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User Experience

Introducing Wijmo, a feature-packed jQueryUI based widget library

Lately I have been evaluating a few JavaScript based UI libraries for both my projects at work and to use for a new version of the bike climbs site called 39x27.com:  it was quite nice to see that almost all component vendors are now embracing, some more than others, JavaScript together with the more traditional Web Controls for ASP.NET Web Forms. In this post I’m going to briefly cover the reasons why I ended up choosing Wijmo, and then I’m giving a quick introduction on the set of widgets available. Why Wijmo? My first, and...

Microsoft dev stack vNext from Build

Unless you are living under a rock, you have probably heard that two days ago, at Build, Microsoft unveiled the new version of Windows, named Windows 8. Windows 8 This is revolutionary both from the consumers’ and developers’ perspectives. The UI is deeply based on the concept of the tiles of Windows Phone 7.5 “mango” and the Metro design language, and the API are now allowing applications to be written either in C#/C++ and the usual .NET/Win32, or using WinRT, basically an Object Oriented version of Win32 or, as someone says, COM done right, and C#+XAML or JavaScript+HTML/CSS....

7 books for a .NET Summer reading list (2011 version)

In the previous years “n books for a .NET Summer reading list” used to be the title of the book list post. Now, in the last of my 4 posts with books suggestions I am back to the original title. In my introductory post I said I would have listed only a few web development on .NET books. In fact there are only 2. Web Development on .NET Professional ASP.NET MVC 3 While Professional ASP.NET MVC v2 was mainly an update of the original professional MVC1 book, the third remake, due to the nature of the new...

Lessons learned about designing a WP7 application at MS Web Café

Yesterday evening Daniela and I did a quick 10 minutes presentation during the third edition of Microsoft Belgium Web Café, at the Microsoft Innovation Center in Mons. The presentation was about the lessons we learned during the development of our Windows Phone 7 application, FeedTso. FeedTso, History of a WP7 FeedReader View more presentations from Simone Chiaretta The presentation is quite image intensive, with not many words, but if go to the presentation page on SlideShare you can read everything we said...

How to configure Windows Live Writer to link tags to your blog

Till last week I was linking the tags at the bottom of all my posts to Delicious. But now that Delicious is going to be shut down, I don’t want all my blogs to link to something that is not existent, so I decided to change the configuration of Windows Live Writer to link tags to my tags’ archive on my blog. All you have to do is adding a new Tag Provider. First you need to open the window to enter the new provider (down here is a slideshow with the steps) ...

Unboxing Samsung Omnia 7

A few days ago I finally got my Windows Phone 7 device: a Samsung Omnia 7. Here in Belgium there are just 3 devices at the moment (LG, HTC HD7 and Samsung Omnia) which all cost more or less the same price (530€ for the least expensive and 570€ for the most expensive) so I decided for the Samsung Omnia 7 mainly because of its Super AMOLED display. Unboxing the phone Here is the “unboxing” gallery:       The packaging is really well done, all cardboard, all recyclable, which is good....

Is Silverlight becoming a niche technology?

A lot of reactions started on Twitter this morning following the publication of the article titled “The Future of Silverlight” on the Silverlight Team Blog. One that caught my attention was written by Hadi Hariri: After a few messages I realized that he was talking about Silverlight. The problems Silverlight addresses The official announcement says between the lines: … Silverlight enables applications that deliver the kinds of rich experiences users want. We group these into three broad categories: premium media experiences, consumer apps and games, and business/enterprise apps. Even in their own statement, they acknowledge that Silverlight is not for building web apps,...

At the Umbraco CodeGarden: Slides and Demos of my MVC-Preconf talks

I'm here in Copenhagen at the 6th Umbraco CodeGarden "festival" and currently chilling in the nice garden while resting between the talks of the fist day. First of all I want to say "THANK YOU!!" to Niels Hartvig for inviting me to talk to the event, and for setting up what I think is the best conference I attended ever. No, no... I'm not just sucking up... this event is really great: great food, great community, great amusements, a great channel tour and side activities... as they said at the keynote: it's more of a festival rather then a normal developer...

