Why developers should care about CX!

Normally I like to write about deep technical topics but CX (Customer Experience) is another one of my passions. I’m passionate about CX because I’ve had so many bad experiences with big brands and this trend is a welcome change.

I recently wrote an article over on linkedin about ‘Why you should care about CX’.

I think as developers we need to be across these trends, it’s often that these types of trends are what drives our work and it’s nice to know that we can help people have a better experience.

Please take a look at the post and let me know what you think: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/why-you-should-care-cx-michael-ridland

Thanks

Michael

The Definition of Done (DoD) for Xamarin Developers

A DoD or Definition of Done is a software development term, the term is common in many agile teams and it has origins in SCRUM. The basic idea is that a team has a shared understanding of what defines a task as Done. What a project manager might foresee as ‘Done’ can be different to a developer or a customer. At XAM Consulting we deliver high quality solutions for our customers and therefore a solid DoD is essential. It’s important all developers understand that just because they’ve made a code change this does not mean it’s done.

We’ve recently revised our Definition of Done and thought we would share it because it’s a good marker on what it means to be ‘Done’ as a Xamarin developer.

Note* This is only a checklist for what’s done as a developer, it’s not the complete software lifecycle, in order for this to be successful we also need to follow modern software engineering techniques including gitflow, CI and TestCloud Testing.

So here I present… The Definition of Done (DoD) for Xamarin developers. (This DoD could also apply for Mobile Developers or Cross Platform developers)

Code respects .NET Coding Guidelines
We follow .NET coding guidelines outlined here – https://github.com/dennisdoomen/CSharpGuidelines

Code respects XAM Consulting’s Code Quality and Architecture Guidelines
We’ve not published this in the public domain (yet) but in summary we follow industry best practices for code quality. Our code bases are designed to be maintainable in the long term. Here’s a short summary:

  • Code is Loosely Coupled
  • Code has High Cohesion
  • Code makes use of OOP (avoiding pitfalls with inheritance, prefer composition over inheritance)
  • Interface Driven Development – programming to small interfaces
  • Classes are small
  • Methods are small
  • Code follows SOLID Principles
  • Use and understand design patterns
  • Make use of Reactive patterns

Tested on all target platforms
As our solutions are cross platform it’s essential that all code modifications are tested on all target platforms. If you test on a single platform it’s not done.

Tested on variety of screen sizes
It’s easy to code a UI for a single screen size but much harder to have it work on multiple sizes, especially smaller devices. All code modifications must be tested on different screen sizes.

Tested on a variety of physical devices
Real devices behave differently to simulators in many situations. All code modifications must be tested on a variety of devices, internally at XAM Consulting we have a good variety of different physical devices for internal testing before we go into TestCloud.

All possible side effects tested in system
If you make modification in a complex system it’s essential that you test for any possible side effects.

Tested in Release Mode
Applications can behave much different in Debug mode then Release. We need to make sure we’re testing the application in a release mode.

Application must handle intermittent connections
Mobile devices have transient connections, there needs to be a strategy for handling these types of connections.

Units Tests
Unit tests are an essential component of a high quality codebase. If it doesn’t have unit tests it’s not done.

UITests developed covering features
Xamarin TestCloud is a great tool, it’s saved us (from production issues) a number of time. We now have UITests and CI with (TestCloud) on all of our projects.

Peer reviewed code
This is a no brainer, peer reviewed code is essential. We made this a part of our lifecycle using gitflow.

Peer reviewed for end-user acceptance
It’s important that not only the code is reviewed we also need to ensure that the problem is well understood. It’s important that two or more people discuss and understand the issue. Once understood the developers must both test the solution will meet the user acceptance criteria.

Issues must be reproduced
If you don’t reproduce an issue it cannot be confirmed as solved. The issue that is reproduced must be exactly the same as the issue that’s reported, otherwise there might be two issues.

 

Essentially, the goal is to have no issues when shipped into a UAT environment. If you ship a issue into UAT you need to review why that issues went into UAT.

At XAM Consulting it’s our commitment to ship world class apps and I hope that you can also make the effort.

 

Xamarin Plugins / .NET Standard with Martijn van Dijk and Michael Ridland

In this video I chat with Martijn van Dijk about Xamarin Plugins and a little bit of .net standard. It was filmed at the Xamarin Dev Days in Singapore 2016, sorry it’s taken a while to upload.

Martijn is doing some great work in the Xamarin community and you can follow him on twitter and github.

Links from the interview:

Plugin For Xamarin Templates

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Hacking the Xamarin.Forms Layout System for Fun and Profit

If you’re a Xamarin.Forms developer, it’s likely you already know about the two great talks that Jason Smith did at Evolve this year (2016). Both of the talks were on performance in Xamarin.Forms and they were outstanding because we got a truckload of performance tips that we’ve never had previously. If you’ve watched them once we would recommend you also consider watching them again, there’s alot of content and you’ll learn something new. This insight into the Xamarin.Forms performance and the layout system has been a key part of us building performant apps in Xamarin.Forms at XAM Consulting.

