Testers working for nothing – why you should not go into testing as a career

Often Business Analysts will see in their job description the act of testing. True heavy testing requires special skills that do not tie in well with good Business Analysts skills.

Business Analysts often need to get out and communicate with a variety of people and dig beneath the surface of conversations to find the true requirements / processes.

Testing however relies on the information presented from the Business Analyst along with other documents and  industry standards to validate the work done. Testers effectively thrive in an atmosphere where communicating with a variety of people is not required.

While small amounts of testing such as a minor enhancement can be covered by a BA, care must be taken if the BA role requires more than that as it will weaken your BA skills over time.

Maybe the above is not enough to dissuade you from heading down a testing career path from your BA role but two trends should discourage you from heading into testing as a career:

1 – Outsourcing

Recently I saw a corporation completely outsource their Testing Department. Part of the reason behind this is the theory that the size of a testing department varies according to the work being done. A vendor was considered a better solution to handling the waves of work as opposed to having staff on hand.

2 – Testing for nothing in hope of potential rewards

This is the most worrying concern for anybody involved in testing. It looks like a Silicon Valley startup has ditched paying testers a wage. Testers have to compete to win cash by being the first to identifying bugs / issues that nobody else has identified. If they are not the first then they get nothing for their efforts. The prizes are also so small that only someone living in a country overseas could justify the risk of time and effort for little to no reward.

Responsive Design – the past repeats itself and when you should not bother about it

Google has been sending out emails to websites advising that the web site position in Google search results will be negatively impacted if the website fails to implement responsive design.

Google’s argument is that they want to serve their customers the content that is most viewable on the device being used by the customer. Responsive design being that the website adjusts itself to the screen size of the device being used.

All of the above is the past repeating itself. The print industry has been dealing with this for years.

If you traveled through airports back before e readers, there were lots of small bookstores selling books. Most of the books for sale were of a certain size – the small paperback. Book size was dictated by limited shelf space in the store and what travelers were willing to carry with them on the plane.

Like Google, the bookstore would not stock your book (as in appear in Google search results) if it did not meet their size criteria unless you were some incredible author (book guaranteed to be wanted by travelers no matter the size). Readers were less likely to buy your book if it was larger as it was more hassle to carry around.

However if you were the author of a coffee table size book, you did not care about the getting into the airport bookstores as that was not your market.

Big companies like to be everywhere on the web since they need to maintain brand recognition / market share / income. They also have a large budget to handle the design challenges responsive design creates. For some reason, however, big company still are not able to implement smooth Responsive Design.

Looking at the facts –  BBC.com recently changed their website and introduced moving click points and lengthier navigation (top menu items now moved to sub menu). ABCnews.go.com prevents the user from being able to pinch zoom on their pages. These are just some of the many examples out there of issues with responsive design implemented by large companies.

With large companies failing to implement responsive design well where does that leave the little guy who has the much smaller budget and the less brand recognition?

To answer the above question we first have to consider some others:

1 – Are the people visiting your website likely to be on mobile devices now or in the future?

If you answered yes, then you have to weigh up the % of mobile visitors against the cost of supporting them. Basically, can you afford to lose the mobile visitors if google no longer promotes you?

2 – Does your brand need to increase market share?

Can you afford for your website not to be listed in the mobile search as it will reduce the amount of instances that your brand is visible? If you are trying to build up your brand, the loss of presence in mobile search could negatively impact you especially if a competitor’s brand is present while yours is not. But then again, maybe you are the coffee table size book author and it does not matter. Or you are leveraging other channels such as YouTube / Facebook so losing on mobile search is no big deal.

3 – Will I lose significant revenue if my web site is not found in mobile search?

Does the effort justify the cost. For e-commerce sites, being mobile friendly is almost a requirement but for content sites this is debatable. Do people really want to read the news / advice on the screen of a small telephone.

If you have to go down the responsive path on a limited budget, probably the best bet is to find a vendor that has already developed the web site software to support your web site. For content, Word Press now has themes that are responsive.

Don’t expect a magic wand solution to responsive design as even with off the shelf packages there will probably be something not quite right.

