Allows you to verify hundreds of VAT identification numbers issued by an European Member State. The verification is done against the national VAT database corresponding to the selected Member State.
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- Good software focuses on a user's actual needs. A program should meet the needs of 80 percent of your target audience. It is impossible to meet the needs of all users in the same software and still retain some semblance of being easy to use. Sometimes a user doesn't even know that he needs or doesn't need a feature and it is up to the designer and developer to figure out what is needed. Most often, it is better to have a small collection of more specialized tools than one which does everything.
- Good software uses everyday language. Jobs in the Information Technology industry are almost always professional positions. One aspect which makes IT a profession is that it has its own body of knowledge and terminology to go with it. Most people have only a rudimentary 'computerese' vocabulary. The thing that they look at when they use a computer is called a monitor or just 'the screen'; the little arrow on the screen is called the cursor, and the thing they type with is called a keyboard. Few users know (or care) what a 'file format' is and fewer still do not know what an 'invalid sector' on a floppy disk might be. Good programs use language appropriate for the audience. The problem is that quite a lot of software intended for the general desktop user reads like Yiddish for Joe User. In such cases, regular, everyday language should be used as much as is possible. For file management software, 'volumes' are really disks -- even though the term isn't quite accurate, a normal person thinks a disk is a storage container and that volume is what you have up too high at really good parties. Images are 'pictures'. A person doesn't 'kill' a application that has 'hung' -- he 'forces a frozen program to quit'. Details like this may seem minor, but many small improvements in a program's usability can have a profound effect overall. Of course, if your target audience is IT professionals, these kinds of terms are perfectly acceptable. Be sure that you match the everyday language of your audience and when in doubt, err toward using less technical language.
- Good software gives plenty of feedback. Imagine for a moment that you have just started converting a movie file to another format. You hit the button marked 'Go' and wait. Then you wait some more. You go to the restroom, brew a new pot of coffee, get the mail from the box, confirm that mullets are still out-of-style, and come back to wait some more. You're sure you clicked the button, but nothing seems to be happening. Did something go wrong? Only after some snooping around with a file manager do you find out that everything is OK. You didn't know what was happening because the program didn't tell you what it was doing.
- Good software makes errors hard. It has been said that nothing can be made foolproof because fools are so ingenious. Even so, make it tough for the user to make a mistake. If, for example, the user needs to enter in some text and certain characters are not allowed, then disable those characters for the text box it needs to be entered in instead of nagging the user with a message box. If resizing a window horizontally should not be done for some reason, don't let the user do it. Does your program require a selection from a list before the user clicks OK? Tell the user that -- nicely, of course -- and then disable the OK button until a selection is made. An even better solution would be to select a good default choice for the user and give him the option to change it. Build constraints into your application which prevent errors. This would be why 3.5" floppy disks have a notch in one side -- it can be inserted into a drive only one way. Constraints are also good for lazy developers because then their software crashes less and they don't need to write as much error-handling code.
- Good applications handle errors gracefully. Even if you make it hard for a user to make a mistake, expect your program to have to deal with errors. It is possible for a program to handle errors in a way that doesn't leave the user wondering what happened. When code is written, errors of all sorts need to be anticipated and handled, such as lack of memory, lack of disk space, permissions errors, corrupted files, and loss of network connectivity. As Murphy's Law states, if something can go wrong in a given situation, it probably will. Hope for the best but prepare for the worst: without bordering on the completely ridiculous, handle every error that is likely to occur. Doing so greatly improves the perception of your software by the outside world. Crashes are unacceptable in all cases. Period. Error messages, for example, need to describe at the user's level of expertise what happened and suggest what the user can do to remedy the situation. In the worst case, the program needs to provide an easy way for the user to send technical information about the problem back to you via e-mail or some other means. In all cases, the user's data is to be preserved.
- Good software is forgiving. Computers are excellent tools for people because they are good at many things that people are not. From a perspective which focuses on technology, humans are imprecise, illogical, disorganized, and make mistakes frequently. They are, however, excellent at forming habits and matching patterns, two things computers have a difficult time doing. Make commands undoable whenever possible and when it is not possible, be sure to inform the user that such is the case. Capitalize on a computer's strengths to make up for a person's inherent weaknesses.