Tip of the Day: Refresh Rates and ClearType

Staring at a monitor all day, or even part of the day, can be very hard on the eyes.

If you're using a CRT display, one of the easiest things you can do to relieve eye-strain is to up your monitor's refresh rate. By default, your monitor is strobing at you 60 times a second. Pushing that up over 70 times a second will ease the strain on your eyes enormously, even if you can't "see" the flicker. To change this in Windows XP, just do the following:

Usability session: Usability of AJAX

Session:  “The Usability of AJAX: A Primer for Usability Professionals and First Hand Account”

Presenter: John Whalen, Ph.D., Human Factors International

What you need to know

AJAX = A (Asynchronous) + JA (JavaScript) + X (XMLHttpRequest)

Usability session: Use Cases as Functional Specifications

Session: “Tales Come True: Use Cases As Functional Specifications”
Presenter: Merryl Gross GE Healthcare

Summary: Functional Specifications may be the most important artifacts in software development (blueprints for what the team is creating), yet they are often hard to maintain and use. Instead, Use Cases, created as a set of wiki pages, can be expanded with UI design descriptions to completely take the place of specifications for a web application. The development team finds use cases much easier to create and maintain, easier to use for test and documentation, and equal to functional specs as a blueprint for creating software.

Usability session: Interaction Designers and Agile Development

Session: "Interaction Designers and Agile Development: A Partnership"
Presenter: Lynn Miller, Manager of User Experience Team, Alias (acquired by AutoDesk)

Wikipedia: Agile software development customers: "Customers are the people who define the product. They may be product managers, business analysts, or actual customers."

Usability session: Enhancing Usability of Documents

Session: "Enhancing Usability of Print- and Web-Based Documents through Information Design"
Presenters: Barbra Enlow, Susan Kleimann, and Qiwu Liu of Kleimann Communication Group

Top Three Factors in Document Usability

Back from UPA (usability) conference; UPA 2007 in Austin

Last week I attended the Usability Professionals’ Association (UPA) conference in Colorado; I would have blogged then, but half the laptop keyboard went flakey (wrong characters)! So, I'll blog soon on the critical sessions I attended (AJAX usability, wiki-based use cases / func specs, remote usability on the cheap).

The conference -- which focuses far more on practice than theory -- was hugely attended (over 200 more than they expected: 600+) representing 18 countries, with rapid chapter growth in China and India. Good news! The 2007 Conference is here in Austin, June 11-15.

ATLAS control test harness

One of my major frustrations with web development has been the lack of good testing tools for the user interface. Back at Dell I worked on one tool which we developed using the .net httpRequest objects and some scripts to check the html and step through some pages, but writing tests was entirely too tedious and broke often. Plus it didn't handle client side well.

My next approach was to wrap the DOM in an XPathNavigator. This made the process less error prone since you could do things like //a[text='next'] or //div[@id='contnet'] however the COM overhead made the searches too slow and you ended up adding hints into the document layout to speed up the searches. The advantage with this approach was that you could find and test just about anything on the DOM including javascript events, etc.

VBA Signing Certificate Available and another way I can help you

Do you use controls or write code to run in Office files? The Law Department does both with the License Agreement to screen that the form is properly filled in. The TradeMark Buttons on the Word/PowerPoint/Excel toolbars that fix up iMIS and other trademarks also use macros. However, when you open a document with macros or controls, you get a warning message that a virus may be hidden within. However, an author (like ASI) can be added to a trusted publisher list and once the publisher is trusted, the warning never appears. So, if you need a macro or control signed for a document, just send it to the Law Department and I will sign it for ASI.
More help:

Innovations Edition of Business Week: 19 June 2006 Edition

Wow. Man. Oh. Man. If you are at all interested in seeing where business is going, if you are a total non-believer and think innovation means cutesy chairs and justly died with the dot com 90s, or if you need some inspiration and hope, this weeks BW is a must read. The pull-out section mid-magazine talks about innovation and is designed to be innovative--right down to a different look and feel to give a totally different user experience for the reader. What's the bottom line? Collaboration, fusion of ideas and disciplines, and the need to aggregate seemingly disparate facts, notions, ideas, and observations in order to create new wholes. I personally feel like I have hit the Golden Age for people like myself who don't fit into one container. This issue is a perfect supplement to Daniel Pink's "A Whole New Mind" book which, if you know me, you know that I absolutely adore. Wes Monroe's brother--Bro Monroe--if you will, is a perfect example of the combination of thought-skill that is providing innovative solutions to problems. The only thing I get down on myself about is all of these people have favorite blogs and websites and I honestly barely ever use the stuff--I know you don't believe it, but it is totally true. I really need to find more time per day to peruse. Can you tell me how much time you spend reading blogs, etc online?

Web 2.0 Easy Ramp Up Resources

A lot of people have been talking about Web 2.0 lately in the virtual halls of ASI it seems. Happened to see this on BW Online--nice collection of info about the topic if you aren't familiar with it and want to be.

Web 2.0 Has Corporate America Spinning