September, 2008

  • Expression Web team blog

    Composing a Webpage Layout Using Expression Design

    • 1 Comments

    Greg Smith's Noggin Hey everybody, I'm Greg Smith, a new tester on the Expression Web team.

    In August of 2008 I was lucky enough to marry the woman of my dreams with a small wedding ceremony in Las Vegas. I really enjoy web design and while I am not a professional web designer, I get to play one at my new job as a software tester on the Expression Web team at Microsoft in Redmond. Because I wanted to learn more about the products in Expression Studio I chose to use them to build a website to commemorate our wedding and to share this event with the world.

    Wedding homepage

    The first step was to compose a homepage. Expression Design turned out to be the perfect tool for this because of its ability to create beautiful scalable vector art and how very easy it is to export web-ready bitmaps from it.

    To read the rest of the post, go to my Blog: http://blogs.msdn.com/gsmith/archive/2008/09/03/designing-a-wedding-page-in-expression-design.aspx.

  • Expression Web team blog

    Website accessibility lawsuit settled by Target

    • 1 Comments

    You may recall that back in 2006 Target was sued because the Target website was not accessible to the blind. Target attempted to have the suit dismissed at one point, but just settled the lawsuit last week.

    The settlement generated some good discussions here on the Expression Web team about what this means for web developers and their clients. The settlement inspired Steve Hebert (Expression Web developer) to blog about why he recently joined the Expression Web team. In his post, he touches upon the Accessibility and Compatibility tools in Expression Web:

    http://codebetter.com/blogs/steve.hebert/archive/2008/08/29/why-i-made-the-switch-or-writing-good-web-code.aspx

    Here are some additional perspectives on the Target settlement:

    Site Point:
    http://www.sitepoint.com/blogs/2008/08/29/target-settles-accessibility-lawsuit-for-6-million/

    the Web Standards Project:
    http://www.webstandards.org/2008/08/28/what-the-target-settlement-should-mean-to-you/

    CNET News:
    http://news.cnet.com/8301-1023_3-10028109-93.html

    WebAIM (Web Accessibility in Mind)
    http://webaim.org/blog/target-lawsuit-settled/

    Webmasterworld
    www.webmasterworld.com/accessibility_usability/3732919.htm

    NorthTemple:
    http://northtemple.com/2008/09/01/the-target-accessibility-lawsuit-and-settlement

    Opera Developer Network:
    http://my.opera.com/ODIN/blog/two-cheers-for-the-target-nfb-accessility-settlement

    What do you think about the settlement of this lawsuit? Should retail websites be required to make their websites accessible? What features would you like us to develop for Expression Web to help you make your websites more accessible? Would you like more Help content that addresses website accessibility? Comment on this blog and let us know! Better yet, if you have any great ideas for Expression Web, submit a suggestion for the program here: https://connect.microsoft.com/expression . Or discuss this topic with others at the Forum for Microsoft Expression Web: http://forums.expression.microsoft.com/en-US/web/thread/5ce63b85-7199-46a1-9fb2-f605c13ec1f5

    Anna

  • Expression Web team blog

    Elementary, my dear watson

    • 2 Comments

    Hi! I’m Luis Dieguez and I am a tester on the Expression Web team.

    luis

    One of my tasks on the team is to monitor Watson data for our product. Watson is probably one of Microsoft’s most useful customer feedback technologies but it definitely takes the first spot as one that our customers hate the most. Why? Because Watson is a tool that appears only when Expression Web has crashed.

    clip_image002

    This dialog, my dear friends, is one of the main components of Watson.

    In all seriousness, it seems inevitable that a software program will ship with bugs. Our testing team and Beta efforts target to minimize the number and severity of the bugs we ship with in order to make the program as stable as possible. However, the chance of not finding a critical crashing bug is always there and in this case, we want to know about it and fix it as soon as possible.

    Watson allows us to comprehensively track what crashes and hangs are being hit by users of Expression Web in the real world (and during development of the program). Every time a user hits a crash, by providing the dialog above, we give our users the option to transfer the crash data to Microsoft automatically, providing us with all the system information we need in order to investigate the root cause for what could have caused the crash.

    Basic Watson Flow

    In a nutshell, this is what happens the instant the Watson dialog hits your screen:

    · When a crash, hang or other tracked failure event occurs, the Watson program is activated and the dialog appears.

