The Way of the Tester: 3. Become acquainted with every art.

The samurai was expected to manage his estates for his feudal lord, his daimyo, effectively but also harmoniously. Those samurai directly attacted to their daimyo’s households were also expected to manage the procurement of the range of things that a lord might be expected to have: paintings, robes, scrolls, swords, furniture and anything else you can think of. This meant that the samurai had to interact with the craftspersons who created these things; so naturally, they had to know what they were looking at, assess the quality of the work, and engage with the craftspersons over the creation of these things.

These days, a tester does not have to be quite so multi-talented. Yet it is necessary for testers to have opinions on matters of an application’s aesthetics if the app in question is intended for any general sort of user audience. UX testing in particular has to assess the usability of the app; and that has to include its aesthetic qualities. If those things are lacking, there is the risk that users will choose alternative apps, especially in commercial or consumer situations. Colourways will be important; do not forget that colour-blindness will influence how some users will see and interact with the app. Get this aspect of the UX right, and users will have good experiences of using the app; get it wrong and they will prefer alternatives.

There are other “artistic” considerations. Typeface? Some users will shun anything that uses the Comic Sans font. Page design? There are principles of layout for maximumn readability. Text? Does it read correctly? Audio? Visual media? Embedded video?

You may say that these are design or content issues; and you’d be right. Many organisations and companies don’t involve testers in that stage of the development cycle.  These things may have been set long ago, in a different part of the company, and form part of a general house style. Perhaps no-one in the IT department at all has any influence over these things; or perhaps those decisions are made by different people altogether. But a tester can still have input to the process if the choices made at the design stage impact the way that users will interact with the app. If your company is marketing an app intended for use in the education sector, for instance, it’s not a lot of good if the grammar and spelling of the textual parts of the app are wrong. It will send your potential customers entirely the wrong message.

I suppose I’m touching on the vexed question of “Is testing Quality Assurance?” Well, for some aspects of apps, “quality” isn’t just about the app being bug-free (whatever that is). It’s ultimately about the overall impact of the app; does it meet the end users’ needs? And does it satisfy their other requirements? That question crosses the boundary of the merely functional and begins to address how the app makes the user feel. Do they enjoy using the app? Does it give them pleasure as well as meeting their needs?

Japanese art and culture very often addresses the user’s aesthetic sense as well as the utility of the object itself. There is a lot to be said for that approach. And it requires those who test an app to have an awareness of the way the overall aesthetic impacts the user. Testers who are well acquainted with artistic sensibilities will have the edge here.

Source: ministry of testing
The Way of the Tester: 3. Become acquainted with every art.

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