AIS recently completed work on a complete revamp of the Texas Workforce Commission’s “Texas Reality Check” website. Texas Reality Check is an Internet-available, fully accessible, responsive, mobile-first and browser-agnostic design. This website was tested for accessibility, performance, vulnerability scans, and usability.

Background

Texas Reality Check (TRC) is targeted at students on a statewide basis, ranging from middle school to high school (with some colleges and universities making use of the tool for “life skills” classes). The goal is to inspire students to think about occupations, and prepare for educational requirements so they can achieve the income level that meets their lifestyle expectations.

This tool walks students through different areas of life, on a step-by step-basis, identifying budgets associated with living essentials such as housing, transportation, food, clothing, etc. Students make selections and then calculate a corresponding monthly income that would afford the selections they make. From here, the students are directed to another page and connected to a database on careers and associated salaries.

However, the existing site was dated and in need of improvements in three core areas: UX, Accessibility, and overall performance. Here’s how AIS delivered:

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Microsoft announced a significant and dramatic convergence of its Windows 8.1 and Windows Phone 8.1 platforms during the Build 2014 conference.  Approximately 90% of the WinRT APIs are now converged between the two platforms. Microsoft Visual Studio 2013 Update 2 includes features that enable developers to take advantage of this platform convergence. The Universal Apps project template is one of those features.  Read More…

Answers.com needed a Microsoft partner that could upgrade their Windows 8 application to maximize the use of a variety of new 8.1 features. Expediency was of the utmost importance in this instance and based on our prior experience with Microsoft, they knew we were the best partner for the job. AIS upgraded the Answers.com Windows 8.0 Store application to 8.1, meeting Answers.com goal of getting it done as quickly as possible. Our team also validated the application through the Microsoft DPE Windows 8 Partner Program to ensure adherence to all Windows 8.1 criterion. Read more…

At AIS, our Account Teams work with our clients every day to produce IT solutions that solve business problems. We work closely with our CTO organization to ensure that we are researching the latest technology and services in a manner that is applicable to our clients and prospective clients.

We recently applied this to a business problem that required an organization to quickly — and with no notice — stand up a website to collect hundreds, or potentially millions, of submissions from the general public.  Our use case focused on law enforcement and the sorts of emergency response situations we’ve seen all too often in the news, such as the Boston Marathon bombing.  When local, state or federal authorities respond to criminal acts, they seek to quickly collect vast amounts of input from the public.  This input can be in the form of tips, photos, videos or any untold number of observations.  Agencies need the capability to surge their IT tools and applications to collect the data, store it, and run analysis tools against the collected content to harvest information. Read More…

Mobile devices are rapidly becoming the go-to choice for internet access for consumers.  Reading takes place on a wide range of devices, from a small smartphone to a large computer monitor. A design that works well on one screen size may not be readable on another. The user’s experience with your mobile app is paramount, and should be the outcome of significant thought, design, investment, testing, and refinement. It’s easy to discuss the need for an interface to be simple, usable, and concise. It’s surprisingly difficult to create an interface that fulfills those needs.

As designers, developers, and UX practitioners who strive to achieve business success through designing mobile experiences, we face many design challenges.

  • What is the right interface solution for my project (responsive design, adaptive design, native app, etc.)?
  • How do I choose the right navigation?
  • What is the right layout approach for maximizing the use of the screen real estate?
  • When and how should I use the various patterns/ screen elements available across mobile operating systems?
  • What are the interaction and visual design considerations across device types?
  • What are the best methods for prototyping and usability testing a mobile project?

Creating mobile user experiences that engages user’s forces us to rethink a lot of what we have taken for granted so far with desktop design. It is complicated in part by mobile-specific considerations that go hand in hand with small screens, wide variations in device features, constraints in usage and connectivity, and the hard-to-identify-but-ever-changing mobile context. Read More…

Intranet 101: If your employees still use email to request information that’s on your intranet, your intranet is failing.

Maybe it’s too hard to update, so everyone simply assumes the information there is outdated. Maybe the search functionality consistently returns irrelevant results. Maybe it’s not accessible from a smartphone or tablet.

Whatever the reason, the result is the same: poor user adoption has doomed your intranet.

For over 30 years, we’ve been building complex intranets for businesses and organizations of all types and sizes, leveraging the latest technology platforms to create beautiful, usable intranets that solve business problems and eliminate common user pain points.

Our latest whitepaper, Building the Intranet Your Employees Expect, walks you through the building blocks required to design an intranet that not only incorporates today’s capabilities and features, but will also be an essential system that gets adopted, used and loved by your employees. Download your copy today!

We’ve recently worked on several mobile app development projects for tablets and phones running iOS, Android and Windows. Thanks to these projects, we’ve identified some key do’s and don’ts for managing your product backlog requirements for mobile application development efforts.

Here are some of the common business features and technical requirements/constraints for both consumer-facing apps and corporate internal apps that could show up in the product backlog:

  • Responsive UX Design (screen size, orientation, device features, etc.) – for this you will need to identify a limited set of target device configurations for acceptance
  • Required corporate branding/corporate style guides
  • Choosing between a native app style UI that is device specific vs. a common style cross-platform UI
  • Stringent speed/performance targets for initial app loading, screen navigation, response to user actions
  • Connected vs. Disconnected Operations requirements – you need to clearly define what features work when there is no connection
  • Data security and Personally Identifiable Information (PII) protection
  • Support for multiple OS and multiple versions of an OS
  • Support for multiple types of mobile browsers
  • Integration with companion apps on the device
  • Cloud/web service integration to access corporate systems of record
  • App Store submission requirements (i.e. Google Play, Apple App Store and the Windows Store). Each store has its own unique sets of UX requirements, minimum performance, storage management, legal/copyright, privacy notification requirements, content age appropriateness designation, etc.
  • App version management
  • Code-sharing across device and OS platforms
  • Graceful degradation of the app functions in case of failures
  • Process improvement support, especially for corporate vs. consumer apps that are targeted for mobile workers
  • Security and device management for corporate apps

The items in the list above may all need to be considered when you first start working with the product owner to both build the product backlog for the mobile app and help define the overall scope and timeline for the project. For consumer apps deployed through app stores in particular, the timeline for publishing to the stores — and factoring in the review and acceptance process — needs to be considered up front. Read More…

2013 was a great year for AIS — we worked on exciting projects for our terrific clients, built some cool apps and won some cool awards. We were honored with the 2013 Microsoft Mid-Atlantic Cloud Practice Award and are among the first Amazon Web Services partners to earn a “SharePoint on AWS” competency. And throughout the year, we wrote and blogged about our passion for cloud computing, SharePoint, going mobile, and doing “more with less” for our government and commercial clients.

Here’s a round-up of 2013’s most popular posts and series, in case you missed them:

We have big plans for the blog for 2014 — more posts, more events and more compelling content from the entire AIS team. Stay connected with us on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, and check out our Events page for details on our free presentations and webinars.

Happy holidays, and thanks for reading!