Article in TEST!

I have an article in this month’s TEST magazine called: Keep the User in Mind. You can find it on their website here, but I will paste the text below, also. Also in the March issue, they are running the completed “High Tech in High Heels” series from this blog, so keep an eye out! I am very excited to contribute to this awesome magazine.

Keep the user in mind

Devon Smith* QA Lead at Agora Games LLC in New York says you need to keep the user in mind, especially as you approach release time.

It’s late on the last day of testing and your eyes are a little blurry from some last minute verifications. Your bug list is longer than you expected, and the coffee in the break room is long since burnt. Everyone is ready for you to sign off and you can hardly remember why that final test really matters. After the meetings have been held, requirements agreed upon, and countless lines of code written and implemented, QA testing can seem like a roadblock to the exciting part – the great release. But it is exactly in that moment, with a stale cup of coffee in your hand and one last run through to do on the software, that you most need to remember who you answer to: the user.

Each team has different priorities in a release, and sometimes, that leaves Quality Assurance pulled in a lot of different directions. On one side there are the project manager’s deadlines, on another are ambiguities in the requirements document, and on still another is the cool new engineering solution the developers are trying out. Working between the different departments is part of what makes QA challenging and interesting. Understanding and balancing the motivations and needs of each team helps us to do a better job, but the people we really need to understand are the users. We need to understand them to recognize the limitations of the software, to know how business goals will be met, and to appreciate how real people will use the fancy designs and complex solutions. That is our angle. Our goal is to focus on the user. Keeping the user in mind while we test helps keep us rooted in the real world, helps us to stay focused, and helps us deliver that quality release.

We may verify everyone elses’ work, but the users verify ours. They keep us accountable. Often, we are encouraged to test in a hurry, keep our bug counts high, and track the severity of our defects. Those are just outward measures of what is really important. On that last night of testing, when debugging and manual tests seem endless, remember that you are the last stop between the software and the user. It is not about the bug counts, or documents or deadlines – it is about watching out for the users, who truly are the final sign off on quality.

*Devon Smith is the QA Lead at Agora Games LLC in New York. She has been working in software testing for three years, has a bachelors degree from the University of Washington in Seattle and worked at Sun Microsystems before coming to Agora. Her feature, High tech in high heels appears in the March issue of T.E.S.T magazine.


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