Recap: From Documents to Apps: Evolving an Open Web - Molly Holzschlag

This month we were honored to welcome Molly Holzschlag to Refresh Detroit. Molly is considered one of the godfathers godmother of the Web. Her talks centered around “From Documents to Apps: Evolving an Open Web”. As an advocate for open standards, she outlined how the open web allows for the empowerment of all individuals via global access.

She started her talk with a quote from Hillman Curtis that I am very fond of and wanted to share:

“Be prepared to reinvent yourself. Be prepared to go out on a limb occasionally, and be prepared to do the things that you feel strongly about”
- Hillman Curtis

I’m not going to give you a play by play of her talk because she was kind enough to let us record it. The full audio is available below and on Soundcloud.

A few things that stood out for me while she went through her presentation and interacted with the audience were:

  • Setup a personal advisory committee, no one person knows everything about the web.
  • It’s survival of the most adaptive, not survival of the fittest.
  • On the Web nothing matters, browsers, OS, data format, or language.
  • The definition of “open” often means transparency. But the preference is to mean authenticity.
  • The many things rule: Never look at one thing and thing it is just one thing.
  • Adopt a error forgiveness. We cannot know it all.
  • ARIA is the important piece that most Web sites are missing.

Molly gave us five main points to move forward

  1. Support existing content
  2. Ensure interoperability
  3. Define the user agent behavior (Solve problems from real-world issues)
  4. Better handle errors
  5. Evolve what we have

Some pictures from her talk

Recap: The Tricky Business of Website Testing

You might think software testing would be a bit of dry topic but Christopher Martello’s talk at the November Refresh Detroit meeting was far from it. Chris gave us a look at what website testing is, who does it, why they do it, and numerous excellent resources that everyone can use for testing.

Chris has a lot of experience to draw from. He has been doing software testing for about 12 years. He’s done manual testing, automated testing, been a team leader and a project coordinator. Currently he’s a Build & Deployment Coordinator.

He started with an explanation of why we need testing and what makes testers tick. Testing identifies issues that get missed during development. Tester’s are often in between the developers and the business analysts, making sure the functionality is in balance with the requirements. They can function as the gatekeeper to production, determining when a build is good enough for a release. “The most compelling factor for me as a tester is I want to make sure the customers … have a good experience,” said Chris.

Software testers are the type of people who like to find defects and issues. They identify the intended and unintended ways users can go through an application. They also make sure all the intended scenarios work. They incorporate quality throughout the process. It’s important that IT finds the bugs. “You don’t want the user to find the bugs”.

The testing process consists of planning tests, running through them, and reporting the issues you discover. Chris discussed how testing is one part of the overall quality assurance process for your website or application. “It helps build confidence in your application, the team can say it has been tested.” Chris briefly touched on some of common terms and testing methods used in software testing including functional testing, automated testing and load and performance testing.

He then discussed how NOT to test, which included:

  • Letting the users do the testing
  • Saying “I’ll test later”
  • Saying “Works on my computer.”

He discussed other types of testing including standards and browser testing.
Standards testing involves determining if a web site or application meets HTML, CSS, accessibility, security and the evolving mobile standards.

Browser testing is a very important aspect website testing. Unfortunately its difficult to cover the ever increasing number of web browser and operating system versions. Graded presentation standards are typically developed to determine what browsers your web application works on and to what level. You can base your standards on your own internal application logs and on browser statistics found on sites like Stat Counter’s Global Stats. “You should probably be tailoring your browser standards to what your audience is,” said Chris.

He went on discuss the specialized craft of load and performance testing. “It’s almost like designing a very complex scientific experiment”, Chris explained. Its important for identifying bottlenecks and break points in your application but it can take a great deal of time to set-up.

There’s also manual testing. “You got to have some eyeballs and some hands on”, to test if your application meets the requirements and has the intended functionality. A few examples Chris gave of manual tests included proof reading the site’s fine print, checking if the correct phone number is listed, and making sure a form’s error validation is working correctly.

Chris then provided a list of tools and services that you can use for testing. I’ve listed some of them here but for a complete list I recommend you check out his slides.