Why SketchFlow is not a mockup software

After almost one year of using Balsamiq I decided to give Blend SketchFlow a try. After using it in one project, I realized it’s not a sketching/mockup tool. And here I’m telling you why. My definition of a sketching/mockup tool I think a sketching/mockup tool should be a replacement for sketching on paper. It should allow you to “draw” lines, add a textbox and some text, without thinking too much about alignments and about how you will “implement” UI element in the real application. And must have a quick way to include common UI elements like windows, dropdown,...

Twitter is crowdsourcing the translation to Italian, and I’m part of it

This news it’s a few days old, but if you hadn’t heard of it yet, Twitter is going to be available in more languages: not only English and Japanese, but also Italian, French, German and Spanish. The cool thing is that the interface is not being translated by a team of professional translators but by a selected number of users. And I’m happy to have been invited to help the translation of Twitter to Italian (notice the “Translator Badge” at the top right corner of my profile page on Twitter). There are many considerations that can be done about...

Code Rush: when making software was fun

Not that now making software is not fun anymore, but working on a startup, trying to make something that might change the way we think at software, or making something totally new is much more fun than… everything else that doesn’t involve working with “startups”. And this spirit is well capture into Code Rush, a documentary about the open-sourcing on Netscape and beginning of the Mozilla Project: featuring the first nightly build, the launch party and much more. It was first released in VHS (we are talking about 1998), when out-of-print, and at the end of July 2009 Code...

IE6 no more

In February I joined the "IE6: Do NOT want!" campaign, which was started by some big media sites in Norway: I was planning to remove the script that showed more modern browsers to the user after one week, but I kept it till now. Probably not because of me joining the campaign, but IE6 is slightly dropping. I only have stats for my blog, but the percentage of users running IE6 dropped to 8.5% of January, to the 6.4% of July. But still it's not enough: IE6 is a 8 years old browser, there is no reason to keep on using it....

There is return in user experience design

Today I set down watching the livecast of the second day keynote just to see what it was going on, because I pretty much knew everything about IE8 and I didn’t know who Deborah Adler was. OK, IE8 RTM was released… and the “exceptional” standard compliancy was shown on stage, together with the webslices and accellerators. But, not big news. Now I’ve to update my IE6 warning message. But I was really pleased not to have closed the stream when Deborah Adler coming on stage. Bill Buxton introduced her saying: “She doesn’t come...

A lap around MIX09 announcements

Many new things came out before the actual keynote, like ASP.NET MVC RTM, Silverlight 3.0 Beta 1 (with Blend for SL3 and its VS2008 tools), RIA DataServices. Not sure if it was something they planned or an error by someone that forgot that 9AM in Las Vegas happens 8 hour after 9AM in Europe, but that’s what we’ve got. The Opening keynote by Buxton I would have never expected such an awesome keynote by Buxton: it was about user experience designer, about UX in MS, about the importance of sketching. Buxton is a researcher, but it was one...

Suffering from Pre Mix Envy… again

MIX09 is starting in two days, and again, even this year, I’m not going to Vegas: I had to choose between ALT.NET Conf + MVP Summit and MIX09, and I chose for the former. Can’t fly from Italy to US twice in 3 weeks (and I’m still recovering from last flight’s jetlag). But luckily, as they did with last PDC, the keynotes will be streamed live, and all the session recordings will be available almost immediately. I’ll miss the community interactions and I’ll not meet all the awesome guys that will go to Vegas, but at least I won’t...

Introducing Bespin, online collaborative code editor

After word processors, mockup designer and mind mapping tool, it's the time of code editors: yesterday the Mozilla Labs announced Bespin, a online web-based collaborative code editor. It's still a very early alpha release, so many things are still missing and are waiting to be implemented. The high level features of Bespin are: Ease of use Real-time collaboration Integrated command line Extensible Fast and responsive Accessible from anywhere At the moment the collaboration and the extensibility are yet to be implemented, but all the rest is already there. I was really impressed by how fast and...

Daniela is blogging in English about UX and Design

My wife Daniela is a User Experience and User Interface Expert, and before that she worked as web designer at various web agencies. After a few years of blogging in Italian, she decided to take her experience, fresh perspective and pragmatic eye on design and user experience topics to a wider audience, and thus today she started blogging in English. To do a warm start, she already wrote some posts, refactoring them from her top hits of the Italian blog: Project management tools - a quick commentary of a blog post that does on overview of 15 online project management applications ...

Looking at Oxite the “glass half full” way

Today is a sunny (even if damn cold) day in Milano so while I was coming to work I decided I wanted write something good about Oxite, the CMS built by the MIX Online team. The point I want to make is: Oxite is the best example to show how bad WebForms are when it comes to rendering standard compliant HTML. There has been a lot of  negative talking about Oxite: it’s not working out-of-the-box, it’s not such a good example of how to implement something with the ASP.NET MVC framework, people looking at it as state-of-the-art  will...

Xbox 360 and Apple Cinema Display

Last October, at my first MVP Open Days, I won a XBox 360, but I was not able to use it since my only display is an Apple Cinema Display. The problem is that the XBox can send the signal out with HDMI, Composite, Component and VGA: unfortunately the Cinema Display only accepts DVI. I was busy with other things so I never looked for a way to solve the problem, as I thought that finding a converter would have been easy. And in fact it was: with 20€ I bought a media adapter that finally allowed me to connect the...

Windows Live Writer 2009 RC Released

Tonight the Windows Live Writer team announced the release of WLW 2009 Release Candidate. It’s part of the Windows Live Essentials that includes also MSN Messenger and some other “Live” stuff. The good news is that now the install kit doesn’t check for the OS anymore, or, at least, they include Windows 2008 among the allowed OS (even if the system requirements don’t list it as supported platform). The new version includes a new icon (shown here on the left), and fixed the usability issue I reported one month ago: now the right sidebar scrolls and works...

Processing goes 1.0

After 8 years of development Processing is finally production grade and has been tagged with the 1.0 version number. You can download it from the usual site. I’m really happy they finally made it: congratulations to Ben Fry and Casey Reas for the accomplishment. Technorati Tags: processing

SEO starting guide for ASP.NET

Today I just found two great sources of information on Search Engine Optimization. Google’s search engine starter guide The first has been released directly by Google: Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide It covers the most common areas that might need a bit of optimization: urls, titles, metatags, image’s alt attributes, robots.txt file and other topics. A must read for everybody that is interested in the topic. SEO for ASP.NET podcast The second resource is the great (as always) podcast by Polymorphic Podcast about SEO for ASP.NET. The guest, Michael Neel, talks about which are the main points of Search Engine Optimization, especially with ASP.NET. And the main...

Windows Live Writer doesn’t cope well with small screens

Probably the team that is developing Windows Live Writer never tested it with “small” resolutions: I’ve a 15” LCD display on my Dell D830 with a native (and thus maximum) resolution of 1280 x 800 and I cannot insert “object” inside my posts using the shortcuts in the left sidebar since they are at the bottom of the sidebar, and slip under the bottom status bar. The biggest problem is the plugins are at the bottom of the list, so, even if I maximize the window, the second plugin will never show up. Ok, I can use the menu or...

Review of bikemap.net

A few weeks ago, thanks to a tweet from Thomas Freudenberg, I discovered bikemap.net, a Web2.0 web application that allows users to post their favorite bike routes and track their trips, mapping them using Google Maps. The things I like the most is that, unlike many other track mapping sites (included the Nike+ site), it gives you the option to follow the road and not just draw straight lines, so you don’t have to add 100 small segments just to follow the path of a mountain pass street with many switchbacks. The other awesome feature...

