The Ever-Shifting Matrix

Mobile Browsing ShareI can’t say testing was ever easy but there definitely was a time when there were far fewer components to the testing matrix. Now a days, if you’re just trying to put together a simple website there’s a whole range of browsers to consider at the very least – not to mention the ever updating versions of those browsers.

If that wasn’t enough, now you have to make sure that website works on the miniature screens of mobile devices (which themselves offer a whole gamut of sizes). And I’m not taking “should work” or something to consider if you want to be hip and trendy … because it’s not a trend, trends go away. Instead, time spent browsing the web on mobile devices is steadily increasing. Here’s the most recent statistic from Net Applications (which has been monitoring web usage across their 40,000 websites since 2004), as reported by CNet:

If you haven’t whipped your Web site into shape for easy viewing on small-screen devices, you’d better get cracking.

That’s because the use of mobile devices reached an all-time high in December, accounting for 7.7 percent of browser usage according to Net Applications’ measurements of daily visits to its network of 40,000 Web sites. That may still be a small fraction of total Web traffic, but it’s a large and growing population in absolute numbers.

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A Software Testing Exercise

Chances are if you’re a tester, you probably spend the bulk of your work day sitting in front of a computer. You don’t have to be the Surgeon General to know the eventual result of such a lifestyle: weight gain.

If only there were a way that one could test software and burn calories at the same time. Well, now there is. Here’s a funny story from The Register:

No self-respecting techie would ever be seen dead in a gym. If you want to get fit, just put down the doughnut and go for a walk. However for those of you who do submit to treadmill workouts but don’t want to miss a minute’s coding time, this might interest you.

Brainy old Reg friend Bill Softky has come up with an ingenious low-tech contraption for people who want to use a conventional laptop while at the gym. The CardioDesk cracks the problem of providing a stable surface, fits most treadmills and folds away to the size of a book- it’s about an inch thick.

The prototype, which you can see here, is hardwood, but with a bit of interest (and a bit of investment) we should see a much cheaper carbon fibre version to go into production.

He admits it’s “an unusual solution to a nearly unknown problem”, but some of the most successful inventions are just that.

As a side gig, I think I’ll create a promotional series that’s half testing (advice and tips from people like James Bach, Michael Bolton and others) and half exercise (workouts from Richard Simmons and Chuck Norris). I’ll call it TesterCise. It’ll make millions.

On a more serious note, if you’re looking for ways to offset the ill effects of sitting at a desk all day, here are some tips from WebMD.

Test healthy my friends.

2012 Preview: Twelve App-Related Questions On The Way To Armageddon

Happy New Year!  Yes, 2012 is upon us and, if you believe the pundits (or the Mayans), we’re all gonna die in about 11 1/2 months. And while that really takes the pressure off of watching your 401k or worrying about global warming, it amps us the urgency to get that killer new app launched.

So with that in mind, here are 12 questions whose  answers will shape the app universe (and thus, the testing landscape) in 2012:

  1. Will we finally find a better way to vet apps than app store ratings?
  2. Is Flash really and truly dead in the mobile app space?
  3. What’s the next big wave in the ever-growing sea of SoLoMo?
  4. Web-enabled TVs:  here or hype?
  5. Will Android keep winning such rapid market share from iOS?
  6. Is this the year the mobile wallet hits the U.S. mainstream?
  7. How will netizens find what they need — search or social?
  8. Can developers finally forget about IE6?  How about IE7?
  9. Will Amazon’s app store plans fly or flop?
  10. Where do tablets go from here?
  11. Which direction will the IPO and VC markets turn?
  12. After watching Uber battle taxis, and AirBnB take on hotels, which mature industry will be next to get disrupted in a big way (fwiw, my money is on medical and education, though the latter may take longer)?

So what’s your take — which of these issues will have the biggest impact on devs, testers and users in 2012?  Put on your fortune telling hat and share your prediction to that question in the comments below.

And happy 2012 to us all. Let’s enjoy this next (last?) year in the apps universe!