    • If you opt to send the information to us, Watson prepares an error report containing multiple files including a minidump. The minidump contains a subset of memory with the data that is most useful for developers, such as stack details (a list of the program code functions that were last hit), some system information, a list of loaded program modules, the type of error, and global and local variables. Minidumps are packaged into CAB files and sent via a secure HTTPS connection to Microsoft.
    • Error reports that indicate the same code defect are grouped into buckets.

    Bucketing permits us to prioritize the Debugging Effort and allows us to focus on the buckets that get the most hits. (Approximately 80% of failures in the real world are caused by 20% of the bugs.)

    It is important to note that we only receive the data after you explicitly give your permission and the data is strictly used to improve the Expression Web program.

    Watson is particularly useful in providing crashing trends in our product. Every time I look at the Watson database, if I notice that many users are hitting a particular bucket I need to escalate this immediately and trigger the investigation process. Once we know the cause of the crash and we can reproduce it locally, we implement and test the fix and depending on the severity of the bug, we will ship it in the form of a security patch, service pack or in the next release.

    What can you do to help?

    While Watson provides us with very good information on the system and the place in code where the crash might have occurred, one of the hardest challenges with Watson data is coming up with the right set of steps that trigger the crash. For example, Watson might tell us that we are trying to use a null pointer, but it doesn’t tell us where or how in code that pointer was nullified.

    Moreover, if we cannot reproduce the crash locally, we can’t fix the bug. Here is where you can become a key element in helping us fix a bug.

    When you encounter a crashing bug:

    1. Always, always submit the Watson data. It is easy, just click the “Send information” button and the data will take a short time to submit.

    2. Log a bug at connect.microsoft.com/expression with the steps you did to get the crash. Adding the file or set of files you reproduced the bug with also helps.

    3. Make a comment on the bug with the Watson bucket that was created with your crash. This will help us match a set of repro steps with Watson buckets we don’t have repro steps for. To get the Watson bucket, just follow these steps:

    · Right-Click on “My Computer”

    · Click “Manage”

    · Go To “System Tools | Event Viewer | Application”

    · Sort by Type

    · All Watson Events will have ID 1000 and 1001.

    Event 1000 is fired when Watson first encounters a crash.

    Event 1001 is fired when information (including the bucketID) comes back from the server.

    clip_image004

    If you were successful at reporting, double click on the most recent 1001 event and you will see the bucket ID:

    clip_image006

    Just add this bucket ID into the bug you log and that's it!  We will then link your bug to our Watson buckets and we'll have a set of clear set of steps to reproduce the bug. 

    Cheers!  See you next time.

  • Expression Web team blog

    The sordid life of software bugs

    • 2 Comments
    Triage – (French, from trier, to sort)
    2. the assigning of priority order to projects on the basis of where funds and other resources can be best used, are most needed, or are most likely to achieve success.

    In over 20 years of professional software development, I’ve never yet worked on a software project that had sufficient time and resources to do everything we wanted.  One of the most painful tasks that project leads face is making tough choices about what features to add and remove, and what bugs to fix.  Alas, Expression Web is no exception.

    When you’re dealing with an application with so many features, it’s not really a surprise that there might be a few bugs. The real question is, given our limited resources and time, how do we decide which bugs to fix as we individually review each bug?  Before I answer that, let me back up a step and review the various ways that bugs are found and submitted for triage.

    1. Bugs that are filed by our users, usually via the Microsoft Connect website at http://connect.microsoft.com/expression – we have a very knowledgeable core base of users who have found some of the oddest, as well as some of the most common, bugs in our program. While we would, of course, prefer that our users never experience a single bug, we’re very grateful for those users who have reported bugs to us, particularly when those users go to the extra effort of doing some investigations on their own, reporting additional data that can help us reproduce the bug and fix it.

    2. Bugs that have been postponed from version 1 or version 2 – the bug may have been postponed because it came in too late to fix or it was in an area of code that we hadn’t planned to invest in.  If it was important enough, though, it got held over and re-triaged in the version we’re currently developing.

    3. Bugs in features developed for version 1 or version 2, discovered by someone on the Expression Web team (usually by our test team or by other team members) – even features that have been in the product for a couple of releases can still have a bug crop up through some new set of circumstances or someone on the team saying, “What will happen if I do....?”