But we wanted more, we wanted more speed and more performance, we want native performance. The tips we got were great, but we wanted to understand why these tips existed because if we understand the system we can use that understanding to develop our own tips and techniques for Xamarin.Forms performance.

One of the points that Jason makes is about the Xamarin.Forms Grid, the suggestion is that we should avoid using the ‘Auto’ setting for columns and rows. Why is this? Well it turns out that if a view inside a Auto column changes size (or generally does anything to invalid measure) the grid will be doing a full layout of all children, well not only the grid but the Grid’s parent and parent after that.

If you watch both of the talks, it’s clear the root of performance in Xamarin.Forms is in the layout system, so let’s look into this Layout System. Now that Xamarin.Forms is open source we can use the code a understand the layout system.

The layout system is broken up into two parts/cycles, 1) the invalidation cycle 2) the layout cycle.

layoutcycle1

Invalidation Cycle

To understand the invalidation cycle let’s take a look at the Xamarin.Forms layout code.

As we can see in this code below each VisualElement.cs has a event MeasureInvalidated, VisualElement is the base class of Layouts, Views and Pages.

layoutevent

Then each time a child is added to a Page or Layout, the parent attaches the MeasureInvalidated event of the child.

layoutsubscription

As we can see below the OnChildMeasureInvalidated event handler (for the children) then calls the MeasureInvalidated event, because the parent of that View is subscribed to the MeasureInvalidated even the parents OnChildMeasureInvalidated method is called. It’s important to note there’s conditional logic involved, the event will not always be called.

measureinvalidated
…Conditional Logic…
measureinvalidated2

So here’s an example of what it looks like, with the events.

eventlinks

Here’s what happens when a child view becomes invalidated. As you can see the events bubble to the top.

measureinvalidated3

That’s the invalidation cycle.

Layout Cycle

Let’s take a look at the layout cycle, the layout cycle happens in two cases:
1) When a layout is done for the first time, eg. when a page is first displayed.
2) After the invalidation cycle

As you can see in the image below, during the first part of the layout cycle measure is called on the child. It’s important to note that for the most part measure is called on all children and in many cases it’s called multiple times. After the children have been measured then layout is called on all children.

layout1

So here’s how the full layout looks.

layout2

 

You might be thinking why do I care about this? Well because we can hack it. It’s possible to short circuit the invalidation cycle at an early stage, as per the image below.

shortcircuit

Let’s take a look at how we can test this. In order to test this I’ve created a page with a few labels and a single label that’s, updated on a timer 20 times. I’ve also linked up my Xamarin.Forms app into the Forms code base and added performance metrics to the methods inside Forms.

codebehind

Let’s first take a look at the results of a StackLayout as per below. stacklayout

The results show that LayoutChildIntoBoundingRegion is called 243 times, every time the text of the label is changed a full layout cycle happens.

resultallauto

Let’s try the same with a Grid, as per below.

gridfirst

The results show that LayoutChildIntoBoundingRegion is called 6 times, it’s only called the first time the view is shown.

notinvalidation

Let’s try the same Grid but using a ‘Auto’ for a row.

gridallauto

The result is back up to 243 times and the full layout is happening every time the label text is changed.

resultallauto

Ok, now let’s put back the Grid to using stars but I also want to try something different. I want to have children of the grid dynamically change size, so let’s test with a BoxView that changes width.

backendwithboxview

NB – In order for me to change the Width of the Box I need to change the HorizontalOptions on the BoxView from Fill to Start.

gridboxviewxaml

Even though we’ve changed the Height back to a star the result is still 243 and the full layout is happening everytime the label text is changed. It seems that when we change the HorizontalOptions of a child we also change change the invalidation cycle behaviour.

resultallauto

Ok, so I changed the BoxView back to Fill the BoxView will not change dynamically. Let’s try something different, lets put the BoxView inside a ContentView.

gridboxviewinsidecontent

It’s back down again, great so we still get our children changing dynamically and we also short circuit the layout system.

notinvalidation

Conclusions

  • A child of a stacklayout will always cause a full layout cycle, there’s no way a StackLayout can short circuit this cycle.
  • A child of a Grid with that’s inside rows and columns with static or star widths AND the LayoutOptions are set to Fill, are fully constrained which means that the invalidation cycle will be stopped at that child view.
  • In order to have children of a Grid change layout dynamically they need to be a child of another View which is fully constrained. (As per the Grid sample).

