Peripheral vision and peripheral testing

Back in high-school I was part of my school’s basketball team, and I remember that one of the first lessons I got from my coach was about the advantages of peripheral vision.

He explained to me that peripheral vision in the game was incredibly helpful as it allowed you to:
1. Look at one member of your team and pass the ball to another member, and so confuse the guys from other team while in defense.
2. It helped you to find the “open” guy in the team and pass him the ball at the right time (hopefully when he was alone under the rim).
3. And it also helped you to see if someone was approaching you in order to block you while you where trying to cover the guy dribbling the ball in front of you.

There were plenty of other things he mentioned, but the point was that he made us perform all sort of drills and practices (inside and outside of the basketball court) to help us develop our peripheral vision.

So much so that this is something that I still use today, while sometimes trying to handle my 3 kids alone, specially when we are in the mall or in the park and each of them decides to run on different direction to seek their own trills…

What is peripheral vision?

peripheral visionAlmost everyone has some level of peripheral vision, even you have it!

Have you ever notice when you are walking in the street and all of a sudden someone is running in your direction approaching you from the side?  The fact is that even if you were looking straight in front of you, you will still be able to “notice” that person, or car, or kid in the bicycle approaching you fast from the side of the street.  Basically you caught their movement with “corner of your eye”, and that is peripheral vision.

I believe that this is one of those things we should have developed some 100K years ago as part of our evolution.  Think about it, this might be the reason your great-great-great cave-dwelling grandfather did not get stomped by a big mammoth and his cousin did back in the day…

I think that some people have naturally better peripheral vision than others, but as I mentioned above, there are also drills and things you can do to enhance your peripheral vision and make it more accurate and refined.

Is there such a thing as peripheral testing?

Peripheral testing quiz image Well, I guess if there wasn’t such a thing I would not be writing this blog, right?

Peripheral testing is the process of finding bugs and issues in your product even if you are testing other areas and aspects of it (or even if you are testing another product altogether).

Just as in the case of peripheral vision, peripheral testing is something that most testers do every day – even without noticing it.

For example, when you are are running a test flow in your product and you notice that the logo of your company on the top right section is cut.  You were expecting to find a bug in the functional flow of the application and you were not looking or expecting to find this bug, but it caught your eye and so you found it.

The problem or the challenge with peripheral testing is that sometimes or some people might miss these bugs in the product because they were not looking for them.  And I think that this is especially true for people who are only starting in testing, and also for those who tend to get “too focused” on their testing objective.

Can you develop your peripheral testing skills?

Absolutely!

I find that there are things that will help you to develop your peripheral testing skills, some of them are easier to practice than others.

1.  Find your balance between focus and “dispersity”.  By dispersity I mean the feeling when you are looking at all places at the same time (but not focusing on anything).  By definition, in order to find the things that you are not looking for, you need to be open to find them when they appear, and this can only happen if you have room in your mind to detect them.

2. Make it a habit of “looking around” after every operation.  This is something I try to teach some of the junior testers in my teams, put aside some time during your tests to look around your testing, this is very similar to the “focus/de-focus” technique but applied on a very low level.  If you are running a functional flow that goes over a number of screen, make sure that you stop to look at the whole screen before your press the “next” button.

3. Learn to find your testing zone.   As trivial as it may sound, if you are completely concentrated on testing, and manage to leave all distractions out, you will be able to free some of your mental resources to find the stuff on the sides of your testing tasks.

4. Test twice, once for the functionality and the other one for the rest of the stuff.  This is another exercise for Junior testers, when you are running a testing operation run it twice.  The first time to test the functionality you were looking for, and the second one to see everything happening to the application while this functionality is happening.

5. Do more pair-testing.  When 2 people are looking at the same thing while it happens, there are bigger chances that one of them will “catch” things happening on the side and alert the other to them so that both of them can research this.

6. Fight your urge to “robot test”.  This is especially true for testers working on repetitive tasks, when you are running the same test for the 20th time, it is very easy to tune yourself off and let your mind wonder to any other place in the universe.  In these cases the only way you will see a bug is if it blue-screens your machine more or less…  Regardless of how many times you are tasked with running the same test you need to be on your toes and make sure to focus on the work at hand!

 And finally, there are some things that come with time

Just like good whiskey, or like pain in your joints and back when you wake up, there are some things that will come with time…

As frustrating as this may sound, peripheral testing is one of those skills that testers develop with experience and time.  The more you’ve tested, the more prone you will be to finding stuff that others simply pass over and miss completely.

About PractiTest

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Designed for testers by testers, PractiTest can be customized to your team's ever-changing needs.

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