Tissue paper and Testing
The most insightful thoughts sometimes come from the strangest situations, don’t you agree? I had a cold last week. Needless to say tissue overflowed the trash, in almost every room in the house.
I am not sure if it was the cold medicine that cleared my mind as well as my sinuses or one of those enlightening moments of pure inspiration, but suddenly I had the following thought:
Tissue is something we take for granted!
I know we owe many great inventions to what we call the Modern Age and it’s technological advantages, things such as electricity, the Internet and even smartphones – all taken for granted nowadays btw – and so is tissue paper!
Can you imagine your life with out tissue?
True, not every human across the globe has this luxury at their disposal, but then again not everyone has electricity or Internet either. But you do! (how else would you be reading this post? duh…).
My point is not that you should be grateful for this, although take a minute to ponder how lucky you are, right? But rather to point to the fact that we constantly take all these far-from-trivial things for granted and we tend to forget about them as they become part of the invisible world that surrounds us.
What does tissue have to do with testing?
When we approach our daily testing tasks, we can often get caught up in the technical aspect of testing; writing and running our tests, finding and reporting bugs, etc. You might even be lucky enough to work on an integrated team with development and product management, and so you will have the chance to see more clearly the whole project taking form in front of your eyes.
But still, among all the buzz and fuzz of your daily work, while you run from test case to meeting to lunch and then to another meeting, we tend also to forget about something (or someone) who is extremely important to the success of our project, and yet this someone (or group of people) is seldom referred to as part of our daily tasks.
Who are these people you may ask yourselves?
The answer is simple, yet painful. We usually forget about our User.
“What a tester cannot forget to test for is what a user will never ask for”
Let’s take this point a little further, can we?
You may have tested for every possible scenario – but these are scenarios the product marketing or the development team defined for you.
True, it is best if they take the “user-centric” approach and build on the users needs. But many times they are concentrated too much on their users NEEDS and so they fail to take into account their users EXPECTATIONS.
So what is the difference between the need and the expectation?
A need is something the user knows that they need to ask for – it’s what they want their application, software, product to do. Expectations are all the things that the user takes for granted and does not even think he should ask for as part of the product.
So much are these taken for granted that they are not even mentioned officially – it’s in the users mind. Just a small example from the UI world is closing a current window or pop up. what’s the first intuitive thing you look for? that little X marks the spot, right? This small action script is so intuitive now to any digital platform user that it is taken for granted. That small “close on click” is an action the user wouldn’t even think to ask for, since it is assumed to exist, just like tissue.
Become a mind reader
So obviously mind reading isn’t a skill you can acquire, but you can put yourself in a different mind set, your users’ mind-set. If the application being tested was for your use, what are the basic assumption you would have regarding it’s functions?
The Healthcare.gov fiasco, that placed the world of testing in the headlines, is a great example how taking things for granted can create trouble. How basic is signing in, right? Yet that procedure of signing up on the healthcare.gov website was the first pitfall for many users. Not only was this frustrating, but for many it was a serious economical problem, since they were then stuck without insurance coverage having assumed they could simply sign-up on the Healthcare website as planned.
Testers (and not only us of course) have the responsibility to test every possible feature and scenario required by the user, but we should never assume that all these features and scenarios are formally mentioned. Don’t take your user’s expectations for granted, and you won’t be taken for granted as a professional either.
After all assuming is making an “Ass out of U and Me”
Oh darn, all out of tissues now…