After taking a look at the Xamarin.Forms code base I can see this is the line that does the short circuit. It seems that a view.Constraint needs to be the value of LayoutConstraint.Fixed for this short circuit to occur. I did further research into this and found the only time we can short circuit the invalidation cycle is in the cases proven above.

UPDATE – Originally in this blog post I mentioned that the above cases are the only way to short circuit the invalidation cycle, this is not entirely true as the AbsoluteLayout can be used to short circuit the invalidation cycle. I will put together some more research for this for another post. 

layoutinvalidation

 

Talk with Rui Marinho XLabs Founder and Xamarin.Forms Developer

Last weekend I was lucky enough to attend and speak at the Xamarin Dev Days in Singapore. I think Dev Days Singapore is the biggest Dev Days so far with 400 registrations and 250 that attended. It was even more awesome for myself as I got to catch up with some friends in the Xamarin world including Rui Marinho.

In this video I talk with Rui Marinho the founder of XLabs and now a developer on the Xamarin.Forms team. We delve into some important topics, we discuss how he got into Xamarin, announce that XLabs is Dead, talk about open source and a little about the future of Xamarin.Forms.

 

Be more awesome with MFractor for Xamarin Studio

In this video I interview Matthew Robbins the creator of MFractor a Xamarin Studio Plugin. If you’re not using MFractor your really missing out, it’s got some beautiful features which save you truckloads of time when building apps with Xamarin Studio.

If you’ve ever wanted a ReSharper for Xamarin Studio this is it. It’s got static analysis, code generation and advanced navigation features. It’s here right now and will only get more awesome into the future.

You can find out more about MFractor here: www.fractor.com and find Matthew on twitter.com/matthewrdev

 

Announcing FreshMvvm 2.1 and 2.2

Your favourite Mvvm Framework for Xamarin.Forms just keeps getting better. At XAM Consulting we use FreshMvvm in all of our serious production applications, the fact that we use FreshMvvm so intensely is the reason that FreshMvvm is easy to use, robust and flexible.

There’s been two releases of FreshMvvm since I last updated, Version 2.1 and Version 2.2.

Release 2.2.0

Better debug messages displayed

In previous versions of FreshMvvm construction errors of pages were in a few levels of inner exceptions, so if your xaml had a little error you had to dig into the inner exceptions. It was not an issue for experienced users of FreshMvvm but for people new to the Framework it was a bit hard to figure out the actual issue. Now exceptions will be bubbled up developers won’t need to look into inner exceptions.

Ability to remove a page from Navigation

In some cases you might want to remove a page from the Navigation stack. This works in the case you’ve Pushed a few pages but want to remove one of the pages from the stack before you return,  for example you’ve pushed to Page1 -> Page2 -> Page3, but you essentially you don’t want Page2 to be part of the stack anymore. In this case you can call the remove method.

Add ability to SwitchSelectedRoot page in Tabs and MasterDetail

This is another special finite feature of FreshMvvm, in which you can switch the currently selected page of the main tabbed page or the master detail page.

 

Release 2.1.0

Adds ability to control PageModel mapping via PageModelMapper

You now have the ability to control the convention of mapping ViewModel to pages. You do this by using the IFreshPageModelMapper.

Currently the PageModel mapper is defaulted to  the FreshPageModelMapper.

The current behaviour is to map PageModel or ViewModel to Page.

It’s easy to implement your own custom mapper and then set the PageModelMapper.

Adds ability to navigate without animation

You can now push and pop PageModel without animations.

Better cleanup of objects

We clean up after ourselves, even better now. :)

IOC now has unregister feature

You can now unregister a class out of the IOC container.

Add First Only Tabbed Navigation Container

FreshMvvm has always had a built in tabbed navigation container, the behaviour of this navigation is to keep the tabs always present but this is not what you always want. In some case you want the tabs to disappear when you push to a page, so we created the FreshFONavigationContainer. The FO stands for First Only and it means this tab page will only appear on the first page of the app.

FreshMvvm in Production

It makes us happy to see that so many others are also delivering great apps using FreshMvvm. I was recently informed that the Fraedom Expense app was built with FreshMvvm. Great work.

As always the latest version of FreshMvvm is up in nuget right now.

Thanks

 

Announcing FreshMvvm 2.0

Today we’ve published up to nuget FreshMvvm 2.0 with some very anticipated new features.

IOC Container Lifetime Registration Options

We now support a fluent API for setting the object lifetime of object inside the IOC Container.

As you can see below the IFreshIOC interface methods return the IRegisterOptions interface.

The interface that’s returned from the register methods is IRegisterOptions.

Switching out NavigationStacks on the Xamarin.Forms MainPage

There’s some cases in Xamarin.Forms you might want to run multiple navigation stacks. A good example of this is when you have a navigation stack for the authentication and a stack for the primary area of your application.

