Wednesday, 06 May 2009

mockup You've all heard the phrase "a picture says a thousand words" and when it comes to someone describing how they want their screen to look like nothing could be more accurate. If you've ever sat with a wordy document and tried to work out how the screen should look you'll know what I mean. This is where screen mock-ups become invaluable. Screen mock-ups have been around for ages and there are a number of packages that facilitate their creation. For example Microsoft's Visio Professional edition comes with high quality shapes for modelling a windows interface.

However many of the available tools have felt cumbersome when first planning an interface. Since I first started developing software I would scribble my ideas for a layout on any scrape of paper that came to hand. In fact lost of things have been design on the back on napkins such as Compaq's first portable computer, see 7 Brilliant Ideas on Cocktail Napkins and Toilet Paper for more examples.

When scribbling an idea down like this the thought can flow freely from your head to the paper and this is what I've always missed when designing screens on a computer. But recently I started playing with Balsamiq. This is a very simple tool from as they put it 'a couple of guys in a studio' and it's awesome! The thing that won me over so quickly is just how simple and unobtrusive the software is. It feels as close as you'll get to scribbling your ideas for a screen down on scraps of paper.

Check out this video on YouTube showing Balsamiq in action! Also checkout the web site that has loads of examples http://www.balsamiq.com/products/mockups.

 

The really cool thing about these mock ups is the simplicity, by being so simple people are free to focus on what data they want on the screen and where this should be placed thus avoiding be dragged into a needless discussion in the preliminary stages on what font face should be used.

Now this isn't the end of the story along with the ultra cool minimalist desktop version Balsamiq has versions for Confluence, JIRA and XWiki. You can see how if you have these tools developers can edit the screen mock-ups within a web browser using the Balsamiq plug-in.

 

 

You can see how this really helps in communicating ideas about the design of the UI and therefore save you time and allow you to deliver a UI that matches what the customer wants.

Balsamiq is always improving take a look at the company's blog to keep up-to-date with the latest developments. Also check out Mockups To Go, this is a collection of user contributed ready to us UI components and design patterns built using Balsamiq mockups. To give you an idea of what's on offer the screen shot below shows a sample of some various web parts that are available.

balsamiqWebParts

posted on Wednesday, 06 May 2009 18:25:23 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Add Comment | Comments [2]
 Monday, 04 May 2009

 Glimmer ajQuery Interactive design toolThis is a really cool tool from Microsoft billed as 'a jQuery Interactive Design Tool', basically it allows you to easily create jQuery effects on your site without having to write any JavaScript code!

So what do you get? Well when you start Glimmer up for the first time you are presented with the main Glimmer window displaying four wizard options. These are Image Sequencer, Glimmer main window Dropdown Menu Wizard, Custom and Tooltip Wizard. Each of these Wizards will step  you though creating the designated jQuery effect.

The wizards allow you to easily create what would normally be relatively complex jQuery effect with little effort and if this is your first brush with jQuery it's a very good place to start.

The Tooltip, Dropdown Menu and Image Sequencer wizards are relatively self explanatory, stepping through these wizards will produce html, JavaScript and CSS file necessary to implement the desired effect that you can then use in your own site. However the custom wizard allows you to get a bit more creative as you can create your own jQuery scripts. In custom mode you can open an existing html page and start creating a jQuery script that will operate on the elements in the page.

Along with the cool wizards that come pre-installed Glimmer also offers the ability for extension with custom plug-ins, full details can be found in the help that comes with Glimmer. You have the option of creating custom effects or creating a custom wizard.

I think this is a really cool tool that you must checkout. I've used to produce jQuery effects that I prefer to the equivalent ASP.Net controls. Once word spreads and more custom wizards and effects are produced this will become a truly awesome tool, so go get it and spread the word.

posted on Monday, 04 May 2009 18:41:57 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Add Comment | Comments [2]
 Saturday, 02 May 2009

Check out http://www.microsofttranslator.com it's Microsoft's online translation service which allows you to translate text on their site and also add the functionality to translate your own site, I've just added the drop down list to my blog so you now have the option of reading my blog in your own language, sorry if our language isn't available yet.

posted on Saturday, 02 May 2009 13:38:00 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Add Comment | Comments [1]
 Thursday, 30 April 2009

I seen some very good posts on this that include project and reg files necessary to set this up, however I run Vista 64 and found that the reg files didn't work for me. So after a poke around the registry I came up with the following two reg files that have done the trick for me. One for Visual Basic and one for C#.

If you want a complete description on how to register a custom testing framework with Visual Studio for use with ASP.Net MVC check out either of these links.

This zip file contains registry keys for C# and VB.NET:

RegistryFiles.zip (.92 KB)
posted on Thursday, 30 April 2009 18:51:38 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Add Comment | Comments [1]
 Monday, 27 April 2009

Maintaining backwards compatibility has always been a pain, but with the Windows 7 Release Candidate almost upon us things look like they might get easier. It's been announced that Ultimate and Professional editions of Windows 7 will include a licensed copy of Windows XP. Windows 7 would then run a Virtual PC copy of Windows XP for legacy applications. You will select applications that run in 'XPMode' and these legacy applications will be executed within the virtual copy of Windows XP. I've seen Word 2003 running under XPMode in Windows 7 and it looks similar to VMware fusion on OS X.

You can get some more details on this here. An even more detailed explanation of this can be found on withinwindows.com


posted on Monday, 27 April 2009 20:17:40 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Add Comment | Comments [0]