Why Testing Your Business App is Important

Make sure your app makes senseAs the age of mobile tightens its grip on the world, companies are working double-time to figure out exactly how the use of smartphones and tablets fit into their working world. While some companies have navigated this new terrain fairly easily, many companies are struggling to find the right balance when it comes to mobile programs. Their biggest downfalls are trying to completely recreate a desktop program into a clunky, over-stuffed mobile app and not understanding the tenets mobile design.

In fact, this is such an issue that it’s poised to cost US and UK based companies a pretty penny in the next year and a half. Here’s some research from Antenna Software that highlights the problem (from Computer Business Review):

U.K. and U.S business are planning to spend an estimated £285k on mobile software tools for their employees in the next year and a half, but much of that money will be wasted.

According to research released by Antenna Software, only 25% of IT and business decision makers said their employees had embraced their mobile initiatives. …

According to the Mobile Business Forecast 2012 report, many companies are failing to engage their employees on mobile projects because of poorly designed applications that lack business logic and usability.

“More businesses than ever are now building mobile apps to help employees work more effectively, but it’s clear that a good deal of time and money is going to waste through poor design,” said Ken Parmelee, Senior Director of Product Management at Antenna. “Companies need to pay more attention to the end user and how and when they are going to use the app.”

The important lesson here is that just because your app is free and has a built-in market doesn’t mean you can lower your standards or ignore what end users like. It isn’t enough to take a program employees use on a computer and make it “more accessible” by translating it into an app. You need to fully understand how the program can be useful on-the-go and focus solely on the features that would be handy and increase productivity in a mobile, untethered setting.

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Please Register Your Dead Dog (and other testing stories of the day)

Last week, I received a notice from the town of Ashland informing me that I was being fined for failing to register my dog Buster. Three things struck me as odd. First, I don’t own a dog. Second, the letter was not issued to me, but rather the last occupant of my house (who really needs to change his address). Third, Buster has apparently been deceased for a number of years.

How could this have happened? If you guessed software glitch, give yourself a pat on the back.

According to a post on the town’s website today, a glitch in the Town Clerk’s computer software caused notices to be sent to dog owners whose pets might have died or moved out  of town.

“If your dog has moved or passed away, please notify us,” said Clerk Tara Ward’s post.

The post said a software crash also caused purple notices about fines for dog licenses to be sent to residents whose dogs might already be registered.

That’s one of many interesting testing stories of the day. Here were a few others that caught my attention:

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Famous Techies Recognized

CongratulationsMajor names in the world of technology and computers have been officially recognized in a few different outlets recently. First, a few notables appeared on Time‘s 2012 list of “100 Most Influential People in the World.” Then the Internet Society announced the creation and first class of the Internet Hall of Fame. In case you missed any of these events, here’s a recap of who was honored where.

Time put Pete Cashmore (CEO and founder of Mashable), Sheryl Sandberg (COO of Facebook), Tim Cook (Apple’s new CEO) and Marc Andreessen (a technology investor) in their top 100 list this year. You can read more about each honoree and what Time had to say about them in an Information Week article dedicated to the four tech-focused winners.

Meanwhile, the 10-year-old Internet Society, a nonprofit “dedicated to ensuring that the Internet stays open, transparent and defined by you,” has just created the Internet Hall of Fame. The Society’s CEO, Lynn St.Amour, has this to say about the Hall (in an official statement):

“While the inductees have extremely diverse backgrounds and represent many different countries, each individual has an incredible passion for their work. We all benefit from their outstanding contributions to a global Internet, making it one of the greatest catalysts of economic and societal development of all time.”

Thirty-three people were inducted across three categories – Pioneers, Global Connectors and Innovators – as part of the Hall’s first class. In all, the inductees represent nine countries and include 11 PhD and one law degree holders, 11 published authors, one Academy Award Winner, one Emmy Award winner, one Nobel Prize Winner and one member who has been officially knighted.

