How Usersnap helps a Software Architect in his development process

Adrian Smith is a self-employed software architecture and performance consultant currently working on a platform for HR departments that implements quite a few special features. Adrian decided to use Usersnap for this project, to gather specific feedback from his client during the development process.

“We’re using Usersnap on our dev server as the site isn’t live yet. It helps my client to point out and describe what he’d like to see improved. I like this way of receiving feedback. He can highlight areas of the screen etc., i.e. he can really visually say what’s wrong. Which is of course way better than writing an email following the storyline ‘on the third navigation point, the second area, the 3rd word is in a strange position’!”

Adrian’s core usage is within his development team. Screenshots get delivered to his inbox, where he processes them and divides them into tasks in his project management tool, Liquid Planner. Continue Reading “How Usersnap helps a Software Architect in his development process”

8 good habits in web development

At Usersnap, we have over 20 (summed up) years of experience in well organized web development. We figured that track record allows us to call out the good, the bad and the ugly in the industry. Let’s start with the positive stuff.

1. Use a bug tracker

The inbox of a Head of Development tends to fill up over the day with feature requests, bug reports and snippets of user feedback. Sometimes you’ll even receive emails with a whole bullet point list (if you’re lucky) of requirements, pain points and random ideas. While it’s great that people take the time to give – at times very extended – feedback, it’s not really useful as is.

Using a bug tracker / project management solution like Basecamp or Trac you can reorder tickets and nothing gets lost, as tasks are only closed when they are done. Set a milestone, add keywords (so your co-workers can find your ticket easily), add a priority level and make sure to cc the person in charge of ‘fixing it’. Even if that’s yours truly. In the description, try to provide a user story. And make sure your summary is descriptive, you can use humor for your commit messages if you really have to (i.e.: when it’s done), but you’ll want your ticket to be clear.

2. Take responsibility

Be precise and targeted. You should know who can do what and who is available for an additional task. When in real doubt about who’s responsible, you can do a CC. But make sure to remove all others from the CC, as soon as you found the right person to assign the ticket to. Continue Reading “8 good habits in web development”

6 tools to get started with responsive web design

Nowadays – when building a website – one is confronted with a number of different sizes and browsers that is daunting.* Plus, with mobile adoption skyrocketing, the diversity of mobile devices on the market doesn’t fail to grow exponentially. Thank god / the vivid web design community no custom coding is needed for each device or screen size with current responsive web design frameworks and testing tools.

We’ve selected 6 tools and libraries to get you started with responsive web design:

Bootstrap

Built at Twitter by Mark Otto and Jacob Thornton, Bootstrap offers an easy configurable CSS front-end framework. Bootstrap was made to not only look and behave great in the latest desktop browsers (as well as IE7!), but also in tablet and smartphone browsers with a 12-column responsive grid, dozens of components, JavaScript plugins, typography, form controls, and has a web-based Customizer. Bootstrap comes in different shapes and forms, like Google BootstrapRetriever Bootstrap and the super fun (and equally ugly) Geo Bootstrap. Continue Reading “6 tools to get started with responsive web design”

An Intro to Responsive Web Design

Responsive Web Design (RWD) is a design approach aimed at crafting sites to provide an optimal viewing experience. That means: easy reading and navigation with a minimum of resizing, panning, and scrolling across a gradient of different devices. At Usersnap we think a great deal of Responsive Design, and letting screen capture tools lead the way. Simply re-size your browser window, or open this blog on your smartphone, and you’ll know what we’re talking about. Continue Reading “An Intro to Responsive Web Design”

Continuous Everything – From Coding to Feedback

Continuous Integration and Continuous Deployment are strong concepts in modern software development and specifically useful and necessary for cloud applications. Delivering code continuously keeps the product development agile and allows for fast iterations. Specifically when it comes to SaaS products or services, the way to ship software has to follow the continuous track, delivering new “releases” several times a day. For example, at Quora every commit is submitted to the production system, unless this process is actively suppressed.

Ever decreasing software release cycles also require to rethink the way feedback from real users is gathered. Bimonthly user experience reviews with a selected set of customers are not suitable if new features of a product are published daily. Tools to suggest improvements and to report bugs need to be actively integrated in the product development process, addressing not only a selected group of testers but also includes real users.

This blog post is essentially an extended tutorial, explaining how to set up a 3C software production chain:- Continuous Integration, Continuous Deployment and Continuous Feedback.

We will use Microsoft Visual Studio and deploy directly to Windows Azure (Section 1). After that we connect Microsoft Team Foundation Server Online to our tool chain (Section 2) and subsequently connecting TFS with Windows Azure to establish Continuous Deployment directly from Visual Studio (Section 3). Finally we will add Usersnap to introduce Continuous Feedback to our setup (Section 4).

Since a standard “Hello-World” approach is always disappointing, we decided to create a tweet-wall which displays tweets containing the hashtag #usersnap. Lots of screenshots should provide a step-by-step tutorial to get you started with Visual Studio 2012, Team Foundation Service and Azure and finally Usersnap. There is no need to write code while walking through this tutorial.

Continue Reading “Continuous Everything – From Coding to Feedback”

5 steps to make bug-fixing fun again

Working with bug tracking software can be an extreme pain for the communication/marketing side of your startup. Oftentimes using one or more tools alongside is forced upon them and they don’t always have the notion how important browser- or OS specifics are. Believe me, I’ve been on both sides. If your communications team won’t happily help their programming co workers optimizing the side, how can you expect your users or customers to do so?

Let’s talk about how to make bug-fixing fun again!

Continue Reading “5 steps to make bug-fixing fun again”

Basecamp as a project management tool for web projects

Launched in 2004, Basecamp is one of the oldest web-based project management and collaboration tools on the web.  With 150,000 companies using Basecamp, it’s definitely one of the most successful PM tools out there. 37signals, the company behind Basecamp relaunched Basecamp as “New Basecamp” back in March this year. The “old” Basecamp Classic is still available and it is still possible to sign up for a Basecamp Classic account. Since the classic version is not actively promoted any longer, this blog post refers only to the “New Basecamp“.

Instead of reviewing all features of Basecamp and comparing them to other tools, let’s focus on five real life requirements for a project management tool which is used for managing web development projects. These requirements are experiences we gathered in the last couple of years.

Continue Reading “Basecamp as a project management tool for web projects”