July 30, 2015

Is your application usable?

BY :     July 30, 2015

usability-testing Image credit: www.testingbrain.com

This question may sound simple, but it isn’t. Over the last few years, I’ve noticed that more and more User eXperience Experts (UX) are getting involved in IT projects. This is definitely a growing trend: Expectations regarding usability are increasing, especially due to the soaring popularity of mobile applications. In fact, users now want to understand how a tool is working without reading any user guide.

Usability is part of the non-functional requirements. This means, it has to be tested and validated as any other requirement. However, UX best practices are usually not part of a tester’s technical skill set. So, how can we ensure high quality, even on the usability side?

Basically there are three options:

  1. Asking the UX expert to do the testing and to validate the usability requirements
  2. Asking the testers to take care of these tests based on UX recommendations, the style guide or any other documentation
  3. Combining points 1. and 2.

Point 1. may be a good option, however the UX expert usually can’t find enough time to validate all the graphical interfaces during a release. In addition, he/she isn’t always familiar with advanced testing principles.

Point 2. should be avoided: All usability concepts can hardly be described in documentations. Usually, the UX expert has to “play” with the graphical interfaces to see if the new requirements are matched or not. This kind of assessment shouldn’t be done by the tester to prevent any conflicts with developers or with the UX expert.

So there is only solution left: number three! And, it is the best one. Indeed, part of the basic UX concepts can be described efficiently in specifications. The validation of these ones can be transferred to a tester after a quick knowledge transfer with the UX expert. We are talking here about the main style guide rules, which should be part of the non-regression tests.

By transferring these validation tasks to the Testers, the UX expert will have more time to validate the new developments or complex interfaces. The best is to follow a shift left approach and to involve the UX expert as early as possible in the project. I recommend to conduct quick reviews of the new developments directly on the developer’s station and to involve the UX expert during the next validation phases (FAT, UAT).

This way you will ensure that your application is aligned with the requirements described in the style guide and your UX expert will have enough time to validate the usability of the new developments.

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    *Opinions expressed on this blog reflect the writer’s views and not the position of the Sogeti Group