Usable Web Forms

by Michael Plyler
June 24, 2011 6:59 AM

UX Booth is one of those sites that has really good resource articles. I visit this site often when I'm looking for information to help improve the usability of our websites at FHU.

One such article that I found is entitled "Creating a Usable Contact Form". Many of the items in this article can be translated to any type of form.

There are some very simple things that you can do for your online forms to make them very usable and to help bridge the gap between your users that are very tech savvy and those who are not.

Some of the important, yet most overlooked areas of form design are discussed in this article: failing gracefully and providing an alternative to the form.

It is important to consider several different user roles, computing environments and levels of communication when developing web forms.

You have to keep in mind, these forms are the way that your users are communicating with you. Good communication is two-way. Poor communication frustrates those involved.

For forms that you've seen or used online, what did you like most about them? What seemed to work well?

What didn't seem to work so well? Please share.

The First Week

by Michael Clark
June 19, 2011 5:16 PM

If you had told me just a couple years ago I would be working for Freed-Hardeman, I'd have laughed. But here I sit, in BK17, already working on a handful of projects. I've truly hit the ground running even though I've only been here for a week.

At the beginning of the week, my first project was to do some research on version control systems we could begin using for our work. For those who don't know, this allows us developers to work on the same projects without having to share computers or manually send files to one another. A system has been chosen and configured, but the true test will be next week when we hopefully deploy the product and put it to use.

Another thing I've been working on is the initial data discovery for the Icinga dashboard user interface to be used for campus system monitoring. This has been a chore because of the large amount of data available, but I'm slowly discovering what we need. I can't wait to see this in action on campus.

Oh, and my office is slowly coming together... that is, if I had something to put on these bare walls and empty bookshelves.

Think About This

by Michael Plyler
June 18, 2011 8:16 AM

Do you like to think about things? Me too.

I also like to visualize those things I think about. Usually these things are for web projects that I am developing.

It is very useful to "chart" and "flowchart" my program workflows or even mockup the interfaces even before programming - guess some of that software development mumbo jumbo sunk in.

A website that I came across last week has several templates for thinking guides or mind maps.

Exploratree, by FutureLab, is a free library of thinking guides. You can even create your own and submit it to other users. Very cool.

Here's a link to their video tutorial (this might help you grasp the concept).

Feeling Like a Real Developer

by Lance Williams
June 11, 2011 11:33 AM

This has been my first full week back to work, and I once again I am quickly learning new things. The week began with working on using different types of accounts to sign in to our backchannel app. So far we've implemented logins using Only1, ASP Membership accounts, Google account, and Facebook authentication. One thing I've learned is that the Facebook API is very tricky to use. They actually have quite a few different APIs that are slowly being either updated or deprecated, and there's not much documentation given with them.

I've also started going with more of an object-oriented route in my programming; designing classes and such instead of just coding the same methods over and over again...yeah, I can sometimes be a dirty programmer. I've found that not only is it a lot easier to go about programming this way, but it also just feels more professional. I hope to go about being more clean on this project the rest of the promises though. Laughing

Responsive Web Design

by Ethan Kershaw
June 10, 2011 8:11 AM

More improvements on the Backchannel App this week! One that I especially like is the addition of responsive web design. Its more than just a web design principle with a fancy name. What responsive web design means is that the App will be displayed differently depending on the size of the area its being viewed in. For example, if it is being viewed on a laptop it will show the full app, but if an iPhone is the device being used a more mobile friendly version will be displayed. The app will have 3 styles: Desktop, iPad, and iPhone.

Its interesting to see how this works. If tech-talk frightens you just skip down to the next paragraph. All of the styling is still in primarilly one stylesheet (other stylesheets are for plugins and such). Responsive web design uses media queries in the CSS to establish parameters for when certain CSS rules should be applied. These queries are related to screen resolution which allows us to target the different mobile devices and style accordingly.

This part of the Backchannel App has been fun for me. When I first heard we would be implementing responsive web design I thought it would be very complicated. Instead, its been suprising to see what all can be done in less than 100 lines of CSS.