Vint Cerf, the “father of the internet,” and 13 others were inducted as Pioneers. Nine people, including Al Gore, make up the first class of Global Connectors. And Tim Berners-Lee (you know, the guy who invented the World Wide Web), along with nine others were named as Innovators. Check out the full list and read each member’s bio at the Internet Hall of Fame.

Congratulations to all those who have been honored lately! We look forward to seeing who will be recognized for their work in the future!

Why Being a Freelance Tester Pays Off

VacationAs part of the community management team I hear exactly what our testers love about working with uTest. They’ve mentioned that the freelance work they perform with us­ allows them the flexibility to work as little or as much as they want; it helps keep their technical skills sharp; and they are exposed to wide variety of really interesting applications before anyone else. But let’s be honest, the number one perk of working for uTest is the extra income they earn!  We reached out to our community to find out what their first payments from uTest went to and here is what they had to say:

  • “My first spend from uTest payouts went toward booking a 2-night hotel stay with my family. Even my wife approves of me doing uTest work at home.”
  • “I used it to buy Super Mario Land 3D!”
  • “My first payments went to paying boring bill related things. But I did use some of last year’s earnings to take my Mom on a long weekend away.”
  • “I use it for things that we need but ordinarily wouldn’t be able to get, like roof repairs, snow tires, etc. I’ve also used it to buy computers and devices for testing.”
  • “My payments went in this order: bills, a purse for my wife, then donations for my bike ride to conquer cancer.”
  • “My first spend was on some RAM for my computer. Upgraded from 2GB to 8GB. The second, which was just yesterday, was a kite! I have done wind-surfing and kite-surfing for more than 10 years, and all the material is a bit expensive. uTest allowed me to buy a new toy and replace my old and unsafe one.”
  • “I used my first payment to purchase a gadget. Yup, for testing purposes! I added to my environment with the expectation of more testing opportunities for me.”

Whether it’s hobbies, gadgets or just paying the bills, it’s clear that uTest provides our testers more financial and professional flexibility. As one of our top rated testers pointed out, with all the great benefits being a uTester has to offer, “uTest is to a tester what a candy store is to a little kid!” Whatever floats your boat, you can find out more information on joining uTest as a tester here.

8 Tips For Becoming a Dedicated Tester

Become a top software testerOur old friend James Bach recently fielded a question on his blog from a new tester seeking advice on what her daily routine should include so that she can grow in her new field. James seems impressed by the new tester’s discipline (she did willingly ask for daily testing “homework” after all) and dedication to the craft. He outlined five tasks he believes every tester should practice on a daily basis, here’s a quick summary of his tips:

Write every day
Whenever I find myself with a few moments, I make notes of my thoughts about testing and technical life.

Watch yourself think every day
While you are working, notice how you think. Notice where your ideas come from. Try to trace your thoughts.

Question something about how you work every day
Testers question things, of course. That’s what testing is. But too few testers questions how they work. Too few testers question why testing is the way it is.

Explain testing every day
Even if no one makes you explain your methodology, you can explain it to yourself.

I like these tips because they aren’t the typical recommendations you run across, like “test whenever you can,” “read an array of testing books” and “be open-minded when it comes to techniques.” Those are great tips too, just nothing special. Of course, James didn’t just give one sentence explanations for each of his pointers, so take a few minutes and read his complete blog post to get the full impact of these smart tips.

And as a little extra, here are a couple more tips James’ readers left in the comments section.

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Quality Assurance is a Process, Not a Department

File this one under the “how-the-hell-have-we-not-blogged-about-this-yet” category. A few weeks ago, BATS Global Markets Inc. had just made its IPO debut. Seconds after trading began, a software bug “disrupted trading” of the stock (i.e. it went from $16 to under a penny in seconds), prompting the company to cancel its offering. You can read more about it here.