To begin with we can setup some names for our navigation containers.

Then we can create our two navigation containers and assign to the MainPage.

Once we’ve set this up we can now switch out our navigation containers.

New public methods

CurrentNavigationServiceName and PreviousNavigationServiceName are both public methods, so you can access them if you need to.

Some features (recently released)

Multiple Navigation Services
Custom IOC Containers
WhenAny
Pushing different views
Clean up after page is Popped

Summary

As always this is available on nuget now!

If you have any questions please ask on forums.xamarin.com and send me a email.

You can also find some more docs on the github repo.

Thanks

FreshEssentials for Xamarin.Forms – The must-have nuget for Forms

Ah this is one I’ve been wanting to do for a long time and I’m pretty excited about it. We use it everyday, as it’s really useful.

FreshEssentials for Xamarin.Forms has ONLY the most common elements you need for Xamarin.Forms. It’s contains the elements you need in almost every project and nothing more, things like BindablePicker, SegementedButtons, InverseBooleanConverter, TappedGestureAttached, ListViewItemTappedAttached and not much more. It’s the lightweight essentials.

Why?

Because it’s awesome and nothing else solves this problem yet. For the majority of projects there’s some missing essential pieces to the Xamarin.Forms puzzle, what I wanted to build was a nuget that filled the gaps but ONLY the essential gaps. These are code snippets I’ve been putting in the majority of my Xamarin.Forms projects, the components are stable and used regularly. These codes snippets include a BindablePicker and InverseBooleanConverter, who doesn’t use them in a project. Most people just copy them from project to project, XLabs had the idea to solve this issue but now it’s blow out and is normally too large for most Xamarin.Forms projects. Just to note, I’m a contributor to XLabs and was one one of the first to contributors but with the direction it’s now taken I’m not sure if anyone wants to maintain it, the monolith it is means it’s hard to maintain.

How to use?

nuget all the things…. Primarily you can get FreshEssentials from nuget.

https://www.nuget.org/packages/FreshEssentials/1.0.0

The code can be found on github and there’s also a sample project.

FreshEssentials on github(https://github.com/XAM-Consulting/FreshEssentials)

FreshEssentials sample on github (https://github.com/XAM-Consulting/FreshEssentialsSample)

BindablePicker

Ok so who doesn’t need a BindablePicker in a Xamarin.Forms project?

BindablePicker inherits from Xamarin.Forms.Picker, you can binding data to ItemSource as Items, and also can set which property you want to display via DisplayProperty.

If you want to use it in XAML, you need to include the namespace first.

AdvancedFrame (flexible rounded corners)

This is primary used for the SegmentedButtonGroup, it gives you more flexibility on the corner radius in the Frame. AdvancedFrame inherits from Frame, you can set corner type via Corners(There are only four type, left, right, all, none), you can also set CornerRadius and InnerBackground color

SegmentedButtonGroup

This is one that most people ask for in their first project, normally people fail to implement the segmented button in XF and crosss platform. I hope with this control people will be able to use it more often.

SegmentedButtonGroup is like iOS Segmented Controls, you can binding SelectedIndex for it

InverseBooleanConverter

Ah the amount of times people have copied this code into their project… not anymore….

ListViewItemTappedAttached

This ones is definately a project favorite, if you’re not sure what it does be sure to take a look at the samples and read this blog.

TappedGestureAttached

The easiest way to add a tap gesture to your controls.

 

That’s it! All we need. Please be sure to take a look at the samples, you can clone from github or download the zip.

Please let me know how it goes.

Thanks

Michael

 

SlideOverKit is now free and open source

I would like to announce that SlideOverKit for Xamarin.Forms is now Free and Open Source.

It’s been two months since SlideOverKit was released and the ‘business plan’ was to have the component as premium component for Xamarin.Forms. A component that we would invest in developing, people would purchase and we would continue developing. Since this release something was bugging me, I was frustrated because not enough people were buying and using the component. We had put alot of effort in building this component and we wanted people to use it.

One of my most enjoyable projects in recent years has been the successful FreshMvvm for Xamarin.Forms, it’s amazing to see people use (and love) something that you’ve built. It’s really good to now be a Contributor to open source not just a consumer, in the past I’ve help fix bugs in jquery mobile but nothing as serious FreshMvvm.

There’s been so many open source projects that I’ve loved developing with like JSON.net, jquery, UserDialogs, MvvmCross etc, etc. I hope that one day people will use and love SlideOverKit also.

So please feel free to consume and contribute.

Links:
https://github.com/XAM-Consulting/SlideOverKit
http://www.xam-consulting.com/slideoverkit-xamarin-forms/
https://www.nuget.org/packages/SlideOverKit/

….. Fingers crossed Xamarin and Xamarin.Forms are also to follow on the open source path ….

Thanks

Michael