It Might Be Time To Update If …

CRT MonitorIf you’re reading a Software Testing Blog (which you are) then you are probably pretty tech-savvy. In that case, read this list of Eight Signs Your Business is Tech-Illiterate by PCWorld for a good chuckle.

  1. Everyone has their own printer
  2. You still own a fax machine
  3. You think tablets are toys
  4. You and your employees are scared of new tech
  5. You still haven’t embraced the web
  6. Very few people in your office own a smartphone
  7. You still have a CRT monitor, anywhere
  8. You still have Windows XP installed “because it works”

(You can read more in depth comments on each point at PCWorld >>>)

Now, if you read that list and thought to yourself, “Hey, that’s my office!” well then, you have some work to do.

Happy New Year’s everyone!

Lessons in Usability Testing: Newer Is Not Always Better

So you just unwrapped your brand new (insert gift here). You loved the old version and can’t wait to try out the latest one with all the new bells and whistles you’ve heard so much about. But shortly after opening said gift, you realize there’s a problem. Something’s different.

If your brand new gift was a Kindle Fire, that problem can likely be summed up in one (hyphenated) word: over-engineering.

Jakob Nielsen, the “King of Usability” and former Testing the Limits guest, recently published his usability findings on the Kindle Fire – and he’s not impressed. The report covers multiple aspects of the new tablet, but one area that caught my attention was his discussion of how the Fire compared to the first generation Kindle. Here’s his take (my take after the jump):

The Fire is a heavy object. It’s unpleasant to hold for extended periods of time. Unless you have forearm muscles like Popeye, you can’t comfortably sit and read an engaging novel all evening. The lack of physical buttons for turning the page also impedes on the reading experience for fiction. On the older Kindles, it’s easy to keep a finger on the button when all you use it for is to turn the page. In contrast, tapping an area of the screen disrupts reading enjoyment, is slightly error-prone, and leaves smudges on the screen. The Fire screen also has more glare than the traditional Kindle.

For reading fiction, the older Kindle design wins.

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12 Minds Look Toward 2012

Gigaom Top 12Our friends at GigaOM reached out to 12 top tech experts to see where they think the industry will go in 2012:

Lose your love handles; call your Mom more often; get that promotion – if you’re like many of us, you’re already thinking over some New Year’s resolutions that will make you a better “you” in 2012. But how are the tech industries’ thought leaders approaching the new year? We asked 12 of them for their resolutions, and will publish one a day starting on December 27th and running until January 7th.

Here’s the schedule:

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How The Glitch Stole Christmas

Stop me if you’ve heard this before: A gambler inserts their money, pulls the lever and wins an enormous sum of money – only to be told by the casino that their win was due to a “software error.”

Well it happened again, this time to Behar Merlaku, who played the winning machine at a casino in Bregenz, Austria to the tune of £37million. But rather than collect his riches, Behar was offered a free meal and £60 instead. Depending on the meal, this sounds like a bad deal for poor Behar.

Casinos are in the unique position of knowing exactly how much each bug costs them. Heck, the figure is literally in flashing neon lights! For other industries, this is more difficult to figure out. SuperWebDeveloper.com explains:

At first, the cost of fixing a bug at the requirements stage is nominal, when everything is on the drawing board. But as the software moves along in its life cycle the cost of fixing a bug increases radically. We start at 1 times when we are at the initial development stage when a bug is no more than a change in notion. But at the design stage, the relative cost is 5 times what it was compared to the requirements stage, and then ten times what it was when it becomes code and on this goes until it the relative cost of a bug fix is 150 times what it was originally. Conversely, the graphic indicates that the cost of rewriting is far less than attempting to maintain broken software. Starting right, or starting over right, is by far preferable to the alternative.

