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Have you seen those television commercials about used car markets and someone standing in a white background and as they vocalize their automobile preferences the selections fly in and around them.  That’s what I was reminded of when I came upon the new feature on Kelley Blue Book’s comparison feature on their site.  I had previously written about some innovative uses of DeepZoom with Jose’s samples and I like what KBB has done here as well.

They’ve leveraged Silverlight with DeepZoom in a way that provides some good user functionality but at the same time provides a line-of-business application for their organization.  You can get to the comparison feature by starting at their Perfect Car Finder® section of their site and clicking the Photo Edition near the bottom of the application.  Once launched you are presented with an array of vehicles which you can start trimming down by using the controls to specify your preferences.  As you enter options the images of vehicles filter and wrap into a new grid view.

I saw something that I’ve been working on as well for a blog post used in this application…a range control:

I did some snooping and was able to spend some time chatting with the developers of this beta application for KBB.  It was great to hear how they’ve got to this point in such a short time (abt a week) and with a developer who said this was his first Silverlight application.  I like that they had a need for a custom control and built it.  If you play around with it on the site you can see that it is basically the Slider functionality with two Thumb controls (which is the direction of my sample as well).  Changing these slider values also filters the car selections as well.

The car pictures are the DeepZoom portion of the application and do what you’d expect any DeepZoom app to do at this point with some great resolution photos.  One thing that KBB has done here is monitor where you (the user) are viewing within the DeepZoom collection and provide some highlighting of the car you are looking at (via a border).  Once you click on a specific vehicle it also zooms directly into that vehicle to provide you additional information.

They are making use of knowing where the user is as well as where in the collection that car exists to provide the best functionality to the end user.

I think this is another great use of Silverlight and DeepZoom together to provide some business functionality that is fun for the customer and functional for their organization.  It’s a great mix of services and client technology.  In talking with their developers I made a few suggestions that I think could even enhance the overall user experience and they understand they have some refinement they are desiring to do as well.  But from nothing to an integrated experience in a short time is great!  I’m looking forward to see how this application evolves.  Go check it out and tell them what you think.  Great job KBB team!


This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution By license.


8/5/2008 1:16 PM | # re: Compare on Kelley Blue Book with Silverlight and DeepZoom
Nice, I'm building a similar project. My questin is how does one build a DeepZoom canvas on the fly?

I noticed the demo had a constraint on it. It only worked with the 338 cars and filtred down.

What if tomorrow another 10 cars are added. How is that DeepZoom created from a backend automated stand point?

http://www.codeplex.com/dzauto

Also knowing that KBB has thousands if not millions of cars. How would one replace or make an option to view a search result in DeepZoom. I just did a search that returned 600+ cars. How could a DeepZoom view be built automaticly? If accomplishing step that is to complicated base on the number of returned results how would I stream/chach/sliding window/buffer the contenet in chucks.



8/5/2008 5:07 PM | # re: Compare on Kelley Blue Book with Silverlight and DeepZoom
Hi Tim;

I'm working on some design ideas along the same line and I think deep zoom can be very helpful. But it seems like we the Geeks tend to see the power of a lot faster and easier than average consumer. I remember when I saw it at MIX07 the first time, I came up with so many ideas, however, I've been doing some market research with consumers and Deep zoom (different sites), and not too many people get to appreciate it's power and that concerns me the most.

Tim, do you know if by RTM, SL will have the mouse wheel support in Deep Zoom? I've different articles using JS, but I don't understand is not supported within SL, however, it's supported in WPF.

Thanks for the link
8/5/2008 9:20 PM | # re: Compare on Kelley Blue Book with Silverlight and DeepZoom
I don't know about you guys, I feel the UI of this KBB PCF could be more crispy than its current form. Don't get me wrong, I like the work done there. The zooming and instant selection change based on price/mpg/category are fantastic, but looking at the font, sliding bar, check box and button, I just feel they could use some style to be more attractive, you know, to generate the kind of feeling that once you see it you wanna play with it.
8/5/2008 9:58 PM | # re: Compare on Kelley Blue Book with Silverlight and DeepZoom
parley: Spot on. In fact those were my exact comments when I was talking with their team. I hope that can allocate the time and design resources to make that happen. Just that added zing will make it that much more appealing.
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8/6/2008 12:06 PM | # re: Compare on Kelley Blue Book with Silverlight and DeepZoom
Thanks for the heads up, Tim. This might be the best demo I've seen yet for helping people who are unfamiliar with Silverlight to understand what it brings to the table.

I actually really like the current UI. It's clean, easy on the eyes, easy to use, and fits with the rest of their site. Yes, it could definitely use a better font. But I hope any added "style" or "zing" doesn't go too far and screw up the good things they've got going right now.

The main thing I didn't like about the app stems from DeepZoom (I think). All DeepZoom demos I've seen eat CPU cycles like there's no tomorrow. Even if I was just moving the mouse cursor around over a single car, without doing any pan/zoom/select, with *nothing* changing on the screen (aside from the mouse cursor), both of my CPU cores were maxxed out. Something's really wrong there! But at least the CPU activity stopped when I stopped moving the mouse, which is more than can be said for some other Silverlight apps.
8/7/2008 9:06 AM | # re: Compare on Kelley Blue Book with Silverlight and DeepZoom
There have been many changes to the site, check out the "KBB GREEN" section and compare your current vehicles fuel consumption to another vehicle. I also suggest that you check out the other KBB web page

www.800bluebook.com

8/7/2008 12:53 PM | # re: Compare on Kelley Blue Book with Silverlight and DeepZoom
Ben: the RTM runtime of SL2 probably will not have the wheel support built-in just because of timing. If you look at the latest Deep Zoom composer tool, it generates Silverlight applications for you and includes the mouse wheel code support in those generations.
8/7/2008 5:41 PM | # re: Compare on Kelley Blue Book with Silverlight and DeepZoom
Tim, thank you very much for getting back to my question. I had not looked at the new version of Deep Zoom yet, but the generated code should be sufficient for now.
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12/2/2008 11:51 AM | # re: Compare on Kelley Blue Book with Silverlight and DeepZoom
Hi Tim,

The bosses here are loving the KBB photo edition UI and are looking for something similar. I'm trying to study the UI but the site has been down for a while (at least since early yesterday) which I find surprising. I've sent them an email asking when it's going to be back up but have not heard anything. I was wondering that since perhaps you know the devs over there if you could pretty please find out what the deal is. Would you? Thanks
12/2/2008 1:51 PM | # re: Compare on Kelley Blue Book with Silverlight and DeepZoom
GA: I've forwarded your comment on to them!
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12/5/2008 12:28 PM | # re: Compare on Kelley Blue Book with Silverlight and DeepZoom
Thanks Tim! The sites back up. I really appreciate the help.

 
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