Until yesterday I was using a free version of Mindscape Web Workbench to handle my SASS files and compile them into CSS. Over time, however, as the CSS in projects became more complicated and the files became larger, Mindscape just wasn't quick enough. Upon the guidance of Kit, I decided to switch tools and move to Sassy studio.
Sassy Studio relies on Ruby (Sassy uses a Ruby library to compile the SASS), so you'll need to install that too. The order in which you install these tools does not matter. You might already have Ruby available on your machine depending on your skillset. My current Visual studio version is 2012, you might need to check your versions to find a compatible extension.
Install sassy studio
You can install it from https://visualstudiogallery.msdn.microsoft.com/85fa99a6-e4c6-4a1c-9f00-e6a8129b6f4d.
You can install that from http://rubyinstaller.org/downloads/.
Once you have both installed, boot up Visual studio and check your settings (The ruby path is important, the rest is up to you). Here are mine:
That's it, done. My SASS is compliling much quicker, and I don't need to wait as long to refresh the page when I'm "Making the logo bigger". Kit tells me about faster tool using C, which uses time travel to compile your CSS, but for now I'm happy with Sassy Studio.
I've started collecting links that go past my Twitter feed, Facebook stream, Slack channels and many other news sources (read: distractions). These are my notable saves from this week. P.S. this won't be weekly, I'm not a machine!
Designing for Website accessibility. A nice checklist of, mostly obvious, but often overlooked details on designing for visual impairments and other disabilities. The internet is is like any other public space. It should be open and accessible to all who wish to use it.
IBM's new smart chip. We still haven't figured out why our brain is so powerful. Okay, we (not me, scientists) have a fair idea why it's powerful. I find it interesting that the faster chips are the ones trying to mimic a neural network.
The feature guy. You don't always make software better by adding features. Sometimes, taking away features or polishing existing functionality is a better use of time.
Balancing bike stations. A discussion cropping up here a lot is the difficulty in keeping the Dublin Bikes stations with bikes and also with spaces. Turns out it's a lot more complicated than we thought, and it's not quite been solved yet.
We've been working hard with a lot of our existing clients (CIS,
IKEA, FSAI & Gift Voucher Solutions). The summer has kicked off
and so have a lot of new projects.
Martin has been working with
CIS over the past few weeks, he's been consulting on
a technology strategy for their product platform (CISOnline). We plan to integrate
cloud-based SAAS platforms with CISOnline which will result in a
more efficient business process for CIS, allowing them to manage
their ever-growing customer base.
A new Gift
Voucher Solutions project has started, with
John taking on his first end-to-end project here
in Dovetail. He has been working closely with Dawn in GVS. They are
doing a total overhaul of the existing system, with an emphasis on
improving the Customer Experience (UX) and changing to a
responsive design which will work much better on both
mobile and desktop browsers.
Trevor and Tomás have
been working on a new IKEA Project. This is Phase 2 of the IKEA FAMILY
Kiosk project. After two years live with the current
implementation, we have analysed, measured and learned. We are now
applying this learning to "Phase 2". We are focusing on customer
experience for the IKEA FAMILY member, trying to improve the
customer journeys as they use the kiosks. We want to make these
journeys more enjoyable, faster and clearer than before.
Greg was working separately on a small IKEA
project which will be going live at the end of the month.
Greg was also doing a lot of internal work, adding
functionality to our customer
support portal, and improving our internal reporting system
"Hawkeye". Today is his last day, as he's taking some time off
before heading back to college in September.
I have been floating around a bit, working with
John on the User Experience design for Gift
Voucher Solutions. I have also started an Ektron upgrade
project for the Food Safety Authority of Ireland. We are upgrading
their website Content Management
System from version 8.0.2 to version 9.1.
This afternoon we'll be kicking off our summer office party and
BBQ. It also doubles as a farewell to Greg and
welcome drinks for John. We're fully stocked with
beer and cider, so it should be a fun one.
Craft beer delivery aided by Trev's sweet bike
How to Simplify Input with Steppers. I've always been a fan of Luke Wroblewski. He simplifies UI and input problems, and demonstrates why they shouldn't have been complicated in the first place.
Our mobile apps and touch screen systems are pretty good as they are, but they will be given the LukeW treatment in their next iteration. As we all know, there is always room for improvement.
See the entire series of videos, they're short and well worth your time, regardless of your industry.
Apologies to our regular readers for the absence of a blog post last week. I imagine it left a big hole in your week! The good thing about missing a week is that there's plenty of news this week.
Trevor has been busy as usual. He attended a talk on Horizon 2020. He also attended the Dublinked Real Time Passenger Information (RTPI) meetup in The Digital Depot last Thursday. Dovetail has plenty of experience in Real Time Passenger Information, we built the software that converts live tram information from LUAS into the industry-standard SIRI protocol. Our SIRI server then produces information for the National Transport Authority's RTPI site and for the Transport for Ireland Real Time apps and website. And of course we have developed the live LUAS iPhone and LUAS Android apps.