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Call The Exterminator – You Missed A Few Bugs

BugsAs any test manager can tell you, it is not their job to decided when a product is ready to launch (that’s up to the product owner). Projects are rarely 100% perfect when they’re launched and it often comes down to “which bugs are we OK with?” (Also see The 12 Bugs of Xmas)

Some products are released with such fundamental issues that it’s hard to believe the company didn’t know about them. Glaring security holes. Slow response time. Missing features that consumers have come to expect. Are these OK or are they issues that should be addressed before launch? Let’s take a look at two recent examples:

From TechCrunch:

Great news, Kindle Fire owners. Amazon just announced the long overdue Kindle Fire update that’s said to resolve many of the issues with the budget tablet. Most of the common complaints are addressed: owners can now select and remove items from the carousel, the WiFi system is more robust and supports passwords, but most importantly, update 6.2.1 reportedly improves overall performance and the touchscreen response.

This update has been needed from the moment the Fire hit the scene. The first round of reviews praised the Fire for its overall value but pointed to sluggish performance as the device’s major downfall. Amazon maintained a system update would resolve many of the problems. Hopefully this is the update Fire owners have been waiting for.

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Holiday Greetings From uTest (Plus a 2011 App-Centric Naughty & Nice List)

It’s that time of year again – time for family, friends and food. Yes, the holiday season is upon us, and around the halls of uTest, we’re feeling particularly jolly.  So how does a company with 49,000 testers from 183 countries around the globe say “happy holidays”?  Well here at uTest, this is how we roll:

And now, for a little holiday fun, here’s our naughty & nice list from around the 2011 apps universe:

Naughty List (tsk, tsk, tsk):

  • India’s government, who’s recent software glitch led them to overstate exports by $9,000,000,000. Personally, we think that bugs should never create problems that exceed $8.5 billion, but that’s just us. And earlier this year, the Indian government wrestled with PayPal over payments to the country’s online merchants. Santa never forgets… I mean, he makes a list and checks it twice (which is his form of QA).
  • The U.S. politicians driving SOPA. Yes, the same tech visionaries who brought us such timeless quotes as “the internets” and “the series of tubes” have decided to try their hand at defeating online piracy with a proposed bill that many believe would cripple innovation and free speech on the web.
  • Pretty much everything on this list of “worst software glitches of 2011” from WebLayers and ZDNet. And this list from Appolicious. And this one from AppAdvice.
  • TripAdvisor founder, Stephen Kaufer, who chatted with TechCrunch about “404 testing”, in which they add a link for a feature that doesn’t exist (and returns the dreaded 404 message) to determine user demand for features in a web app. Uh, guys, congrats on the IPO, but there’s a much better way to quickly build and test new features without subjecting users to an intentionally lousy experience.
  • The Australian casino that refused to pay a customer the $57MM he “won”, because they blamed his “winning” on a bug in the slot machine software.

Nice List (or at least people we want to give a hearty holiday thanks to):

  • Our testers: the aforementioned 49,000 testers from 183 countries around the world. Because of you, we’re enabling nearly 1,000 companies to launch apps that work as well in the wild as they do in the QA lab. Big ups.
  • Our customers: it’s nice to know that there are companies and tech execs that care so much about their end user experience that they’re willing to pay us to point out every glitch, bug and snafu we can find – before their app gets into the hands of users. You rock.
  • Our investors: we’ve always loved you, but the recent $17MM D round was the gift that keeps on giving — and that enables us to grow faster, grow bigger, change the world of apps, and all that other stuff we promised we’d do.
  • Our blog readers: we’re psyched that there are about 4X as many of you as there were at this time last year (keep telling your friends, fans and followers). And since you’ve read this far down in the post, it would feel awkward not to include you amongst our list of favorite people!
  • Ben Huh, Paul Graham, the crews at Scribd and Tumblr, and  for taking the fight against SOPA to the streets. Way to stand up for a cause you believe in, and to do it in bold, engaging ways. Santa likes that.

Ok, all kidding aside, uTest sincerely wishes everyone a peaceful, safe and happy holiday season. It’s been an amazing 358 days thus far in 2011, and we’re supremely thankful that we get to spend our days and nights at the epicenter of this crazy (but never dull) apps universe with all of you.