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Did I say don’t unit-test GUIs?

January 3rd, 2008 1 comment

Isn’t life funny? Two weeks ago I stated my opinion that unit-testing graphical user interfaces isn’t worth the trouble. Now I find myself doing it, writing unit-tests for GUI components.

What happened, did I come to my senses or go crazy (pick the expression that fits your point of view) during Christmas holidays? No, I still think that unit-testing user interfaces is most likely a waste of time, but for some special occasions, like this one, they will pay off.

My task is to make changes to a tool box control in a legacy application. The control is full of application logic and it has a strong and complicated relationship to an edit area control. There are two things I need to do:
First I have to pull out the application logic of the tool box and break the tight relationship to the edit area. Then I need to push that application logic deeper into the application core, so that the tool box could be used via the plug-in framework.

I figured I had two options. I could either refactor the tool box and make the changes in small steps, or I could rebuild the complete tool box logic and then change the controls to use the new programming interface.
I found the rebuild alternative too risky. The code base is full of booby traps and I have to be very careful not to introduce bugs. Therefore I decided to go with refactoring.

But refactoring requires a unit-testing harness, which of course this application doesn’t have. Trust me; you don’t want to refactor without extensive unit-testing, so here I am setting up the tests around the involved GUI controls. It’s a lot of work, especially since I don’t have a decent framework for creating mock objects, but it’ll be worth the effort once I start messing around with the code.

As a conclusion I’d like to refine the “Don’t unit-test GUI” statement to read “Don’t unit-test GUI unless you’re refactoring it, and there’s no easier way to make sure your changes doesn’t break anything.”

Cheers!

What? No clicks?

September 28th, 2007 Comments off

I stumbled upon this really interesting site. It implements a new kind of site navigation that is really cool. It’s actually a research project that tried to create a user interface which requires no clicking.

For me it was a mind-tumbling experience, but I quickly got a hang of it. I even liked it to some extent. I had two major problems with it though: First there were a lot of movement going on. A little too much for my old fashioned taste.

The second and more important problem was that the mouse pointer got in my way while reading. In a normal click-based interface I could just drag it out of sight, but here I needed to have it hovering over the item to keep it enlarged. This was annoying, but they should be able to reduce the problem with more whitespace around the enlarged items.

I haven’t tried the interface enough to come with a deep analysis, but my guess is that it won’t replace the traditional click-based navigation. At least not in the near future.

Categories: GUI, research, software development Tags: