Instrumenting a UI

Question :

Instrumenting a UI,

Answer :

How are you instrumenting your UI’s? In the past I’ve read that people have instrumented their user interfaces, but what I haven’t found is examples or tips on how to instrument a UI.

By instrumenting, I mean collecting data regarding usage and performance of the system. A MSDN article on Instrumentation is I would like to capture which buttons users click on, what keyboard shortucts they use, what terms they use to search, etc.

  • How are you instrumenting your UI?
  • What format are you storing the instrumentation?
  • How are you processing the instrumented data?
  • How are you keeping your UI code clean with this instrumentation logic?

Specifically, I am implementing my UI in WPF, so this will provide extra challenges compared to instrumenting a web-based application. (i.e. need to transfer the instrumented data back to a central location, etc). That said, I feel the technology may provide an easier implementation of instrumentation via concepts like attached properties.

  • Have you instrumented a WPF application? Do you have any tips on how this can be achieved?

Edit: The following blog post presents an interesting solution:

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Here is an example of how I use a simple events manager to hook on to the UI events and extract key information of the events, such as name and type of UI element, name of event and the parent window’s type name. For lists I also extract the selected item.

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This solution only listens for clicks of controls derived from ButtonBase (Button, ToggleButton, …) and selection changes in controls derived from Selector (ListBox, TabControl, …). It should be easy to extend to other types of UI elements or to achieve a more fine-grained solution. The solution is inspired of Brad Leach’s answer.

public class UserInteractionEventsManager  {      public delegate void ButtonClickedHandler(DateTime time, string eventName, string senderName, string senderTypeName, string parentWindowName);      public delegate void SelectorSelectedHandler(DateTime time, string eventName, string senderName, string senderTypeName, string parentWindowName, object selectedObject);        public event ButtonClickedHandler ButtonClicked;      public event SelectorSelectedHandler SelectorSelected;        public UserInteractionEventsManager()      {          EventManager.RegisterClassHandler(typeof(ButtonBase), ButtonBase.ClickEvent, new RoutedEventHandler(HandleButtonClicked));          EventManager.RegisterClassHandler(typeof(Selector), Selector.SelectionChangedEvent, new RoutedEventHandler(HandleSelectorSelected));      }        #region Handling events        private void HandleSelectorSelected(object sender, RoutedEventArgs e)      {          // Avoid multiple events due to bubbling. Example: A ListBox inside a TabControl will cause both to send the SelectionChangedEvent.          if (sender != e.OriginalSource) return;            var args = e as SelectionChangedEventArgs;          if (args == null || args.AddedItems.Count == 0) return;            var element = sender as FrameworkElement;          if (element == null) return;            string senderName = GetSenderName(element);          string parentWindowName = GetParentWindowTypeName(sender);          DateTime time = DateTime.Now;          string eventName = e.RoutedEvent.Name;          string senderTypeName = sender.GetType().Name;          string selectedItemText = args.AddedItems.Count > 0 ? args.AddedItems[0].ToString() : "";            if (SelectorSelected != null)              SelectorSelected(time, eventName, senderName, senderTypeName, parentWindowName, selectedItemText);      }        private void HandleButtonClicked(object sender, RoutedEventArgs e)      {          var element = sender as FrameworkElement;          if (element == null) return;            string parentWindowName = GetParentWindowTypeName(sender);          DateTime time = DateTime.Now;          string eventName = e.RoutedEvent.Name;          string senderTypeName = sender.GetType().Name;          string senderName = GetSenderName(element);            if (ButtonClicked != null)               ButtonClicked(time, eventName, senderName, senderTypeName, parentWindowName);      }        #endregion        #region Private helpers        private static string GetSenderName(FrameworkElement element)      {          return !String.IsNullOrEmpty(element.Name) ? element.Name : "";      }          private static string GetParentWindowTypeName(object sender)      {          var parent = FindParent(sender as DependencyObject);          return parent != null ? parent.GetType().Name : "";      }        private static T FindParent(DependencyObject item) where T : class      {          if (item == null)               return default(T);            if (item is T)              return item as T;            DependencyObject parent = VisualTreeHelper.GetParent(item);          if (parent == null)              return default(T);            return FindParent(parent);      }        #endregion  }  

And to do the actual logging, I use log4net and created a separate logger named ‘Interaction’ to log user interaction. The class ‘Log’ here is simply my own static wrapper for log4net.

///   /// The user interaction logger uses  to listen for events on GUI elements, such as buttons, list boxes, tab controls etc.  /// The events are then logged in a readable format using Log.Interaction.Info().  ///   public class UserInteractionLogger  {      private readonly UserInteractionEventsManager _events;      private bool _started;        ///       /// Create a user interaction logger. Remember to Start() it.      ///       public UserInteractionLogger()      {          _events = new UserInteractionEventsManager();        }        ///       /// Start logging user interaction events.      ///       public void Start()      {          if (_started) return;            _events.ButtonClicked += ButtonClicked;          _events.SelectorSelected += SelectorSelected;            _started = true;      }        ///       /// Stop logging user interaction events.      ///       public void Stop()      {          if (!_started) return;            _events.ButtonClicked -= ButtonClicked;          _events.SelectorSelected -= SelectorSelected;            _started = false;      }        private static void SelectorSelected(DateTime time, string eventName, string senderName, string senderTypeName, string parentWindowTypeName, object selectedObject)      {          Log.Interaction.Info("{0}.{1} by {2} in {3}. Selected: {4}", senderTypeName, eventName, senderName, parentWindowTypeName, selectedObject);      }        private static void ButtonClicked(DateTime time, string eventName, string senderName, string senderTypeName, string parentWindowTypeName)      {          Log.Interaction.Info("{0}.{1} by {2} in {3}", senderTypeName, eventName, senderName, parentWindowTypeName);      }  }  

The output would then look something like this, omitting non-relevant log entries.

04/13 08:38:37.069 INFO        Iact ToggleButton.Click by AnalysisButton in MyMainWindow  04/13 08:38:38.493 INFO        Iact ListBox.SelectionChanged by ListView in MyMainWindow. Selected: Andreas Larsen  04/13 08:38:44.587 INFO        Iact Button.Click by EditEntryButton in MyMainWindow  04/13 08:38:46.068 INFO        Iact Button.Click by OkButton in EditEntryDialog  04/13 08:38:47.395 INFO        Iact ToggleButton.Click by ExitButton in MyMainWindow  

That’s the answer Instrumenting a UI, Hope this helps those looking for an answer. Then we suggest to do a search for the next question and find the answer only on our site.

Disclaimer :

The answers provided above are only to be used to guide the learning process. The questions above are open-ended questions, meaning that many answers are not fixed as above. I hope this article can be useful, Thank you