Toward Providing Live Feedback in Web Automation IDEs
Part of the Proceedings of the Sixth Workshop on Live Programming (LIVE 2020).
Web automation can help users save time and energy by automatically performing tedious web tasks for them. However, macro scripts can be difficult for users to understand and edit, whether they are a colleague viewing the macro for the first time, or the macro creator trying to edit their macro months after it was first created. A major barrier to understanding macro scripts is that they lack user interface (UI) context. Users cannot look at a macro script and understand exactly what UI elements are being interacted with and what effect commands have on the UI. To explore how we might expand macro representations to include visual context, we built VizMac, a tool that lets users record their actions on a web page to generate a macro script and see their recording as an animation. Users can inspect the animation to see the UI state before and after a given line of code is run, and can see the UI elements corresponding to UI selectors in the code visually highlighted. These features help provide an understanding of the code that has been generated. Through a user study we saw that participants appreciated the animation features, but often still struggled to identify the source of errors when they occurred. We believe providing live feedback of the script’s outcome will help users identify the source of errors more efficiently and effectively, and we present several design goals and challenges.