Thursday, May 15, 2014

Putting it all together: Synclis

It's been rough. We had our ups and down but we've managed to pull through! Although we weren't required to implement anything it was still a fun and enlightening experience. Working with clients was a sharp turn of events and I feel like even if I weren't going to pursue a career in software engineering, I feel like I can still apply the knowledge I gained to convey technical concepts in a simple manner. Like my use cases here. 

Although these use cases weren't actually used to explain everything, it helped me conceptualize everything that was going on. It's like what Albert Einstein said: You do not really understand something unless you can explain it to your grandmother. Except instead of my grandmother it was more like explaining it to myself. And I'm sure my grandmother can understand what I drew. It took me a while to come up with business listings, but when it was well-received when I proposed it. Unfortunately I didn't get a video of myself discussing it with my client. Even if I did it was probably unnecessary since based on what we discussed it was very similar to regular listings As shown here: 

And here's my business listing management:

I know, not very similar, but the core ideas are the same. As I mentioned before business listings and regular listings function similarly. The only real difference is that business listings lack an expiration date. Instead, they get a lease. Similar to other advertisements, businesses would pay for advertising space. 

After that it's a simple matter of creating cucumber features to ensure functionality. Here's an example of the above's:

Scenario: I want to create a business advertisement
Given that I am on the home page
When I click on "My Business Ads"
And I fill in "title" with "Elmo"
And I fill in "address" with "guild wars"
And I fill in "contact" with "sharpner"
And I fill in "description" with "brownies"
And I press "Create"

Then I should see "Elmo,guild wars,sharpner,brownies"

I chose arbitrary placeholder information for the sake of (my) simplicity. In effect, there would be other aspects that would need to be added such as uploading a video/pictures, deciding the the advertisement's category, and payment options. Because I wanted a bare-bones approach to this (as it is a prototype after all), I kept it simple.

So there we have it! Here's the link to my presentation. It's two part spanning around 23 minutes (sorry I couldn't make it shorter, guess I had a lot to say). 

Thursday, May 8, 2014

LoFi Diagram

Hey there!
So unfortunately I neither have any real LoFi diagrams nor a video of Chris and I conversing over them. Allow me to explain. Synclis, the website that Chris is currently working on, is already up and running (in open-beta). Earlier I helped Chris test the website and suggest any useful features. Although there were a few bugs, there many of the features that I suggested didn't necessarily have a place in website; however, there was one that did. Business listings. In an earlier conversation to find an area where I can contribute to the website, Chris mentioned that Amazon approached him with some promotional offers to advertise some of their items. From here it dawned on me that Synclis didn't have a feature that would allow to support such advertisements. It was then that I came up with the idea of business listings. Business listings are regular listings that, instead of expiring after a short period of time, would remain active until cancelled by the owner, an administrator, or if it's 'lease' on the website ran out. This 'lease', as I call it, is basically a payment made by the owner to the website to ensure that the listing remain active until the aforementioned conditions occur. There may be other associated features associated with business listings such as the ability to install promotional offers, but for now the lease is the main difference. Because a regular listing does not have a 'lease' feature, business listings were created in theory.

With all of that said, I held off on creating a LoFi diagram since it was already verbally designed at an earlier time. I'll try to get a video of Chris and I discussing it, but for now, I'll make do without it.

Now for a visual. Because regular listings and business listings are very similar in practice, I figured that the business listing management page would look similar to the regular one.

Your Listings management
As you can see, there is a feature installed on the website that allows personal listings to be edited, sought after, and deleted. In regards to business listings, the only addition that needs to be made is a  'lease' renewal. With that said, it seems a bit redundant to make a LoFi diagram of something that already has a solid foundation.

My Work Thus Far

My work thus far working with Synclis and Chris has been pretty rewarding. The keeping up with blogs and working with actual clients proved to be quite challenging but it makes a great stepping stone for work in the real world.

For my project presentation I plan on systematically going through all the assignments that we went through. For my introduction I'm not going to assume that the audience is fully aware of the objective of the class and start by explaining the class' purpose. I would then give a brief summary of the company that I was working with. And before going into the bulk of my project discussion I'm going to preface my presentation by saying that my project was slightly different from others in that I wasn't actually making an app or a website; rather I was attempting to find a useful addition that my project manager would want to implement. Starting from the activity diagram I would describe the work flow of the company as well as give a brief summary of the stake holders. From there I would present my Use Cases and the thought-process I went through in making them. After that I would examine some of the features I made and how they evolved throughout the course. Then I would start talking about the LoFi diagrams and about the suggesting that I pitched to Chris (business listings). And finally I'm going to showcase my HTML mock ups regarding that suggestion. To close the presentation, I plan on talking about the problems I faced and other improvements I wanted to make if I had more time. And lastly I would then talk about my future with Synclis and possibly my current career goals.

Here is the link to my slides.

Synclis: HTML Mockup1

Sorry for the wait but here it is.

The main objective of the mock-up is to provide a visual, more substantial alternative to hand-drawn Low Fidelity (LoFi) mock ups. Although the website has already been created, I used the opportunity to apply my vision of the site and apply any of my suggested improvements. Here's the link to actual website. And here's the Git Hub repository for my HTML mock ups

Here are some side by side comparisons starting with the homepage.

HTML Mock Up of Home page

Synclis Home page
It should be clear which is more appealing of the two just by looking at both of the home pages. I didn't add the various categories for a couple of reasons. The first is that I didn't actually find anything I wanted to improve as I went through the listing categories. I liked everything that I did see within the categories. It was well organized and neatly implemented. The other reason is that if I find any, I'm not quite sure where to begin to even start implementing any suggested improvements. The homepage serves as an index to all the other pages.

I wish I could show you some of the other features comparable features of the website but it seems that Chris, the client that I'm working with, has temporarily disabled the sign-in features so I'm unable to. With that said, here is the suggested addition that I pitched to Chris earlier: business advertisements. 

HTML mock up of "My Businesses"

The point of Synclis is to allow user-generated listings be advertised. Chris was recently approached by Amazon to advertise some of their items. It was as this point that I realized that websites like Synclis can be a lucrative stage to advertise businesses. The only problem was that Synclis' listings weren't particularly suitable for business advertisements. Regular listings expire shortly after their creation (about 40 days). It would prove to be quite a hassle for business managers to constantly post listings after they expire. With that said, I suggested a different kind of listing called a business listing which would be more of a permanent fixture on the website. Chris liked the idea and suggested that because business listings are more permanent that businesses must pay a fee to have it remain on the website. I called this action leasing. In the HTML mock up of "My Businesses", I created page that would manage such listings. As suggested by Chris, the page allows users to renew, edit, or delete existing business listings and create new ones. 

Here's what it looks like when I edit a business listing:

HTML mock up "Edit Business Listing"

The features I offer here are very straightforward. It allows users to look at the old entries while completing a form to make a new listing. I intended to have an area where all media related to the business listing would appear but I never got around to implementing it. So far, Chris' response has been largely positive. Since he is the designer he will get the final call as to what it would look like.

The next step now would be trying to figure how these listings would be advertised. Would they appear as regular advertisements throughout the website, will the business listings have it's own area completely separate from regular listings, or would they appear as regular listings but have a tag that identifies it as a business listing?

I'll keep you posted.