Software Configuration and Development Testing–don’t leave it to the last minute!!

Testing of any ICT solution should be extensive, thorough and iterative. In reality, it’s often last-minute, scant and leaves project managers crossing their fingers in hope.

Testing is imperative to a successful deployment. A great article on testing can be found on wikipedia at:


How to get feedback on your website design mock ups

A great resource for seeking out almost instant feedback and critique on your wireframe designs can be sought at You can upload a screenshot or wireframe mock up and wait for the feedback to roll in. A perfect tool to help improve or streamline the potential usability of your website.

Another note about website accessibility standards

Making your site usable for people who have visual impairments or other disabilities is no longer a nicety of modern web design – it is a legal requirement.

If you’d like to understand more about this subject take a look at the following:

1. AA Compliance from W3C:

2. Checklist of things to consider to make your content more accessible:

3. Advice from the Royal National Institute of Blind People:

Lumzy–a free tool for wireframing

One of the most overlooked stages in website design is the wireframing and mock up planning phase.  If you want to build a wirefram yourself there are some terrific online tools available to you, none more so that the freeware app called

The purpose of a wireframe is to give you something akin to the architectural drawings of your website. The equivalent of drawing up blueprints if you were building a house.

Powershell script to capture and report on all sharepoint permissions through a site collection

if ((Get-PSSnapin "Microsoft.SharePoint.PowerShell" -ErrorAction SilentlyContinue) -eq $null) {
Add-PSSnapin "Microsoft.SharePoint.PowerShell"

#Define variables

#Get all subsites for site collection
$web = $site.AllWebs

#Loop through each subsite and write permissions

foreach ($web in $web)
if (($web.permissions -ne $null) -and ($web.hasuniqueroleassignments -eq "True"))
Write-Output "****************************************"
Write-Output "Displaying site permissions for: $web"
$web.permissions | fl member, basepermissions
elseif ($web.hasuniqueroleassignments -ne "True")
Write-Output "****************************************"
Write-Output "Displaying site permissions for: $web"
"$web inherits permissions from $site"

#Loop through each list in each subsite and get permissions

foreach ($list in $web.lists)
$unique = $list.hasuniqueroleassignments
if (($list.permissions -ne $null) -and ($unique -eq "True"))
Write-Output "****************************************"
Write-Output "Displaying Lists permissions for: $web \ $list"
$list.permissions | fl member, basepermissions
elseif ($unique -ne "True") {
Write-Output "$web \ $list inherits permissions from $web"
Write-Host "Finished."

Tackling website accessibility issues

I attended a website accessibility session this morning . All accessibility testing to date has been completed using FireFox (their first choice browser when it comes to accessibility testing). Our minimum goal is to achieve the WCAG AA standard for all web content. To achieve this an accessibility checklist has been devised (attached). The intention is the web team will be executing this across their web estate to ensure compliance. The following FireFox add-ins and tools were demonstrated. Here’s my notes:

Accessibility Evaluator for Firefox
The Firefox Accessibility Evaluation Toolbar is designed for both developers and people with disabilities (to view and navigate web content).

There a 2 ways to access the same range of tools (shown above). Features include:

Generating reports; extract navigational elements such as titles, links, meta data etc; list and hide images (background and inline); Excellent tab focus inspector; colour contrast analyser; direct links sites and validators (W3C/WDG – ‘Web Design Group’);

A tool to analyze the colors used by a website and create templates

Fangs 1.0.8
Fangs renders a text version of a web page similar to how a screen reader would read it. The ambition is to help developers understand how an assistive device would present a website and thereby increase chances of finding accessibility issues early.

Firebug 1.8.4
The power of Firebug (and other developer toolbars) is that we can easily inspect any element on the page for accessibility. To enable, either right click and ‘inspect element’ or press F12.

Examples of how to use Firebug include confirming labelled form elements, testing on-the-fly modifications of CSS styles ( and suggest tweaks/alterations in a report).

FireShot 0.95
FireShot lets you grab the entire webpage – not just a portion of it (like Print Screen). It then provides a set of editing and annotation tools, which lets you quickly modify captures and insert text and graphical annotations.

Further details at

Tab Slideshow 4.0
This tool cycles a user through tabs as a slideshow.

TAW3 en un clic 0.9.8
TAW3 with a click allows to verify, with just a click, the accessibility of the Web sites that you are visiting, by means of the TAW3 online service ( and making use of the W3C Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 1.0 and WCAG 2.0).