How to disable ReSharper for a file: [CTRL + 8]

ReSharper is one of the tools I couldn’t live/code without, but when they designed it they didn’t tested my current scenario: I’m doing the assessment and refactoring of an application made of more than 80 projects (they were more than 200 in the same solution before we started our refactoring), some .cs files are more than 10k lines and some .aspx and code-behind files are more than 1000 lines. When working on this solution sometimes I’ve to disable ReSharper otherwise it would take 3 minutes only to open the file and do the code analysis on that file. But going all...

Twitter upside-down

That's one of the strange things that might happen in a software: why does twitterific write the name upside-down? twitter

Yet another presentation on ASP.NET MVC at DotNetMarche

On Friday I’m delivering my third presentation on ASP.NET MVC in less than one month (actually the 4th because I repeated twice the one I delivered inside Avanade). This time it will be inside the 6th DotNetMarche Workshop on “Applications’ automated testing and ASP.NET MVC”. You can have a look at the agenda of the event (translated by Google). I’ll try and make everything available online after the event, especially the code samples. Technorati Tags: aspnetmvc,event,dotnetmarche

ASP.NET 3.5 + VS2008 SP1 beta

Probably you already read this announcement somewhere else in the net, so I'll not replicate the news here. What excites me the most are mainly two things: Part of the ASP.NET MVC framework are going to be included into the core ASP.NET framework: System.Web.Routing will be included in ASP.NET with the SP1, so around this summer, probably well before ASP.NET MVC is RTW Intellisense will work for Javascript files, and will have support for jQuery, Prototype and other popular JS library out of the box. You can read more about the other improvements on ScottGu blog...

The most used Javascript Library is... jQuery

A month ago a popular CSS blog asked: "What is your Javascript library of choice?" Yesterday, after having received more than 1600 answers, he published the results. The winner is clearly jQuery, with more than 50% of the preferences (actually 52%). The second library is MooTools with 15% and third comes Prototype with 12%. As the author of the survey says, the audience of his website is mainly composed by designers, so the results are a bit biased toward jQuery (which has been designed to port the CSS way of thinking into JavaScript development). But...

Having a crush on jQuery

A few weeks ago I started to play around with jQuery and I already banged my head against some small gotchas of the framework. But a comment made by Jake Scott opened my eyes: I recommend you read (if you haven't already) Manning jQuery in Action, its the best book on Javascript ever :) Even if I might not second the "best book on Javascript ever" part of the comment, I got the book yesterday afternoon and I already read 4 chapter of the book while on the train. I've to say that the...

Feedburner kills all-time stats... no, wait, it was only an error

This weekend, while checking my RSS stats on FeedBurner I noticed that the "all time" option of RSS subscribers was gone. This thing raised a nest of hornets, with some bloggers accusing Google not to communicate with users, other looking for alternatives, and yet other offering hacks to download the historical data. The official forum was full of people asking for an explanation since last Saturday. On Monday Steve Olechowski, Product Manager of FeedBurner, posted a comment saying it was a bug and would have been fixed in the next code update, and the same was done on...

When the case matters: VS2008 hot-fix bug

A few days ago I installed the VS 2008 Web Development Hot-Fix Roll-Up but yesterday I found a strange bug: when I wanted to create a "new web site" I had an empty dialog, with no project templates and all the field disabled. On the original post I found a comment from someone with the same problem and ScottGu told him to send him an email: I did the same, Scott answered in a few hours saying that someone will have handled the issue. A few hours later I got an email from Mikhail Arkhipov from...

New Folder in my feed reader: Computational Art

Computational Art, also known as Algorithmic Art, is a kind of Generative Art, where the masterpieces, usually images or movies, are generated by algorithms: an example is Fractal Art. This is an area I'd like to experiment with: I always wanted to do something "creative" but I've always been stopped by my bad sense aesthetics. But maybe I would be able to have an algorithm help me generating some cool randomness or simulation. The programming language will be Processing, also mentioned a month ago by Jeff Atwood in one of his posts, which is a kind of domain-specific language on top of...

