app, the dark colors are pretty standard.

I can't convey the snappy animation in a bunch of screenshots on a blog post, so go and try it out yourself -- register for a trial account and give it a whirl. You can also use the generic demo account: userid: demo, password: demo, although I encourage you to register and try it out with your own data.

Overall, this is one of the top Silverlight experiences I've seen in this area. Not only is it a good app on its own, but I find it can be great inspiration for our own consumer and LOB XAML applications.

posted by Pete Brown on Monday, June 27, 2011
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7 comments for “MarketsPlus Evolve: UX Inspiration from a Great Silverlight Application”

  1. James Webstersays:
    "I found myself wishing some panels could be expanded to three columns. I'm likely an edge case in the consumer space, as I have a 30" display with this app on it."

    You aren't that far from an edge case at all... professional and day-trading setups are usually multi-monitor or large monitor (see http://www.desktopped.com/featured/2010/05/day-traders-nine-monitor-trading-workspace/ for example).

    Silverlight lacks (AFAIK) explicit multi-monitor support, maybe in Silverlight 5 or vNext (if there is going to be a vNext, cheeky cheeky!)
  2. Volkersays:
    a very inspiring app, indeed!

    Any sample available of an app that does not only show a huge amount of data but allows to EDIT data in more than a handfull of controls? You know, an alternative to those battleship grey data-masks...


  3. Petesays:

    I haven't gotten my hands on any Silverlight apps like that, but there are some in the WPF space from way back.

    The Lawson Smart Client from 2008 jumps to mind:

    Also, check out what Scott Barnes has on his site. There are some really nice design ideas there:


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