This post is all about something that has been starting to bug me and it has been bugging me for quite a while. I have been quiet about this and have started the conversation with different people at random and now it is finally time I just say my piece. Yes this is soap box time and so I am just going to unload here. If you don’t like this kind of post, I promise to be more joyful and uplifting next month but this month I am going to lay it out there and it just might sound a bit harsh.
I come from the development community with over 25 years I have spent on the craft and originally I got there because I was tired of the bad workflows and interfaces that people who thought they understood how accounting should work, just did not. I implemented a system that changed my workload from 12 hour days plus some weekends to getting everything done in 10 normal days. Needless to say I worked my way out of a job, but that was okay because that led me to opportunities that really allowed me to be creative. You would think that with a track record like that I should be able to design very usable software and be a developer, right?
Turns out that being a developer has given me developer characteristics and that is that we are a bit geeky. As a geeky person, you tend to like having massive control and clicking lots of buttons, but this might not be the best experience for a user that is just trying to get their job done. I once made the mistake of asking my wife, who was the Product Owner of a little product that we were building, what the message should be when they confirm that they want to Save a Student. Her remarks threw me off guard for a moment when she asked why do I need a save button? I made the change so just save it, don’t have a button at all.
Okay, so far all I have enlightened you with is that I am not always the best designer and that is why I have gate keepers like my wife who remind me every so often that I am not thinking about the customer. However, I have noticed that many businesses have been doing a revamping of their websites with what looks like a focus on mobile. I get that but the end result is that it is harder for me to figure out how to use their site and somethings that I was able to do before are just not possible anymore. You can tell right away that the changes were not based on how a customer might interact with the site, I don’t think the customer was even considered.
One rule that I always try to follow and this is especially true for an eCommerce site is that you need to make it easy for the customer if you want them to buy. Some of the experiences that I have had lately almost leave you convinced that they don’t want to sell their products or do business with me. For some of these I have sought out different vendors because the frustration level is just too high.
That leads right into my second peeve in that no one seems to test this stuff. Sure the developer probably tested their work for proper functionality and there might have even been a product owner who understood the steps he needed to take after talking to the developer and proved to him or herself that the feature was working properly. That is not testing my friend, both of these groups of people test applications the very same way, it’s called the Happy Path. No one is thinking about all the ways that a customer may expect to interact with the new site. Especially when you have gone from an older design to the new one, ah, no one thought of that and now your sales numbers are falling because no one knows how to buy from you.
Testers have a special gene in their DNA that gives them the ability to think about all the ways that a user may interact with the application and even attempt to do evil things with it. You want these kind of people on your side, it is best to find it while it is still under development than having a customer find it and worse yet you get hacked which could really cost you financially as well as trust.
In my previous post “Let the Test Plan tell the Story” I laid out the purpose of the test plan. This is the report that we can always go back to and see what was tested and how much of it was tested and so on. I feel that the rush to get a new design out the door is hurting the future of many of these companies because they are taking the short cuts of not designing these sites with the customer in mind and eliminating much of the much needed testing. At least that is how it seems to me, my opinion.