Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Rocket Surgery Made Easy by Steve Krug

I just finished reading Rocket Surgery Made Easy by Steve Krug and recommend you read it.

Javascript: The Missing Manual

It's sub-titled The Do-It-Yourself Guide to Finding and Fixing Usability Problems.

It's a great read. He writes well, has appropriate sarcasm and wit at the right places, and delivers everything you need to know about usability testing. I bet that even usability professionals will find information in there that's of use even though it's not targeted at them. He also gets extra points for quoting Douglas Adams of Hitchhiker's Guide fame: "I love deadlines, I love the whooshing noise they make as they go by."

Right at the beginning of the book he gives you a link to an online video of someone taking a usability test and him guiding them through the test. This would really suck if you didn't have internet access close to you when you were reading the book so watch the usability video as soon as you get the book and don't even wait to get to that part.

One of the cool things that I learned (and I have no idea why I didn't think this would exist) is that you can outsource your usability testing and there are sites on the web that will do it for you. This is a no-brainer if you don't have the resources to set this up yourself and it sounds like a reasonable price to pay for the information that you'll get out of it. Just point the candidate at your site (or your beta site) and let them at it.

I thought he'd listed several online usability sites but while paging back through the book I can only find www.usertesting.com.


Monday, June 21, 2010

Building Quality Links to your Site

Great blog post by Google Webmaster Central Blog about building quality links to your site.

This paragraph sums up why you shouldn't engage in buying links or link exchange programs:

It's important to clarify that any legitimate link building strategy is a long-term effort. There are those who advocate for short-lived, often spammy methods, but these are not advisable if you care for your site's reputation. Buying PageRank-passing links or randomly exchanging linksare the worst ways of attempting to gather links and they're likely to have no positive impact on your site's performance over time. If your site's visibility in the Google index is important to you it's best to avoid them.

From the Buying PageRank link:

Buying or selling links that pass PageRank is in violation of Google's webmaster guidelines and can negatively impact a site's ranking in search results.

There is no point or reason to be trying to game Google's Page Rank system. It's going to be a ton of effort and it's not going to work. Just don't waste your time with it.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Request.Params == QueryString + Form + ServerVariables + Cookies

I'm doing some work with the ASP.NET Request object and have just discovered that I can get all of the "params" from one property on the Request object.

If I'm not already in a context where the Request object is a member of that context (such as an MVC Controller or a codebehind page) then I will usually access the Request object through the HttpContext.Current object. I always wrap this access in a double are-you-null before trying to access it:

if (HttpContext.Current != null && HttpContext.Current.Request != null)

These four objects:


Can be accessed through a single collection if you reference the:


which gets a combined collection of the other four.


Thursday, June 10, 2010

Google home page has images

I noticed this morning that Google has take a leaf from the Bing book and added images as a background to their home page. I think this is great as the images are always fascinating and high quality. However, the one thing that irks me with both Google and Bing home page images is that there doesn't appear to be an easy way to find out where the picture was taken. I would love to know where this was taken, but it may always be a mystery to me unless someone posts a comment here letting me know the source.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Upgrading Silverlight project from v2 to v3 (with .NET 4 and MVC2)

I have a setup a site for Online Calculators that I created about 2 years ago to get up-to-speed on Silverlight 2. I've been going through and converting all of my web sites to VS2010, MVC 2, .NET 4, and jQuery 1.4.1.

I anticipated that the calculators were going to be a bit difficult because I'd also included some Codeplex Silverlight Futures (or whatever it was called) charting libraries in the original project and because I was also upgrading the hosting site from .NET 2.0 to .NET 4.0 and well as MVC1 to 2.

I was very impressed with the ease of the upgrade. The VS2010 wizard did it all and it probably took me less that half an hour to complete everything from end to end including setting up the web site on a new server.

The part that I was most concerned with were the charts in the Mortgage Calculator because of the origin (Codeplex) of the libraries and that they may have changed for Silverlight 3. However those went swimmingly. The host site is very basic and so the conversion to .NET 4 and MVC 2 was not a great challenge for the wizard.