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.

2 reasons to think physical product when designing Web UI

February 22, 2015 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Business Analyst Skills, UX / UI, Web Sites 

Previously I have talked about tactile feedback in good product design. Today I want to suggest that anytime you design an interface you think of a physical product.

Why has this come about?

With the easy availability of touch screens, any web page is effectively a physical product as opposed to the days when we were limited to point and click via a mouse.

Some of you may argue that this is already being handled by having mobile versions of your web pages or mobile applications. This however does not take into consideration the larger touch screens that are coming into play as monitors or even when a user decides to browse your regular web site via their Tablet device. Some web sites are also assuming the network / server speed and graphic processing power will be able to cope with large pages (size in kb)without impact to the user but this is not the case.

Too illustrate the point of two bad touch interface design for a web site I will transfer the problems to a physical laptop.

1 – Laptop keys move around when laptop lid initially opened and every time a page button is clicked

Nobody is going to buy a laptop where the keys move as you try to use them but for some reason large web site owners such as CNN.com (page moves up by a row once it has finished loading) / abcnews.go.com + autotrader.com (banner advert expands and pushes page down) expect that users of their web sites will put up with this when the user opens a web page.

Why does this happen:

A – We see examples where banner adverts bounce page text up and down so when a user tries to select a link or read an article they are stuck with a moving target. In the worst case, the banner advert expands for a short while and then shrinks giving a user a double hit on a moving web page.

B – Web page has become bloated and parts of style sheet is loaded last meaning the layout location of some web page elements will move after the page has been presented to the user.

Page below initially loads without banner advert.

Bad UI - Banner advert causing web page moving text

Bad UI – Banner advert causing web page moving text

 

Then the banner advert appears pushing text on page down.

Bad UI - Banner advert causing web page moving text

Bad UI – Banner advert causing web page moving text

 

2 – Laptop keys made incredibly small that you can’t be sure which key is pushed.

Yet again, nobody is going to want really small keys on their laptop but we still see this on some web sites. Mainly it still crops up in paging where the site still focuses on using a small number to allow the user to select next pages. These small numbers are hard to touch accurately with your finger and even with a mouse it requires some dexterity.

www.Realtor.com is an example of this.

Difficult to select web links

Difficult to select web links

When designing for the web, think beyond the actual web page.

Ask yourself how well would the user interface on this web page work if the UI was part of a physical object such as  the keyboard on a laptop?

 

Four components to measuring success of your product / release.

Whatever you are working on will eventually end up with a new or updated product being released. Prior to that release date, consideration should be given to how to measure success.

There are four components to measuring success:
1 – Determine what is to be measured.
What is the new or improved product supposed to achieve? Hopefully you already know the answer to this prior to even starting development.
A business should have clearly defined goals as to what is expected via the release of the new or improved product. These goals should be quantifiable in a mathematical way even if you have to hire a PHD mathematician to determine the formula that quantifies it.

Examples:
a – Game averages 1000 downloads per day over a 3 month period.
b – LED Lightbulb increases market share for our brand over others.
c – New website design increases revenue from marketing and attracts more visitors.

2 – Identify Channels to supply the measurement information.
Now that you know what you plan to measure for success, the next question is where to get this information from?
Channels of information can come in many different ways:
a – Data could be collected from social media site such as Facebook to see how many positive comments a new product gets.
b – Sales information could be tracked from online and physical stores.
c – Surveys could be performed on potential and actual customers.
d – Certain key words/phrases could be searched on in the Search Engines.

3 – Integrate and absorb the data from the Channels.
Once the source of the measurements has been identified, the next step is the actual integration of this data into your reporting system so that it can be sliced and diced to provide the measurement of success reports. Your PHD mathematician may also be needed here to weight the data accordingly so that no one channel skews the results unrealistically.

4 – Present the success data to the consumers.
Finally with all the data, reports can be designed / generated or data outputted for consumption by those who will make the determination that the goals have been achieved. At this point knowing who the consumers of the information is becomes critical as you need to present the data in a format that the consumers can understand and consume. You may need to engage UI/UX experts at this point if the presentation is using new technology so that they can help design the presentation.

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.

    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

    Are you losing money by not monitoring how your customers are using your product?

    July 13, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
    Filed under: Business Analyst Skills, ROI, Web Sites 

    If you have a product that customers use to reach other customers have you considered the ramifications should customers start to use it in unexpected if not undesirable ways.

    The outcome here can be both positive and negative.

    Think Craigslist.org – they came under the spotlight at one time because people started to use their software to sell sex and in some cases it involved trafficking of people. I am sure that the founders of Craigslist did not foresee this unfortunate outcome of their useful product. Gun manufacturers fall into the same issue with people using their weapons to commit crime.