    4. Bugs in new features, discovered by our test team – as new features are developed, our test team puts those new features through a rigorous set of automated tests and manual tests, and they inevitably find several bugs in the process.

    5. Regressions – Occasionally, we’ll change code in one area of the program, either to fix a bug or implement new functionality, which may cause a problem in another area of the program.  These bugs are flagged as regressions – something that used to work that no longer does.

    All of these bugs are added to our bug database and they are considered, and occasionally reconsidered, in daily triage sessions.  These triage sessions include one or more representatives from the development team, the test team, and the program management team.  Discussions in our triage meetings can be fairly extensive, and occasionally heated, as we tend to be very passionate about the quality of our program, as well as the importance of meeting our deadlines.

    So how do we actually decide which of these bugs to fix?  We look at several factors:

    1. What is the priority? – Every bug is given a priority rating of 1, 2, or 3.  A priority of 1 means that the bug is very important and that we need to fix it in the current milestone, would even hold back the program from shipping, if necessary.  A priority of 3 means that this is a “nice to have” fix that we would like to do if time permits.  Sadly, time rarely permits, and most Priority 3 bugs remain unfixed.

    2. What is the severity? – Every bug is given a severity rating of 1, 2, 3, or 4.  A severity of 1 means that there is significant user impact – that the bug can cause a crash or data loss, or has security and privacy implications.  A severity of 4 means that there is minimal user impact – this could be something like awkward wording on an error message that few of our users will ever encounter.

    3. What is the risk? – The risk of fixing a bug has to do with where the fix is in the code and how likely it is to cause a regression in that feature or in some other feature.  Evaluating the risk is highly subjective but developers and testers alike develop over time a pretty good idea of where our potential “problem” code is and where the “safe” code is.  All other factors being equal, we’re far more likely to approve a bug in code that’s safe than we are in code that’s high risk, particularly as we get closer to the end of the project.

    4. What is the cost? – As with risk, the cost of fixing a bug is subjective, but it is still an important consideration.  If, for example, a developer has left out a little-used parameter from a PHP command, such that it doesn’t show up in our IntelliSense list, that’s a bug with pretty low severity and priority ratings.  On the other hand, I can have this fixed and tested in less than an hour, which means that it will likely be accepted by our triage team even with its lower priority.  The test cost is just as important as the development cost, since there are times when a bug may be easy for a developer to fix, but the fix may be in an area that affects several core scenarios, requiring the need for a full test pass to validate the fix.

    5. What is the likelihood that our users will encounter this bug? – The more likely it is that our users will encounter a bug, the more likely it is that we will fix it.  A bug that hits 1% of our users roughly 1% of the time is not very likely to be fixed.  If this hits everybody, though, and it’s something that they will encounter fairly frequently, we would definitely want to fix it.

    6. Is this a regression? – A bug in a feature that used to work that now no longer does will be given a higher priority than if that same bug had been there all along and had just never been found. We’re actively investing in automated tests of both the basic functionality of our product and the high priority and high risk bugs that we find. Our goal, over time, is to reduce the number of regression bugs introduced in the product by catching them as soon as the developer makes the mistake.

    7. Where are we in the development process? – We often get bug reports, either from our internal users and testers or from our Public Beta users, very late in the program lifecycle.  The later we are in our development process, the higher our triage bar gets.  By the time we get to the final weeks of the project, we are usually only willing to consider recall-class bugs – a bug that is so devastating that we would literally recall the program if we found that we had submitted the program for release with this bug included.  One of the most frustrating scenarios we face in triage is rejecting a bug that we know we would have fixed had we found it just a few weeks earlier. As noted above, we’re investing heavily in improving our automated test suite so that, in future releases, we can take bugs fairly late in the development process with a higher confidence level that the fix won’t cause a problem elsewhere in the product.

    8. Is this a security or data loss issue? – We take both of these scenarios very seriously, more seriously, perhaps, than just about any other kind of bug.  If someone can compromise your data or your machine because of a bug in our code, we cannot, and will not, ship the program with that bug.  If a bug can cause you to lose data that you have just spent hours entering, then we will do our best to fix it.

    9. Is this bug in a core investment area? – In each release, we pick a few areas of the code that we intend to invest in heavily.  If a reported bug is in one of those core investment areas, we will look on it a bit more favorably than we otherwise would.

