COL Player Re-Design

Date: Autumn 2013
Stakeholder: DePaul University
Focus: Visual Design, Animation, and Prototyping
Project Duration: 2 weeks

A Modern Windows
Original COL Player Application
Original COL Player Application

This project will be one that I will forever remember fondly. This was prior to getting hired at Microsoft and this was a project I showcased during my interview with the Visual Studio team.

Being a .NET developer and application designer at the time, the direction Microsoft was heading with mobile and Windows 8 was a big deal. As Microsoft developers, we finally had a mobile approach that leveraged our existing knowledge. There were new interactions to explore with an explosion of touch-first devices.

For this project, I decided to focus my attention on re-designing the DePaul University COL Player. This was a software application that remote students would use to watch their in-class recorded lectures. The application was a perfect candidate for a modern Windows re-design, because it was originally built using the traditional desktop (WinForms) framework.

Time was of the Essence
One of Many Early Sketches of the COL Player App
One of Many Early Sketches

Windows 8 was extremely new at the time and, because my project was quite ambitious, I had trouble recruiting classmates willing to embark on the project with me. So, while not ideal, I had to go it alone. Therefore, I was going to have to do the work of three people in a matter of two weeks. Needless to say, I needed a plan and I needed it quick.

I grabbed a nifty sketchpad I had gotten at a conference that allowed me to quickly sketch out design ideas within a tablet form factor. Being a remote student myself, and having spent countless hours with the COL Player, it gave me a leg up in terms of conceptualizing improvements for the application. What I wanted, more than anything, was an approach that leveraged touch-first devices.

I wanted a touch-friendly interface and an easy way to view class lectures and class discussions. Pen and paper proved to be valuable allies because I was in a time crunch. Sketching allows you to explore ideas without becoming overly invested. It frees you from the distractions of "pixel pushing" and allows you the time to focus on the core components.

Final Deliverable

The deliverable for the project was an Adobe Flash prototype. It wouldn't have been my tool of choice, but that was the requirement. I had to get up to speed quickly on how to build animations in Flash, as it was not a product I had ever used before. Additionally, I combed through Windows design guidelines and samples in order to replicate the animations that represented the signature Windows 8 experience (tile flipping, application launching, etc.). Finally, I provided a lengthy report, detailing the project and sharing my process and methodology.

The project was well received. So much so, that my instructor shared my work with the Dean of the university.