Total Validator 7.1.0
Total Validator is an (X)HTML validator, an accessibility validator, a spell checker, and a broken links checker all rolled into one tool allowing one-click validation of your web pages. Validate pages before you publish, use on intranets, or other hidden pages. In order to use the Firefox extension you need to download and install either the Basic or Pro tools.

View Cookies 1.10.3
It adds a tab to the Page Info dialog box, which shows the cookies belonging to the current page or website.

WAVE Toolbar 1.1.7
WAVE reports created directly within Firefox rather than visiting

Because the toolbar reports runs entirely within your web browser, no information is sent to the WAVE server. This ensures 100% private and secure accessibility reporting. The toolbar can check intranet, password-protected, dynamically generated, or sensitive web pages.

WCAG Contrast Checker 1.102
The extension is shown in the sidebar and can obtain results for individual elements and for all elements in a web page. It offers the results for "normal vision" and for "situations of difficulty in the perception of colour [colour blindness] (protanopia, and deuteranopia tritanopia)".

The use of Contrast checker can be combined with the extension ColorZilla. This allows you to select directly from the web document (and copied to the clipboard) the colour you want to check.

Brief Explanation

Protanopia is a Red-green colour blindness is split into two different types: Whereas people affected by protan color blindness are less sensitive to red light, deuteranopia or deuteranomly (the second type of red-green colour blindness) is related to sensitiveness on green light.

Web Developer 1.19
The Web Developer extension adds various web developer tools to a browser. The extension is available for Firefox and Chrome.

This is another highly recommended (premium) extension due to the huge range of tools: There is a live HTML editor(not as good as Firebug), Validator links; outline elements such headings, links and positioned elements; view document outline; view meta data; detailed image information; easy access to temporarily edit or disable CSS; disable java script.

Automated Tools

Some WCAG 2.0 success criteria can be tested via the use of automated tools, but many also require human evaluation:


Ø Accessibility Evaluation Toolbar > Reports > Accessibility Issues

Ø TAW3 with a click 0.9.8


Ø A Checker

Ø Full list at


Ø NonVisual desktop access (NVDA) free and open source screen reader for Windows (Screen Reader)

Ø Colour Contrast Analyser 2.2 for Web Pages

How to carry out performance appraisals – notes from a training course

Earlier today I attended a short training course with the object of improving my appraiser skills. These are my notes from the session:

What is the purpose of an Appraisal?

The appraisal is an opportunity to:

· Point our ways in which staff can improve their performance

· Recognise achievements

· Make staff feel valued by praising high performance

· Clarify performance expectations

An appraisal is NOT an opportunity to:

· Conduct a disciplinary meeting

· Tell the staff member about something they did wrong six months’ ago

· Demotivate staff by telling them how awful the future looks

· Have a nice cozy chat while avoiding ‘difficult’ subjects

An appraisal should be a positive experience which reinforces good performance while helping to understand and correct any areas of underperformance.

There should be no nasty surprises. It should be part of an ongoing performance management process which should include regular one to ones and updates.

Positive and negative performance should be discussed when they occur, not saved up for the next appraisal meeting.

The main purpose of Appraisals are:

  • To ensure all employees meet with their line managers to review past performance and discuss future performance and development / training needs
  • To improve the services we provide

What are the benefits of an appraisal?

  • Enable individuals to understand the Council’s objectives & see where their jobs fit in
  • Set new objectives
  • Measure performance against expected standards (including competency standards)
  • Discuss any issues which impact on the employee’s ability to do their job
  • Identify high performers (link to Succession Planning)
  • Identify development needs
  • Encourage continuous improvement
  • Manage under- performance
  • Increase job satisfaction
  • Identify strengths and weaknesses within the organisation

Individuals can improve their overall performance through appraisals, as well as increasing their ability to fulfill the requirements of their role. This can be very motivational and can contribute to job satisfaction.
Appraisals also give individuals the opportunity to focus on future aspirations, through goal setting and identifying learning and development objectives to support these goals.

Managers can gain a better understanding of their staff needs through appraisals. This can help to improve the relationship between a manager and their member of staff.
By carrying out effective appraisals, managers can ensure that they are enabling their staff to perform at their optimum level, achieving objectives and improving the overall service to our customers.