    Product Box for Expression Web 2An example of a really painful triage decision we had to make in Expression Web 2 was the issue of link fixup for PHP include files.  A bug came in fairly late in our development process regarding including a PHP file in an HTML file, then renaming that PHP file.  In other link fixup scenarios, the program recognizes that you have renamed a file that is referenced by other web pages and asks you if you want to automatically adjust the links to point to the renamed file.  For included PHP files, this process was failing.

    After careful investigation, we had the following answers for the various triage criteria:

    1. Priority = 1.  This is a core scenario.
    2. Severity = 2.  This wasn’t a crash, a security issue, or data loss but it was pretty important functionality.
    3. Risk = High.  The change affected code that was central to quite a few core scenarios and it was in code that had had problems in the past.  The risk of regression was quite high.
    4. Cost = High.  The development cost was medium but the test cost in this case was pretty high.
    5. Likelihood = High.  This is a core scenario that anyone using PHP includes is likely to encounter.
    6. Regression = No.  This was new functionality, so no regression.
    7. Where are we in the development process = Late.
    8. Security or data loss = No.
    9. Core investment area = Yes.

    Earlier in the development cycle, this bug is a no-brainer to fix.  It’s a core scenario that is likely to affect many of our users, in an area where we’re investing significant resources.  End users can work around this issue by using the Find and Replace feature, or manually updating their links, but that’s not as convenient and it’s contrary to our behavior with other types of included files.  However, given the risk, the cost, and the time that the bug was reviewed, we ultimately decided that, painful though it was, we just could not take this fix for Expression Web 2.  I’m pleased to say that the bug has already been reconsidered for, and fixed in, Expression Web 3, and that the fix will be available in our first preview release.

    As you can imagine, seeing the list of criteria, not to mention seeing how subjective many of them are, our triage sessions are often contentious.  At Microsoft, one of the core attributes we value and cultivate is passion and we definitely have a lot of passion around which bugs we want to fix and which we don’t.  At the end of the day, though, the one thing that holds us together is that we also have a passion for doing the right thing for our end users.  Sometimes, the right thing is to not fix the bug, as with the example I cited above.  We just could not take the risk of destabilizing the program, potentially causing any number of other problems for our end users, painful though that decision was.  Sometimes, though, and these are happier decisions, the right thing is to fix the bug, as was the case when we re-triaged the bug for Expression Web 3.

    If you are ever wondering whether you should submit a bug report to the Expression Web team, the answer is an unqualified yes. We need this kind of feedback from you, our end users, in order to help us meet our goals for shipping a quality product. The detail you provide in your bug report could be the final clue that helps us track down the cause of the bug and yours could be the report that helps us fix a bug that thousands of our users could encounter. We need the feedback from you, both positive and negative, in order to help us assess whether we’re meeting your needs and our own goals. Without you, and your support, we cannot succeed. We are always grateful for any feedback you can provide and will always do whatever we can to meet your needs.

    Paul Bartholomew's face Paul Bartholomew
    Development Lead
    Expression Web

  • Expression Web team blog

    Using a Tracing Image to Guide Web Page Layout

    • 2 Comments

    I used Expression Design to layout and create the elements for my wedding homepage (see my blog Composing a Wedding Page in Expression Design.) In this post I will describe how to use Expression Web to layout those elements on the page based on the composition image.

    Using a Tracing Image is one way a web developer can be sure that the web page that they’re marking up will look like the page the designer intended.

    Expression Web Trace Dialog

    To read the full post go mosey on over to my blog: Little-Endian.

    Greg's Noggin Greg Smith, Expression Web Software Tester (I'm a PC)

  • Expression Web team blog

    Make Your Web Pages "Behave" by Swapping Images

    • 1 Comments

    I used Expression Design to layout and create the elements for my wedding homepage (see my blog Composing a Wedding Page in Expression Design) and then used Expression Web to position them on the page. In this post I will describe how to use Expression Web to add image swapping behavior to the page.

    Selecting one of the images from the page and opening the Behaviors task pane via the Task Panes menu allows you to define a number of different kinds of behaviors for that image or element. Press the “Insert” button and select “Swap Image” from the menu.

    Behaviors Taskpane

    To read the full post go mosey on over to my blog: Little-Endian.

    Greg's Noggin Greg Smith, Expression Web Software Tester (I'm a PC)

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