Minority Report-like interaction in WPF

Microsoft Surface and Jeff Han's multi-touch UI seem to be ages behind if compared to Project Maestro, developed by Cynergy, a RIA development company based in Washington, DC. What Project Maestro is?:It's a prototype of a no-touch interface, developed with WPF, XAML and using the WII remote with some custom-built IR gloves. And they say they built it in 8 days. Here is the video of how it works: If you want to do it yourself, here are some pointers to get you started: Connecting the Wii Control to WPF and the Wiimote project. Seems like we are not far from revolutionizing the way...

Silverlight 1.1 renamed to Silverlight 2.0

A lot of talking went on in the last months whether 1.1 was a good version number for Silverlight vNext, the one that will support managed code, a more extended BCL. And almost everybody agreed that, since the "next" Silverlight was a completely different beast from the currently released 1.0, a point release didn't give the feel of the differences between the 2 versions. Today ScottGu announced that Silverlight 1.1 has been renamed to Silverlight 2.0: Previously we've been referring to this .NET-enabled Silverlight release as "Silverlight V1.1".  After stepping back and looking at all the new features in...

Today is a good Silverlight day

... at least for me, at least in Italy. First there is the release of the alpha version of the Silverlight 1.1 Tools for Visual Studio 2008 RTM, which allows me to uninstall the beta2 and go with the VS2008 RTM also for testing out Silverlight development. And second the release of the Italian site of the European Silverlight Challenge, which marks also the beginning of the National phase in Italy. The deadline for submitting a Silverlight 1.1 application is January 28th, so I'd better run and work something out with Daniela which is a UIX. The most appealing prize...

Information R/evolution

How do we store information? On a physical library we store books on shelves, and index their position in catalogues. Since the beginning of the web we started building websites like we were used to build libraries, and at the beginning search engines were catalogs of websites. But digital information is different: it allows content to be reorganized dynamically, and we don't need categories anymore, because we already have heaps of keywords in each document, that can be searched. I just found (thanks to Daniela) via information aesthetics, a cool video that explain in a very easy way why. Made by...

Better late then never: fixed skin for IE6

A few weeks ago, while browsing my blog from a friend laptop with IE6 I noticed that the right sidebar sometimes was under the main content area of the blog, probably the width of some post was too wide for the main column of my skin so, with IE6, the broke the layout. Today I finally downloaded the IE6 VPC image, tested it on my laptop, and fixed it. But if I waited a few more months probably the percentage of users with IE6 would have dropped, since last Friday the IE team announced that from now on IE7 will...

Windows Media Center Development

Two years I developed, for the company I worked for in Milano, a video news website that runs inside the Windows Media Center, in the Italian spotlight section. The site is an Hosted HTML Application: a normal HTML page that can interact with its host (the mediacenter process, not IE) via specific JavaScript API. Today I was listening to the last episode of Hanselminutes about development on the Media Center for Vista, and I found out that the new version of the platform adds a new way of developing application on the Media Center. The old way (XP/MCE) With Media Center...

To www or not to www?

When I started this blog back in December I advertised it as www.codeclimber.net.nz, but given the fact that Subtext always strips the www out of the domain name when building internal urls, my blog was being indexed by Google with two different domain names: www.codeclimber.net.nz since it was the url I was giving around, that was linked from my post signatures and so on codeclimber.net.nz, the url that was generated by Subtext for some of the internal links, and from the rss feed and the Google sitemap So, to avoid shattering the PageRank...