In the long term, screen size will become stable as consumers decide what works and what does not and will chose to purchase the most useful mobile devices. When that happens, the software solutions will be robust and the whole Google conversation on penalizing those that do not implement responsive design will be part of history.

No Product or Service reviews leads to lost income.

February 2, 2015 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Business Analyst Skills, ecommerce, ROI 

Previously I have talked about the handling of Negative Reviews online but what about if you have no reviews?

If you are releasing a product or service be it new or updated, it is unacceptable after a week to not have any online reviews be they good or bad in the major channels of distribution for product or in the lead review sites for businesses such as “Yelp” or “Foursquare”. Having no reviews can be worse than having bad reviews as it means nobody has considered there to be a need to either compliment or complain. If your competitors have lots of reviews, it makes your Product or Service drop down into the also ran category.

When planning to bring your Product or Service to market there should always be a task included to get reviews published as quickly as possible. Even ongoing the reviews should be maintained for freshness.

Not that I am suggesting that you personally populate the reviews but there should be a grassroots effort to have people provide reviews by reaching out to those that have used or purchased the product/service and getting the press involved via press releases.

If nothing else, reviews can give you valuable feedback on Product or Service issues you are not aware of allowing you to improve and thus make more sales.

Think about it this way. When a new restaurant or club comes into being, the press and VIPs are invited to come to the opening to generate buzz. The next day the press will hopefully publish glowing reviews and in today’s twitter / Facebook world the VIPs will also talk about their experience. Your Product or Service needs a similar public relations treatment.

2 failings in ecommerce that cause lost sales!

November 17, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Business Analyst Skills, ecommerce, ROI, UX / UI, Web Sites 

How well is your company managing it’s ecommerce?

The following two examples show areas where sales can be lost.

Today I came across 2 failures in ecommerce that should not happen but companies allow to happen.

1 – Online sales feature that is not available.
2 – Failure to respond to negative comments about your products.

Online sales feature not available
Today I tried to change my cell phone plan online with the company I currently have. This morning and afternoon, I was told that “We’re sorry. Change plan is not available online at this time.” How many more times will I try before I start to look at other companies to provide my cell phone service. This failure to provide a feature online at best might cause dissatisfaction with the company but at worst it gives me time to start looking at the competitors offerings which may tempt me to switch to another company! Companies cannot afford to have software that is part of the sales pipeline not functioning. It is truly like the sales pipeline has a hole in it that is leaking sales.

Negative reviews on products
Online I see two kinds of product management.

  • People behind the products respond appropriately to reviews
  • Negative reviews are left with no response
  • As a buyer online, there is no salesperson to offset the negative reviews left online nor to complement the nice reviewers. This means sales can be lost if buyers are presented with negative feedback on the review. Sales is about overcoming objections to the purchase, unfortunately with ecommerce reviews I can end up with more objections to buying an item than when I started the purchase process. It is important that your company has someone responding to reviews so that you do not loose valuable sales.

    UX, UI and Usability – 3 Components that affect Product Greatness

    Today I am going to discuss the Hot Topic of User Interaction since it seems to cause many companies problems.

    Looking at the main components of User Interaction, we have:

    3-Parts-Of-Usability

    UX, UI and Usability. The 3 components of good interaction design.

    UX (User Experience) – This is the catch all for the user experience with your product that has not been covered by your personal User Interface definition (UI). It is all encompassing. Things like color, texture, speed, efficiency, reliability, words, fonts etc. can fall into this bucket. Depending on what your product does, the list could be vast.

    UI (User Interface) – This is interface between the user of your product (may not always be human – think dog door) and the product itself. Depending on how well you understand the users, the interface may be great or a complete miss. UI can be built without any consideration for UX since at the end of the day by definition, UI enables a user to interact with a product. To explain the previous sentence, think of a Light Switch. Your office may have light switches that are all the color red. If I give you a white light switch to replace a red one, it is still a valid UI solution since it can be used to turn lights on and off but from an overall UX perspective I have just changed the color to not match any of the other light switches.

    Usability – Different users will have different usability needs. A cat door will not work with a large dog but may work with a small dog. Understanding the needs of your users will influence the User Interface. A misunderstanding here could lead to a UI that is only partly successful. In the perfect world, the UI should be a perfect match for the needs of the users.