Teams can use appraisals as a way of ensuring that they are all working towards the same goals, contributing to achieving the Council’s overall objectives.
Each team member should feel valued and motivated from the appraisal process, which should then contribute to overall team motivation and success.

There are a variety of benefits for the Organisation as a result of effective appraisals:

  • We can identify our strengths and weaknesses as an organisation
  • We can develop our staff to perform at their optimum levels
  • We can give improve the service we give to our customers

APPRAISALS SHOULD DEMONSTRATE A CLEAR LINK BETWEEN ACHIEVEMENTS AND THE COUNCIL’S OVERALL OBJECTIVE (i.e. service plans, directorate plans, corporate plans, overall strategies etc)

The link to individuals…

Without individuals and their key tasks and outputs, the Council’s aims and objectives cannot be achieved.

Appraisals provide an opportunity for managers and individuals or teams to set objectives which clearly link to the Directorate and Service Plans and the overall Corporate Strategy.

No matter where we are or what role we have within the Council, our jobs and personal effort contribute to the overall service we provide to the council.

Performance Management

It is important for us to manage people and performance effectively across the Council for the following reasons:

  • To ensure we are delivering services effectively to our customers
  • To ensure that we can continuously improve and continue to provide an effective service as a Council

There are a number of tools that assist with Performance Management:

  • 1 to 1 Meetings/Supervisions
  • Team/Department meetings
  • Individual Staff Appraisals
  • 6 Monthly Reviews

These tools act as support to each other, that way, we are able to manage performance effectively and address any issues or concerns on an ongoing basis.

Appraisal Preparation

Before the appraisal meeting, managers and staff have to fully prepare. They must both think about past performance in terms of objectives met and core behavioural competencies demonstrated. They must also consider, with reference to the Directorate and Service plans, what new objectives should be set.
Finally they must consider possible development needs.

Setting Objectives

An objective is a statement of key targets that an individual will agree to meet over a set period of time. They can apply to specific projects or key activities within your job role.

An example of an objective might be: "to reduce the money spent on stationery by 20% by the end of the year’.

Objectives are discussed and agreed with the appraisee during their appraisal, but can be modified and updated at anytime over the year through 1 to 1s and 6 monthly reviews. Any changes to objectives should be formally recorded and attached to the original appraisal form.

Focus on ‘outputs’ and ‘outcomes’. Focus on the outcomes of objectives, not just the outputs. For examples, an output might be to write a report, but the outcome may be an improvement to a service and customer satisfaction.

Learning and Development

· Training Courses

· Formal Qualifications – sponsored by the council

· On the job training

· E-learning through ilearn

· Mentoring and Coaching

· Group working and Project

Always consider how your staff learn best.

What should be reviewed at an appraisal?

· Previous objectives should be reviewed and praise should be received for any achievements.

· Difficulties and areas where objectives have not been achieved should be analysed

· Objective and competency ratings should be agreed

· New objectives should be set

· Objectivies should be agreed

· The employee should leave feeling sure about what they have to achieve and where this fits in to the bigger picture. If there have been areas of weak performance the manager and employee should have agreed how they will be tackled. The appraisal should have been an honest but motivational discussion.

Preparation Tips

· Keep a log throughout the year of key achievements as well as objectives the individual has met. You can also include examples of behaviors which demonstrate the competencies.

· Consider the ratings you might give

· Ensure you read a copy of all the related appraisal documents before your meeting, making notes on these as necessary

· Taking your own appraisal objectives, or the Directorate/ Service plans as a starting point, think about what you need the individual to achieve over the coming year and what support they will need.

· Look into the different learning and development opportunities within the Council, considering which of these might be helpful for your employee’s development

Giving Feedback

Giving negative feedback needs to be done in a controlled environment. Try and put a positive slant on it. It’s not easy. Try and end with a positive comment!

Constructive Feedback – give them somewhere to go. Provide examples, hints and tips / pointers. Evidence must be given to show you are not being personal. Always direct feedback at behavior, rather than personality. Base it on observation.

· All the receiver to solve their own problems

· Is not about putting them down

· Treat people in the same way as you would expect to be treated

· Be specific – not vague

· Put the individual in the driving seat – start with “how do you think it’s going?” – give them ownership

· Be constructive and always offer support to achieve, improve and develop

· Adopt the Feedback Sandwich Technique, sometimes known as the compliment sandwich is highly recommended. For further details follow this URL:

· Avoid bias