UX Testing: Creating Empathy in Software Testing

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Introduction

As testers we are often required to assess the software quality by putting ourselves in the user’s shoes. Usability testing and UX Testing is one step closer to the real users, who use the software we test. It aims to validate the software against how a user would want it to be, what makes it usable, memorable, credible, and desirable. Through usability testing, tester gets to appreciate the human interaction with technology, providing the perception of how different users will be accessing the software. With each implementation, you learn about new personas, their priorities, their preferences before testing and you discover more about their pain points as you switch hats, representing the various real life examples. Here are two perspectives of this topic:

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Software testing is a key activity to ensure quality assurance for a software product or service. As any human-based activity, the outcome of the software product is dependent of human factors. Testers are evaluating a software by questioning different angles with words such as why, how, what, where, and when. However, the word usually lacking from their analysis framework, is who. Testing, as a human-based interaction activity tends to be underused relatively to more technical testing.

User experience (UX) and human computer interaction (HCI) is becoming increasingly important in the software development context. Testers are opening their minds to different perceptions, observing user interactions needs on the use of software functions through user testing. Interweaving UX techniques into software testing, allows for the creation of users’ empathy; testers testing software solutions that meet the needs of real –actually named- users not a checklist in a functional specification document.

Additionally, testers’ involvement in the early stages (design or concept validation), can contribute to a stronger focus on testing for the product/users’ requirements rather than the defects. By seeing the whole picture, getting direct feedback from the client (users), being involved in the decision making, the testers are more motivated in ensuring of high-quality testing with “the user” in mind.

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One of the most significant part of a tester’s role is to be able to switch across various business domains and technologies. Our role is agnostic to all these variables, treating quality as a common attribute to any software. We are required to understand the user specifications, getting an insight on expectations from user’s perspective in terms of functionality. But somehow user experience part of testing has been classified as an area that we are too far from. While it makes sense to identify user experience (UX) testing as a specific area of expertise, it is not a good idea for software testers to distance themselves from user experience related issues. It is an essential aspect of quality, more so in today’s age of increased online services.

UX Testing

In my opinion, as software testers we are inherently accustomed to representing the end user when it comes to testing functionality. Hence it is not difficult to bring in a further element of UX testing in to this process, which brings the much needed focus on the human aspect around technology. It is a highly engaging and important aspect to study from a quality point of view. In my personal experience, an appreciation of UX testing side of matters has made me a more effective tester, particularly around non-functional testing. Even where it is not in scope officially, I believe in reporting any issue that I notice in that connection, be it general usability or accessibility.

As testers we have a unique position to influence development cycle in an outcome that is best suited for a user. User experience is a very important ingredient and it is recommendable for every tester to develop an understanding about the basics of usability and accessibility testing.

Conclusion

User experience has been identified as one of the most influential factors of today’s web development scene. It needs to be well absorbed into the traditional development methodologies, roles and processes to ensure effective deliveries in the increasingly digital world. UX and software testing need to synergise to result in a good outcome, working towards the one common goal of quality improvement.

 

Zoe Kosmadoudi UX TestingCo-author: Zoe Kosmadoudi

Zoe is a data-driven UX designer/researcher and has been with Sopra Steria for 2 years. She has worked with a range of clients both in private and public sector, leading user testing by setting direction that combines user, business and development goals. Zoe also has a PhD in user experience, combining user research and design, evangelizing user centred design principles.

About the Author

Sowmya

Sowmya Ramesh has been with Sopra Steria for the last 5 years, currently leading an initiative for developing the topic of Accessibility Testing within the company. With over 12 years of experience in the IT consultancy / service industry, Sowmya has worked with various clients in public and private sectors. A stint at ‘Enable Scotland’, a charity supporting people with learning disabilities, gave her an opportunity to understand the needs of the disabled community and she has developed a deep interest in accessibility. She has been striving to raise awareness about this topic and hopes for it to gain more importance in the IT sphere.
Find out more about @brsowmya

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