Friday, August 31, 2007

Worst UI Ever? - Validation errors

Here's a little comic relief for you. First of all let me say, I didn't make this up. This is a screenshot from the website of a big, well-established company's website. I won't reveal the name of the site in order to protect the innocent.

This started out as a typical registration form. The label (Name, Address, etc) was inside the input box which conserved space . When you focus on the field, the label disappears so you can enter your value. However it didn't specify which fields were required. So, since I don't like registering, I just tabbed through all the fields without filling out anything. This is what it showed.

Nice. Now I know that all the fields are required... Now what goes in each field again? The worst part, refreshing the screen doesn't bring the labels back. Nor does submitting it. Now in the site's creators defense, after a little refreshing and clicking in and out of the fields, I was able to get it to show the labels again. But would most users?

Do your users a favor and don't do this.

Klok, formerly known as TimeTracker

My timetracker application is now known as Klok. With the new name comes some new features, bug fixes and an updated UI.

The new features include a collapsed view allowing you to tuck it away in the corner where you can see what task you are currently working on and how long you have been working on it.

For bug fixes there were a few minor ones. The most significant caused a problem when you dragged the end time and dropped it before the start time it would cause some weird issues. Now, if you do this it knows enough to swap the times so that the earlier time becomes the start time.

Download it and give it a try. Please feel free to comment on the name, icon, ui, etc.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

AIR Crashing problem solved

In an earlier post someone had commented that my TimeTracker application was crashing. I posted a comment pointing to a thread talking about similar issues with transparent AIR apps which seemed to either be related to video cards and/or the MS intellipoint mouse driver. I assumed that it was more likely caused by my dual monitor setup rather than the mouse driver because I didn't have an MS mouse. However, after some frustration trying to run the San Dimas app, I decided to do some digging. I found that I did have the Intillipoint drivers installed (somehow) even though I didn't have an MS mouse. After un-installing the driver all the transparent AIR apps started working.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

TimeTracker: Take 4

I set the mime type up on my server so this should now be working. For anyone else who runs into this, Mike Chambers posted this a while back.

Thoughts from the onAIR Bus Tour

Wow! I have to say that the creative energy that was in the room was contagious. You couldn't help but get excited about all the things that AIR makes possible. The demos, even the brief Buzzword demo from Ryan, were amazing.

As a UI person, the thing that puts these AIR apps above many other apps is the commitment that their creators have made to the user experience. You definitely get the sense that serious thought was put into how their target users work. Does it mean that they weren't doing Agile? Not necessarily. Given the speed at which many of these apps were built, one might say that it couldn't be done without Agile. I don't have the answer. Perhaps someone who worked on Buzzword, Pownce, Finetune, TwitterCamp (Daniel did you design the UI too?) can post a comment and give us a clue how the UI design fit into your process.

Thanks to all those who gave me feedback on my TimeTracker. I will be incorporating many of the suggestions in coming versions.

Friday, August 24, 2007

TimeTracker: Take 3

Apparently the problem has to do with my web server not serving .AIR files correctly. For now you can download the .AIR file inside a zip file. You will have extract the .AIR before launching it.

TimeTracker alpha - take 2

There seems to have been a problem with the badge installer. Thats what I get for putting it out there in such a sleep deprived state. I have never tried the AIR badge installer before. Since I am not totally confident in it, here is the link directly to the .AIR file.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

TimeTracker alpha

Anyone interested it testing out my TimeTracker application can download it from here. If you find bugs or would like to request a feature, add a comment to this post.

UPDATE: Klok (formerly TimeTracker) is now up to version 2. You can install the free version using the installer to the right or by visiting the official Klok website

Going out to get some AIR

I just cleared my schedule enough to attend the onAIR bus tour stop in Boston tomorrow. I will be the one jumping up and down like a kid at Disney World. Feel free to say hi.

TimeTracker testers needed

So I have blogged a couple of times about my TimeTracker (to be named something cool later). It is still being developed however, if anyone is interested in testing the pre-alpha version and point out the bugs that I have missed or suggest features, I would appreciate it. If you are interested, leave me a comment with some way of contacting you. An will post the .AIR file for download.

AgileUI now on MXNA

I just got word that my blog is now being aggregated by MXNA. Hopefully it will be found in the AIR and Flex categories. If you found your way here by way of MXNA, drop me a comment and let me know.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

TimeTracker sneak peek with screenshots

In my last post, I mentioned the time tracking application I have been working on. Today is the first in a series of posts with more details.

To set the stage, let me just say that as someone who works for himself you would expect me to me diligent about tracking time spent on each and every task I work on. After all time spent == dollars made. Unfortunately, my right brain gets in the way and complains at all costs about having to stop what I am doing to track the time I spend. So, I set out to create a tool that would allow me to easily track my time with the least amount of effort.

My requirements were basically this:

  • Standalone app not needing to be connected to the internet - After all, I can't always connect to the internet when I am working in a booth at Wendy's
  • Ability to work on multiple projects, each having a varying number of sub tasks.
  • A visual way to specify how my time is spent - Dragging a task onto a calendar for example.
  • A way to report on time spent, monthly, weekly or overall
  • Ability to export a spreadsheet (Excel) for use by others - The person creating the invoices for example
  • A simple way to switch between tasks

So out of the gate I wanted to use Flex. However, when I first conceived of this app, AIR or Apollo for that matter didn't exist. I had thought of creating a Java Swing app but quickly decided that it would be no fun to build and probably take a long time. Plus, I really had no idea how to code all the slick Drag-n-Drop stuff I wanted to do. So I originally decided to build an app that would run in the browser as a Flex app. Before long Apollo was all the buzz and looked promising. I now had my technology of choice so off I went. All I needed was time to work on it... There's that "time" thing getting in my way again.

Finally I found a window of opportunity where I could sit down and start proptotyping. Then I had the "ah-ha" moment where I realized that my prototype, was actually turning into the real app. Now that is Agile!

The app is far from finished, however it is at the point where I can use it to track my time. It isn't quite ready to post for download but some screens are shown below. When down, this will be free to download and use.

Dragging a project or task from the left onto the calendar creates an entry for it. To indicate you are currently working on a task it can be dragged onto the "currently working on" area at the top.

Entries can be resized or moved by dragging. Double clicking brings up the edit panel.

While entries are shown on the calendar, you can also see them in grid format by going into project view and selecting the Time Entries tab. The "Properties" tab (not shown) is where you specify the task name, select a color, add a time estimate for later comparison with actual time, and more.

Reports are located in the Reports section. More are coming such as variable date ranges for selected a two week interval for example

Launching a report gives you a chart showing the breakdown for the time period selected.

That isn't everything, but I need to save some for later. Features coming up include:
  • More reports
  • Condensed view
  • Printable reports
  • Export to excel

As a side note, if you look carefully at the summary chart you will see that the time spent on the TimeTracker was only about 14 hours. That 14 hours is the time I spent on this since it worked enough to actually use. I probably spent about 8 hours (I don't know the actual since I didn't track it anyway...doh!) getting the initial app working which didn't have the weekview, drag-n-drop, charts, etc. So all in all, this thing represents less than a weeks work so far. Try doing that with Swing.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

I'm still here

I haven't blogged in a while because I have a new baby son born just two weeks ago. However, I was able to code with one hand while holding him in the other. Coming up soon will be some information about my new TimeTracker AIR application. This app was built solely for my own use in keeping track of some projects I am working on. Since I hate having to track my time, I started work on this application.