Anyway, the incident spurred Forbes writer Ken Goldstein to re-examine the meaning of quality assurance. There’s a lot of gold in this article, but here are a few of my favorite nuggets (emphasis added):

There is no argument that we live in a world of staggering speed, where competitors race to meet customer needs and time to market matters. Innovation is always factored by the ticking clock, who gets the jump and the competitive advantage, when a cost center becomes a profit center. Information compounds on our desktops, the team with analysis paralysis most often loses to the nimble risk takers–but all this means is that in product development, the role of Quality Assurance (QA) has never been more critical.

Notice that he does not say the QA department has never been more critical. He says the role of QA. This is an important distinction which he goes on to clarify:

Here is the way I like to think about quality in product development: Quality Assurance is a Process, not a Department….

…Of course every great development company will have a final step in the process called Quality Control or Quality Assurance, but it is my sense that the QA formal group is there to be the standard-bearer for Quality and rally the company around it, putting a final go or no-go procedure in place before the world gets its hands on a product, but not accepting proxy status for an otherwise poor process. A QA department is not a dumping ground, not a remote server where code is parked as a step function or convenient checkpoint in a perfunctory release approval, not a cynical target of blame. QA is the proxy for the customer, not management, and as such must have a voice that is shared throughout a company. If a Decision Maker chooses not to listen to either the process or a warning from fully objective and independent QA stewards, you get what you get.

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6 Disasters Caused by Poorly Designed User Interfaces

We here at uTest sometime find that other blogs write stuff a heck of a lot better than we can. And nobody writes lists of things better than the fine folks at Cracked. We especially enjoyed their recent post: 6 Disasters Caused by Poorly Designed User Interfaces.

Read it and learn how poor UIs resulted in the USS Vincennes shooting down a passenger airline, the Herald of Free Enterprise sinking due to a door left open, and Three Mile Island releasing excess radiation during a partial meltdown.

Click here to read the whole thing.

uTest at STAREAST 2012

For the third time in as many years, uTest has joined hundreds of other software testing professionals for one of the industry’s truly great events: STAREAST in Orlando, Florida.

In addition to our exhibit (see pics below), our very own Peter Shih – uTest’s Director of Community – gave a terrific presentation on how SoLoMo is shaking up the testing landscape. Other notable presentations (from familiar faces) included Michael Bolton, who gave a talk titled Evaluating Testing: The Qualitative Way; James Bach, who hosted an in-depth discussion on Exploratory Testing and Dan Bartow’s Production Performance Testing in the Cloud.

Anyway, if you’re looking to attend a worthy testing conference in the future, STAREAST should definitely be on your list. To learn more about the conference, check out their website or follow their hashtag on Twitter.

uTesters @ StarEAST 2012

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5 Myths of Software Testing

As I scan the software testing stories of the day, I’m amazed at the frequency of certain misconceptions. While there are too many to list, I wanted to share five of the most common testing myths (in my brief experience). The first three I find to be prevalent in mainstream news articles, while the other two are more common within the tech industry in general.

Take a look and see if you agree with me.

Myth 1. Testing is boring: It’s been said that “Testing is like sex. If it’s not fun, then you’re doing it wrong.” The myth of testing as a monotonous, boring activity is seen frequently in mainstream media articles, which regard testers as the assembly line workers of the software business. In reality, testing presents new and exciting challenges every day. Here’s a nice quote from Michael Bolton that pretty much sums it up:

“Testing is something that we do with the motivation of finding new information.  Testing is a process of exploration, discovery, investigation, and learning.  When we configure, operate, and observe a product with the intention of evaluating it, or with the intention of recognizing a problem that we hadn’t anticipated, we’re testing.  We’re testing when we’re trying to find out about the extents and limitations of the product and its design, and when we’re largely driven by questions that haven’t been answered or even asked before.”

Myth 2. Testing is easy: It’s often assumed testing cannot be that difficult, since everyday users find bugs all the time. In truth, testing is a very complex craft that’s not suited for your average Joe. Here’s Google’s Patrick Copeland on the qualities of a great tester:

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