Behaviour driven development on user interfaces with Automation peer

Testing user interfaces is usually a pain in the butt. No matter how cool your UI is, it will often boil down to a brain-cell killing process clicking the same buttons over and over again. Thanks to the Geek Gods of .Net though, there are ways to automate this, and it’s not even that tough to do.

In this post, we’re going to use Automation peers to expose a button to a unit test, and have the test start the application, click the button, and confirm that the button does what it’s meant to do. We’re going to use MbUnit to write the test, and NBehave to make the tests nice and clear.

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VS and SVN – Ignoring user specific files

Visual studio tends to create files that you don’t usually want to keep under source control, such as generated files, user option files, and so on. To avoid having to clean up every time you try to Add files, you can tell TortoiseSVN to ignore certain file name patterns. The following is what I usually use:

**/bin bin **/obj obj *.suo

You can set these patterns in the “Global ignore pattern” text box in the main screen of the TortoiseSVN settings dialog.

Janko at Warpspeed on User Experience in web applications

Janko at Warpspeed posted four very common (and very wrong) statements about UI and UX design in web applications. And sadly, they’re equally applicable to some desktop applications developed for non-public consumption.

Writing a WordPress Widget

Summary: How to write a quick and dirty WordPress widget to add social network links to your template.

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Size does matter

A good user experience requires responsiveness. Speed. Web pages that don’t make you wait more than a couple of seconds while they load, or even worse, load in bits and pieces and reorganize themselves in front of the user; “that’s the way these things work” isn’t good enough an excuse. Your users don’t want to know how your site works (even if your site is about how the internet works – they want to read about the problems, not experience them), they just want to get things done and move on. As Eve says in Gaiman’s Fables and reflections, “Some people have real problems with the stuff that goes on inside them … sometimes it can just kill the romance”.

Two of the culprits these days seem to be huge JavaScript and CSS files. They’re by no means the only causes, but they can cause trouble at times. Delays when loading a CSS file result in the dreaded flash of unstyled content on some browsers. Problems loading a JavaScript file… well, let’s just say it ain’t pretty. The delivery of these files can be slowed down by a number of factors. File size is one of them; a 168kb file will download considerably more slowly than a 6kb one.

This is made worse by the use of multiple JavaScript and/or CSS files. Separating functionality or styles in a sensible way is heaven-sent when it comes to maintenance, but the way the web works means that it’s a lot easier to download one largish file than several small ones. Multiple files mean that the browser must make multiple requests to the server, and each request carries a small overhead since the server has to include a certain amount of information with each response it makes. To top it off, most browsers are configured to open a limited number of connections to a server at any one time – IE8 allows up to 6 concurrent downloads on broadband, while Firefox allows 8; these connections must be shared between the JavaScript, style, images, and other embedded files. This can cause the downloads to be queued up on pages with a lot of stuff on them.

What we need, then, is a small number of reasonably sized files: how do we get to that?

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