Work has started on another IKEA project which will be going live very soon. Mossy has been working on a small-ish pilot (a Minimum Viable Product if you will) that will involve a number of IKEA UK stores. All going well, we will extend the prototype over the next few weeks and it will become a valuable part of the IKEA FAMILY ecosystem.
A short iterative process really helps validate ideas with real customer feedback. IKEA have been doing this for a long time, and we have been finding it very useful with some of our other clients too. FSAI and CIS have both benefited from this recently. If you are interested in these techniques, Mossy recommends Lean UX, which he has found excellent to kick-start the thought process.
Tomás has been very busy over the past few weeks building a shiny new system for Acquirer Systems. Once complete this will be an extension of their existing product offering. We're using our latest technologies including ASP.NET MVC 4, LLBLGEN and this project is test driven. Test Driven development is being heavily promoted by Tomás internally and he is ensuring that the rest of the team are up to speed by the end of 2014.
There have also been a couple of changes here in the office since the last post. Martin managed to get rid of a large server and as a result increased the usable floor space in the office by about 100%.
And we got new Herman Miller Aeron office chairs yesterday. I'm sitting on one now and they're very comfortable. I think that initally they resulted in a slight decrease in productivity, with everyone trying to discover what each of the many levers do, but looking around the office now, everyone looks like a poster child for good posture. I think they've ruined normal chairs for me.
Finally, Dovetail are looking to hire another developer. I'll have to tell Martin to update the perks on that page to include the Aeron chairs!
Firstly, welcome to 2014! I hope you don’t mess up any dates on forms over the next few weeks, as I’m sure I will. Another even year, it feels like ages since the last even year...
IKEA “Swipe A Surprise” pilot is still going well on the IKEA Southampton store Family Kiosks. After some usability testing and watching real customers use the new functionality, we have gone through some iterations of screens and flows as we get feedback from the store and customers. Small changes to the copy, messages and some forms have improved the user experience and helped customers navigate quickly and claim their Prize. Two of the big prizes have already been won. Two customers have won a £500 voucher and £750 voucher respectively. Excitement is building in the hopes that one very lucky IKEA Family member will win the Holiday to Sweden.
Trevor and Tomás also made some improvements for the customer login journey across all Kiosks in the UK and Ireland to help customers who made mistakes when entering their details. They can now edit their details and try again, leaving them less frustrated.
John has moved from doing great work on the HSA project, codename “Redstart”, to doing some new work for the European SharePoint Conference, which we will be putting live over the coming weeks. Redstart will now go through some UAT testing, and we will get a first round of feedback from the client before making improvements in preparation for go-live.
Work continues for Martin and myself as we come to the final stages of the Calorie calculator project for the FSAI. A go live date is looming on the horizon and we plan to get the final polish of the application done over the next few weeks, with hope of achieving an excellent version 1 of the new app.
As someone who is relatively new to the facinating world of I.T. and development, I have noticed how important SEO is to everyone. As an experienced businessman, however, I have discovered (with my wife's help) the importance of UX Design.
I don't need to detail the virtues of an SEO plan to anyone, as everyone seems to be much more up-to-speed than me. The importance of UX design is a sometimes overlooked element of applications that I think is critically important to any on-line application.
My wife, Catherine, runs a U.K. based Designer Radiator Retail company called Inspiration Radiators. Her sales are quite modest, however, she is ranked number 3 on ebay.co.uk for Designer Radiators. Her business has experience of UX design, although she didn't know what to call it at the time. Below is an example of a typical example of a buy page in Ebay. A user can place a bid or buy-it-now and so on.
As sales grew, so did the number of products that the store had for sale. Putting these products into the ebay shop individually became very time consuming. As a result, my wife started to group some of the new products, allowing the user to choose the variation on the buy page, which is illustrated below.
I have added the red arrow to show the only difference in the two page types. "Why is this important?" I hear you ask. This small change, resulted in a 300% increase in sales for the items with variations versus the single item listings. It appears that users want as many of the final choices, regarding their purchase, to be left as late in the buying process as possible.
Dovetail understand that UX elements like those above, are critically important to the success of an application. Mossy Breen has invested time and energy becoming our in-house expert on UX Design, and is currently developing several next generation applications incorporating both SEO principals and UX Design principals.
I had the pleasure of being sent to UX london last week. I did not know what to expect from the conference, but though I would see some great talks and meet some other user experience designers.