  • SnagIt – A handy screen shot tool.
  • IETester – A way to test multiple versions of the Internet Explorer on one machine (free)
  • BrowserStack - A complete cross browser testing service that creates virtual machines for you.
  • Xenu Link Sleuth - For testing links on your site. (free)
  • SQA Forums – Software Quality Assurance forums
  • Cacoo – Free online drawing and wireframe sharing

Some of the Firefox add-ons that Chris suggested we check out are:

Automation is where it’s at in software testing. According to Chris, “if you execute a test case more than three times then you should automate it.” It can save a tremendous amount of time. The downside is sometimes you don’t get support for the tools, the budget, and the training needed. While expensive, Chris likes the
HP QuickTestPro testing tool. Some other automated testing tools are:

Two load and performance testing tools Chris mentioned included Rational Performance Tester and HP LoadRunner.

Some issue and defect tracking tools Chris mentioned are:

Chris wrapped up the talk with some demos of some of the tools he discussed and answered questions from the audience. Throughout the presentation he provided examples, interesting anecdotes, and some fun QA jokes. Refresh Detroit would like to thank Chris for his excellent presentation.

Below are Chris’ slides:

Ancient Wisdom and New Media Content Strategy

Rebecca CarterRebecca Carter of Quicken Loans was the guest speaker at Refresh Detroit’s September meeting.

Utilizing some great examples from her work experience and a dash of ancient Chinese wisdom, Rebecca delivered useful information that we can use in our organization’s content strategy.

She started with a general overview of content strategy. Paraphrasing Kristina Halvorson she described it as “planning for content creation, delivery and governance.” She reviewed the wide variety of tasks and tools that the field of Content Strategy encompasses including:

  • Marketing
  • Writing
  • Content analysis
  • Metadata
  • Taxonomy
  • SEO
  • Editorial strategies
  • Developing new forms of content
  • Information architecture
  • User experience
  • and much more.

A Content Strategist “knows intuitively that everything is content”, says Rebecca.

Why do Content Strategy?
Rebecca had to convince some at her company why it was important to have a Content Strategy department. “So we can get smarter about everything,” she said. Reasons for Content Strategy also include:

  • So content can be repurposed
  • Business can grow strategically
  • To maximize the user experience and comprehension.

Rebecca wanted to give the Refresh Detroit audience some key points that they take action on in their own organizations. She used bits of wisdom from the ancient text The Art of War by Sun Tzu as an interesting way to present her points.

The control of a large force is the same principle as the control of a few men: it is merely a question of dividing.

Know who you are talking to. Create persona-driven messages. You can use in-house data, market surveys and even your sales force to find out whom you’re developing your content for. Quicken Loans uses personas created by an independent market research company. They find them incredibly useful in crafting their content for their audience.

The general who wins the battle makes many calculations in his temple before the battle is fought. The general who loses makes but a few calculations beforehand.

Plan and determine your customer lifecycle. Discover the steps your client takes from initial awareness to becoming and advocate for your brand. Rebecca recommends lining up the different steps of your customer lifecycle with the personas you’ve developed. This helps you get “great customized targeted messages and … your conversions can go up.”

If words of command are not clear and distinct, if orders are not thoroughly understood, the general is to blame.

Provide your writers with the tools they need. Develop style guides, templates, samples, brand guidelines, checklists to help your team with consistent implementation.

Opportunities multiply as they are seized.

“Every time you create content you have to think about all the different ways it can be reused”, explained Rebecca. Can it be used in a press release? Used for social media? Can it be shared with a content partner? Plan to reuse and share your content.

He who know when he can fight and when he cannot will be victorious.

“Identify your key performance indicators and start making testing plans for that.” Its important to find ways to communicate testing results to you team so they know where you need to concentrate you efforts.

Some sites Rebecca recommends following are:

Rebecca concluded her talk with a great Q&A session where she shared some of the issues that Quicken Loans has run into with their content strategy and how they’ve worked to improve them.

Below are the slides from Rebecca’s presentation.