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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AIS recently worked with the General Services Administration (GSA) Technology Transformation Services Division, better known as 18F.  The engagement involved working with 18F to digitize the Department of Labor’s Section 14(c) certification application process (part of the Fair Labor Standards Act). This is currently a paper-based process that 18F hoped to modernize as an intuitive, online application…and to do it using agile methodologies.

AIS was tasked with building the first version of the digital form within a 60-day period of performance – much shorter than typical federal contracts.  AIS pulled together a multi-disciplinary team comprised of user researchers, designers, and front- and back-end web developers to work closely with 18F and the Department of Labor (DOL) Product Owner. The team built the entire form with complex validation along with a registration and login and an administrative section to process the form applications. They performed multiple usability tests with actual end users, and followed 18F’s principles of working in the open using a public GitHub repository. All User Stories and discussion threads were thoroughly documented in that repository’s issues list.

AIS was able to work together with many divisions inside DOL to make this happen.  We addressed security concerns by the Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) and worked with the CIO office to coordinate delivery of the application and a testing and staging environment for deployment. We also set up a Continuous Integration/Continuous Deployment process so that multiple DOL stakeholders could stay abreast of what was happening and exercise the existing application state.  We were even able to address legal concerns with testing by external citizens by getting signed consent forms for testing and recording the sessions.

The collaboration was so successful that our client wrote their own blog post on the project, detailing exactly “how government and private industry can work together using agile methodologies to produce great results.” You can read it here. 

These types of successful, agile engagements break down the myths that software development for the government needs to take months (or even years). Government can and will move faster, and after every small win like this project, the traditional methods of building software and procuring software development are changing across the industry.  This bodes well not just for the citizens who need to interact with these digital services… but also for saving our tax dollars.

wireframeWhat does a UX Process really look like? Honestly, depending on the project, it can look many different ways. I personally prefer to use a combination of in-depth process techniques, rather than just focusing on one specific area. It is critical to understand that UX is made up of several different components, each having its own importance.

There’s Research and Testing, Information Architecture, Content Strategy, Interaction Design, Visual Design and Front End Development. Today I want to focus on the first three areas.

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These disciplines can play a significant role in building stable release processes that help ensure project milestones are met.

Continuous Integration (CI) and Continuous Delivery (DC) are rapidly becoming an integral part of software development. These disciplines can play a significant role in building stable release processes that help ensure project milestones are met. And in addition to simply performing compilation tasks, CI systems can be extended to execute unit testing, functional testing, UI testing, and many other tasks. This walkthrough demonstrates the creation of a simple CI/CD deployment pipeline with an integrated unit test.

There are many ways of implementing CI/CD, but for this blog, I will use Jenkins and GiHub to deploy the simple CI/CD pipeline. A Docker container will be used to host the application.  The GitHub repository hosts the application including a Dockerfile for creating an application node. Jenkins is configured with GitHub and Docker Plugin. Read More…

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Make no mistake, most organizations and government agencies are—at least in part—software companies. The backbone of the services and products they sell, the internal business processes they use, and the customer feedback mechanisms they rely on are all built on software. Even in the age of software as a service (SaaS) – a modern organization’s portfolio of applications and the specifics of how these apps are used influence its most important decisions.

So while it’s easy to understand that software is a foundational component to modern business, often the decision to invest in building or offering software to users must also be accompanied by a more specific, anticipated return on that investment. That process can go like this:
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Innovations in devices, platforms and applications have advanced many user experiences – and user expectations. Voice activated digital assistants like Siri and Cortana have given users new ways to interact with services and information.

In light of this, interfaces like trusty web forms may seem a bit dated… perhaps it’s time to consider a more natural, conversational interaction with users.

A Pizza Bot

A sample Pizza Bot interaction (image courtesy of Microsoft from this article).

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Office 365

In earlier posts we went over the Office 365 development platform and proposed an example application to demonstrate how we can leverage its resources and Azure Active Directory using the Graph API.

In the previous post we looked under the hood at securing our web application and API with Azure Active Directory, and using the Graph API to find users, check calendars and send email notifications.

In the final installment of this series, we’ll take a closer look at the Outlook Add-in for this application.

Office 365 Add-ins

As we’ve seen, the Graph API makes it easy to integrate Office 365 resources and functionality into your own applications. Add-ins allow you to pull external resources and services directly into Office applications like Outlook, Word, PowerPoint and Excel.

Office 365 Add-ins are implemented as independently hosted web applications that are hosted within Office applications (both the web-based versions or native applications). This means: Read More…

Office Graph In my previous post, I proposed an example application that leverages the resources available to us in Office 365 development platform and Azure Active Directory, as well as the in-application integration of Office 365 Add-ins.

Now we’ll take a deeper look at the Graph API and some of the implementation points.

Build Your Enterprise Graph

The Graph API empowers developers and enterprises to build new relationships and interactions between resources in Azure Active Directory, Office 365, and other applications and data assets.

As Microsoft’s enterprise cloud offerings continue to expand, so will the opportunities to weave these resources together in new and innovative ways. Microsoft’s acquisition of LinkedIn will help it expand its social network graph, so it will be interesting to see how it plays into its Graph API in the future. Read More…

Office_365_AppsEnterprises have a trove of business resources and data that are often under-utilized – users, calendars, contacts, emails, tasks, documents and other files. Often there are redundancies between what users do with Office applications and other enterprise applications, and a painful lack of integration.

In prior posts, I discussed the compelling new Office 365 development platform and introduced Matter Center to demonstrate how integrating web-based add-ins directly into Office applications like Outlook can lead to productivity gains and happy users.

In this post we’ll introduce a sample application to show a practical example of how we can use these technologies to bring enterprise applications together with these valuable resources.

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