    Alternatively if you monitor how your customers are using your product you may find opportunities to expand beyond your original mission statement. Anecdotal story was that at one point, students at a university were taking the milk / bread crates from grocery stores to make dorm furniture at a university in Ohio. It got so bad that stores had to start arresting the crate thieves. Now some smart person at the company that made the crates realized they could sell them to the students and make some money. The rest is history.

    It is important to keep track of how your product is being used by customers:

    • It can prevent damage to your brand.
    • It can provide a possible new revenue stream.

    Jeep.com almost misses the mark

    As I have talked in the past about the importance of web sites working, it was sad to see that Jeep.com failed a simple test.

    Today I went out and typed in various parameters for the build of a new Jeep. Just in case Jeep.com is reading this article I will be specific in what I chose:

    • 2014 Wrangle Unlimited Rubicon
    • Bright White clear coat
    • Max Tow Package
    • Automatic with 4.10 axle ratio
    • Premium Black Sunrider soft top
    • Interior – default

    So where does it fail.

    Initially there are no exact matches with 25 miles of my Zip code of 30301.

    I bump the search area up to 200 miles and now I am getting told of an exact match.

    However when I click the link to view the vehicles via a popup page and then click on vehicle details such as powertrain they do not match – it gave me manual transmission after I had selected automatic – it seems from a quick scan that the details just shows the standard vehicle information before the changes I applied.

    Jeep.com saves itself via one link on this vehicle details popup page – When I go to print off the “Window Sticker” it shows how Jeep.com was able to claim the exact match. All the details of the vehicle I am looking for is listed in that “Window Sticker”

    My recommendation to Jeep.com – make “View Vehicle”  details actually represent the details of the vehicle being shown or ditch those details from the page as they cause user confusion. If it was not for the window sticker, the web site would have truly missed the mark.

    It is important that features of a web site or application actually present the information a user expects.

     

    When selling changing products, filters have to be continually reviewed – BestBuy.com example

    The other day I was looking for a new laptop computer on BestBuy.com and I have to say with all the features on a laptop computer, this is one of those tougher filter opportunities for companies to present the choices.

    If you look at the basic purpose of the filter, it is to allow a user to filter the results displayed on screen to be exactly or as close to what they desire to see. In terms of ecommerce web store fronts, this ability to give the customer what they are looking for, can make or break a sale.

    Now if you look at the complexities of computer purchase, this can get into a very difficult situation. There is a reason why people can get a degree in being a librarian. Content Taxonomy is dedicated to providing content in a way that users can find what they are looking for. In this case, the Content Taxonomists have to consider the filter terms for each possible variation in a computer, the Tech guys have to build a system that can cope with all the filters applied and the UX guys have to find room on the screen to display the choices.

    Overall I think BestBuy.com does a great job with a Laptop search however there are some opportunities for improvement.

    I am going to use an example of what I found when looking on BestBuy.com for a Laptop and what additional filters could be added:

    1 – Ability to select SSD instead of standard disks since Solid State Drives are becoming more common.

    2 – Battery life expectancy – since some laptops will put in 8+ hours but others will not even be close

    3 – Weight for ultraportable is set to one value (around 5.4 lbs) even though laptops can be almost 1/2 this weight today

    4 – Graphic Card MB is important but not an option to filter by

    The above is just some samples of how product changes can render an existing filter list short of choices. BestBuy.com has done a good job at staying with the trends “Touch Screen”; “Blu-ray player” to name just a few filters they have added as products change.

    A company that is selling changing technology has to continually review their products to see if new filters will need to be created and old filters removed to maintain a strong ecommerce shopping experience.

     

    World First IPhone / Ipod Touch Interactive Visual Poll

    August 5, 2009 by · Leave a Comment
    Filed under: General News, Web Sites 

    So here it is, last night, Agust 4th 2009 I created the World’s first Visual Interactive Poll for the IPhone / Ipod Touch . IPhone / Ipod Touch Users can drag and drop the Poll Subject to their response and then the IPhone / IPod Touch will prompt the IPhone / IPod Touch user with a question asking them why they chose that particular choice.

    All of the Interactive Visual Polls at www.LoveOpinions.com are IPhone / IPod Touch friendly. IPhone / Ipod Touch user does not have to download any software since it is all done using Web 2.0 technology.

    So if you have an IPhone or IPod Touch, give them a try. Just remember to use one finger to do the poll.

    What is also so great about www.LoveOpinions.com is that the Interactive Visual Polls are built using my own proprietary WEB 2.0 GUI software that allows me to build them from any desktop PC or MAC that has a WIFI connection.

    This truly is the future of Interactive Polling