Beyond Screenscraping: Toolbox for Changing the (Legacy) World

Jesper Rønn-Jensen, Web developer, usability specialist, Capgemini Denmark
Mads Buus Westmark, Web Developer, Capgemini Denmark

Date: Tuesday 18 September 2007
Time: 11:35 - 12:20
Location: Saal Maritim A

You sometimes come across web applications that are really bad: ugly UI, bad user feedback, minimal usability, no API. To improve such an app, a Rails hacker may have to prove him/herself by prototyping improvements first.

Rails makes it possible by actually "taking over" parts of a legacy app, by presenting the user with a Rails UI that submits back to the original app. A prototype that works against the legacy app and is usable and testable by real users.

This session will present you with the techniques and tools you need to do this:

  • Advanced two-way screen/form scraping from "bad" legacy applications
  • Guessing the data model
  • Essential tools for screenscraping and proxying a legacy app
  • Introducing the Reform plugin for getting started taking over legacy apps in your own environment

Along with this, we will discuss how we used this technique on a particular internal timetracking application and, in particular, the lessons learned on how to navigate a Rails prototype into the political game in a world of legacy systems.

Screenscraping as a prototyping strategy could be just what you need in a political environment where it's hard to convince management to build an existing legacy application in Rails.

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