     

    UX-Good-Design-Components

    Good Interaction Design means that the UI (User Interface) and the users that will use it are a great match and overall the interface creates a great UX (User Experience).

    When we look at a well designed product be it software, web site or a physical product like a Dog Door certain things are evident:

    1. The User Interface ties in perfectly with the User of the product requirements.
    2. The Product looks and feels great to the user and the UI dovetails nicely into the UX.

     

    UX-Bad-Design-Components

    Bad UX means that the User Interface does not match the requirements of the Users and the overall UX is not great.

    If we look at bad interface design it has missed the needs of the users and the overall user experience beyond the user interface is not great.

    Why do we end up with bad interface design?

    1. Expectation that the person designing the User Interface (UI) understands the current needs of the users that will be using the product. Just because someone is able to build a UI that does not mean they understand the users that will be using the end product. Think of the light switch example given previously.
    2. Not building a new UI when it is not working or significantly changing the UI to meet the needs of the current users or new users without research.
    3. Usability requirements incomplete or the users of the product not understood. You could come up with a great touch screen application for use in food factories only to find out that they cannot have the glass of the touch screen on the factory floor because of contamination risks to the food product if the glass was to break in an accident!
    4. No research done with users to get their feedback on UI / UX / Usability before or after the product is created.
    5. Cost cutting done at the expense of Usability / UX i.e. the focus being on getting the UI released at all costs.

    How to create good interfaces?

    1. Understand your users in detail.
    2. Work with experts that know how to establish the important interface requirements to meet the user needs.
    3. Track the user experience before and after the product is released to pinpoint problems.
    4. Don’t rely on the UI person to do the UX and Usability or to even have the skills to do this analysis.
    5. Leverage interfaces that have already established good Usability / UX and modify them to meet your product’s needs – Don’t reinvent the wheel unless your product further enhances Usability / UX and you have proven that with research.

     

    etrailer.com personal touch in E-Commerce email communication

    Purpose of this post is to share how the use of a name in customer contact can bring a more human touch to ecommerce and raise your company above others in terms of perceived quality.

    Too often companies can treat E-Commerce transactions like the purchase of a product at a cheap store where the check out assistants have no personality.

    etrailer.com pleasantly surprised me with my recent orders through them and the email communication I received.

    Instead of the bland email advising me of the status of my order along with a generic support number, etrailer.com provided me at points in their communications with an email to a specific person.

    This gave their E-Commerce operation a more human touch and thus a shopping experience a step above the generic response.

    However, it should be noted that in the 5 emails I received from them in regards to my purchase, the communication did vary on the personal touch and the communication details. This is something that etrailer.com may want to consider from a standards point of view.

    As I did not use their customer support team, I cannot vouch for how effective they are or if even the people that contacted me do exist (could be that it is computer generated names).

    Listed below in the order they were received are the methods of response back to etrailer.com that I was advised that I could use – (note: I ** out part of the email addresses to limit spam to etrailer):

    1 – Receipt of order – with a link to their customer contact information page.

    1507 East Highway A
    Wentzville, MO 63385
    636 887 9300
    Contact Us

    2 – Order Status on same day as receipt of order advising of possible delay (note lack of extension number in phone compared with communication #3).

    If you have any questions, you can reach me at 1-800-298-8924

    Thanks,

    George J
    geor***@etrailer.com

    3 – Order Status 7 days later (note this time an extension number is provided)

    Please email or call 1-800-298-8924 ext. 333 if you have any other questions.

    Thank you,

    Cole S.
    col**@etrailer.com
    1-800-298-8924 ext 333
    636-887-9333

    Online at http://www.etrailer.com

    4 – Notification that order has shipped (note that email now refers to generic customer service but name still provided – which makes me think it is computer generated)

    If you have any questions you can reach me directly at  or (800) 298-8924
    extension  or by email at cs@etrailer.com

    Thanks,

    George J
    cs@etrailer.com

    5 – Post shipment follow up (note that everything is generic now and no email provided)

    As always, feel free to call us at 1-800-298-8924 if you have any questions or
    if there is something we can help with.

    Thanks,

    Patrick B