Here are some of the stand out talks from my time at UX london. Overall I found the experience to be incredibly inspirational, where I listened to some amazing speakers and got to meet a lot of like minded User experience designers from all over the globe. To say I was “buzzing” after the 3 days would be an understatement, and it wasn’t just the high quantity of excellent coffee :)
Tom Hulme - Design disrupted
Tom threw a curveball for the first session of UX London and talked about something he happened upon over the weeks previous. The topic took the direction of desire paths, and he applied the concept of urban/spatial planning to deliver a very informative talk. Desire paths can be described as paths or uses of a “system/service” that were not specifically what the designer/engineer had in mind. The most obvious case is in open spaces when people will walk the shortest distance rather than the intended designed pathway.
Desire paths can be applied to software development where users use your system in a different way than what you would have intended. The measurement and capture of these “desire paths” is important when evolving a system, as the user can guide the product roadmap in the way they use the product. Suddenly capturing/recording usage patterns that were not immediately obvious to the goals of the software can uncover great insight into the potential for a product/system.
Even the simple task of adding a search box to an application can unearth details about the expectations and wants of the end user.
Lean UX and Design - Jeff Gothelf
Jeff spoke about lean design techniques, and some great standout points about lean product development. For example user testing an iPad app with just a PDF. Making assumptions about user behaviour. Sometimes going with your gut and testing those gut decisions early, followed by quick iterations. Easily pivot ideas because the lessons are learned early and before any large investment.
Building a consistent user experience across government digital services - Ben Terrett
Some of the talks were used as showcases for excellent projects completed or underway. This was an extremely inspiring talk about changing the entire government online platform in a very lean and a very clean way. The GDS team grew inside the government and is slowly taking ownership of all digital services supplied by the UK government as GOV.UK.
Some examples of the type of information they removed from the government sites and how they refined the experience to suit the user needs rather than the government goals. The results are an extremely easy to use site, which delivers a very large amount of content.
“A consistent but not uniform design”.
What happens when the agency doesn’t go home? - Tim Malbon
Tim is an extremely entertaining speaker and his talk was extremely engaging. He discussed a skype in the classroom project which made-by-many worked on. This project was, again, a very lean oriented project, where they spoke to teachers early on in the process, involved them in the process and iterated through ideas quickly.
Why does an end-user visit a web application or website? They want to get something done. Regardless of the stakeholders agenda, it is important to ensure the end-users agenda is catered for.
The majority of applications will have shared goals between the stakeholder and the user (e.g where a sign up is a success criteria). It's important to hold on to that goal and not let other (marketing/data collection) factors slow down the process for the user.
Over the years there have been 2 core preachers on this topic in my mind. Gerry McGovern and the good folks at 37signals.
Des Traynor recently interviewed Ryan Singer of 37signals on the importance of ensuring the end-user gets the job done when developing an application.
[...] there’s this idea that people are always trying to make some sort of progress. And, the only reason that people bother to buy your tool, or use your software, is because they are in a specific situation and they’re trying to make some progress—get from here to there—and they’re struggling to do that.
This rings true when developing a new website or application for a client. We constantly have to remind ourselves that our end-users are here to get something done and be gone. They don't hang around enjoying the moment and soaking up the atmosphere. This isn't a music festival, it's a web application.
Now for the hard part. At Dovetail, we work for clients and the buck stops with them. It is important for us to communicate our decisions to them; we are hired by them as the experts in software development. Can we convince our clients to feel the same as we do about certain design decisions?
Sell your UX Solutions to your Clients. Smashing Magazine have an interesting piece on different types of clients, and different ways to build trust:
We have to understand who our clients are, what is important to them and what their goals are. And then we have to deliver work that not only meets the needs of end users, but also satisfies the personalities within the company itself.
By bringing a client through our thought process and the evolution of an idea, we can ensure they are on our side when decisions become more difficult. Client trust is vital, and it must be earned.
Here are some things I like this week. Broad category here:
Designs, Art, Libraries. I know I'm just linking here, but a
lot of interesting things came past my inbox/reader this
Portfolio. Found this site today. Very unique design and
typography. The blog has a nice collection of photos and design
related things. Their portfolio is also very impressive and
presented in an unusual yet very usable fashion. They designed
the Facebook logo!! Very Cool.
2011. I highly recommend visiting one of the exhibitions for
this. It ends this weekend, so get out quick and snap up some
The Role Of Design In The Kingdom Of Content.
It's true now more than ever - Content is King. This article goes a
great job explaining why great content needs to be supported by
great design. Let your designs support your content, rather than
Regardless of what your content actually says, the design around
it controls what the users see first and how their eyes move across
the sections of the page.
gmail-like favicon notfication library, and all done with
And finally, because it seems the world cannot have enough
Designed to work seamlessly with data from the Open Source
Exchange Rates API project - but can be set up to use any data
source and base currency in just a few lines. And it works as a
NodeJS/CJS and RequireJS/AMD module, too. Yay!