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CaseStudy-10 - Using XP to Develop ContextSensitive Adverts...

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Using XP to Develop Context- Sensitive Adverts for the Web Overview This case study focuses on the visual design of a context-sensitive advert for the Web. It is one output from a participant observation study of a company that produces such adverts. The approach to development they use is different to any described in our book; they use eXtreme Programming (XP), one of a number of 'agile' methods that are gaining popularity among some software developers. After a brief introduction to the company, Connextra, and XP, we describe the visual design and development of one context-sensitive advert. We end by summarising the design issues raised by the case study, and offering some observations of the XP approach to development. Background Connextra ( www.connextra.com ) is a web development company that specialises in bringing contextually-relevant information to the user's desktop. They use the eXtreme Programming (XP) approach to development, which is one example of a set of methods, called 'agile' methods. These methods challenge many of the principles underlying traditional software engineering lifecycle models and take a code-centric, people-oriented approach. Connextra has developed a number of technologies that analyse the content of what the user is browsing, and then use that knowledge to display relevant information. One such technology is the ActiveAd. This case study focuses on the visual design of an ActiveAd. ActiveAd An ActiveAd analyses the content of a webpage and identifies some key terms. These are then translated into parameters that define the advert to be shown. For example, an article on careful parenting may discuss the
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advantages and disadvantages of different buggy designs. An advert to be displayed on this page would highlight the sale of buggies and related equipment. If the article is later replaced by one about car safety seats, then the advert would automatically change accordingly. ActiveAds are 'clickable' and can link through to any webpage specified by the client. For example, an advert for a bookmakers (i.e. someone who takes bets on horses etc.) might link through directly to the online betting slip on the client's site; the buggy advert above may link to an online catalog showing different models and their price. ActiveAds work from a feed of data sent by the client, they parse the data to pick out the information that is required, and display the relevant advert on the target webpage. The information in the feed is updated periodically, e.g. every 15 minutes, and the advert will change accordingly. The frequency of the change depends on the nature of the information to go in the advert. If an ActiveAd cannot be displayed for some reason, e.g., Connextra's server experiences connection problems, then the host website needs to know what to display in its place. It clearly is not desirable for an error message to appear on the screen. So, each ActiveAd is associated with a 'panic', i.e., a default graphic that will be displayed if ActiveAd is not available.
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