YUI JS Compressor becomes YUI Compressor: now with CSS compression

Julien Lecomte is riding the wave of his YUI JavaScript Compressor and has just released the version 2.0 of the YUI Compressor. This version includes Isaac Schlueter’s regular expression based CSS minifier. Therefore now the YUI compressor can minify both JavaScript and CSS files. Minifying CSS will not help me improve my YSlow score again, but will save a few KBytes per request. Technorati tags: YUI Compressor, CSS, Minification

Dissecting YSlow

In the last weeks there has been a lot of talking around YSlow, the tool that the Yahoo! Developer Network released to check sites against their 13 rules of High Performance Web Sites. Last week I used it against various blogs and I found out that my blog is rated only 36/100. So, also after the challenge started by Mads, I decided to try and improve my score. The final score is a weighted average between the scores for each of the 13 rules. This means that some rules are more important than others and to increase the score of a site...

How Slow is your site (How to improve the performance of your site with YSlow)

A few days ago I posted about Firebug, the Swiss Army Knife of the developers' plugins. Last week Yahoo released an add-on for Firebug: YSlow. YSlow measures web page performance based on the best practices evangelized by Yahoo!'s Exceptional Performance team. Since many of these best practices focus on the frontend, YSlow is integrated with Joe Hewitt's Firebug, the web development tool of choice for frontend developers. After checking your site against the 13 rules of High Performance Web Sites, it rates the performances of your site with an A to F grade. I run the tool on a...

Ajax TreeView

For the project I'm working on I have to display thousands of user grouped by team, company, accounts, resellers and, sometimes, reseller of resellers. And I need to display the hierarchy using a treeview. Unfortunately the treeview control that is available with ASP.NET 2.0 cannot handle so many "nodes" with a decent level of performance, and even if he could, an html page with some thousands of users added inside nested <ul> tags will probably be more than 1 or 2 Mb: not something you want for your web application. Unfortunately the is no TreeView control inside the ASP.NET AJAX Control Toolkit,...

Multi-touch surface computer by Microsoft

There has been a rumor around in the last days that Microsoft would have announced a "top-secret" new product at midnight: a new MP3 player? NO. A new gaming console? No. They released a multi-touch surface computer. Priced between 5.000 and 10.000 USD may not be your next kitchen top or dining table, but it will be probably seen in bar, restaurant, as smart sales table in shops and much more. You can have a look at some pictures and demo video on gizmodo.com and a more detailed explanation on popularmechanics.com. Based on Jeff Han's multi-touch interface, they added some proximity...

How to make a Gmail-like loading indicator with ASP.NET Ajax

At the moment I'm working on making a web application we just developed more user friendly and more appealing to the end users. The application uses a few ASP.NET Ajax controls so I was pretty surprised when the customer sent me an email saying that he liked all the dynamic loading and the fact that he could reorder "things" using drag&drop and saving them without waiting the page to reload, but it took him a while to understand was going on. The first time he clicked the button, and since nothing happened, he thought that something was going wrong, so he kept...

The user is the 4th tier of any application

Are you an architect or developer and do you think the user experience is not something you should care about? Well, you are wrong. I was listening to an interesting series of podcasts from ARCast with Ron Jacobs on why an architect should care about the User Experience, and how to do it. I think the reason why an architect should care about the end user experience is all in the title of this post. If you look at any enterprise application, split in tiers (usually 3 tiers), with interfaces between them, you have to think at the end user as 4th tier of...

Ready to MIX?

Today is MIX07 start day: if you are like me, and you are not lucky enough to live in the US (or to have your company pay for you the trip to Las Vegas) here is the visit MIX from Home blog. It should be a continuously updated report of what is going at the MIX. What are they going to announce at MIX? Here are some speculations: Expression Blend Express, Zune phone, Office and Visual Studio will be in .NET A dynamic language runtime, Silverlight for Linux, Silverlight with a micro-CLR ...

Adobe Flex goes OSS

Today important technology news: Adobe to Open Source Flex. It's a bit late here (4am watching Luna Rossa beating Team New Zealand ) so my neurons cannot work enough to formulate an opinion on what it is going to happen. What is it going to happen now? Will Adobe gain a few points % also in the desktop development? I'm waiting for your opinion. Technorati tags: Flex, Silverlight, Adobe, Apollo