Archive for April, 2008

Poor Form Design, Peter

Wednesday, April 30th, 2008 by The Director

Last week, I dinged ePrizes for a problem on the Caffeine promotional site. I had so much fun with it, I’d like to point out how they’ve bollixed the usability on the sweepstakes that the company is running with it.

To enter the contest, you need to register. On repeat visits, you sign in to enter again. Click the Login button at the bottom right corner of the screen. Here’s the sign in form:


How To Make Your Sweepstakes Promotion Look Like A Scam

Tuesday, April 29th, 2008 by The Director

Bayer Animal Health is running the Advantage Stay & Play contest to give you and your animals valuable prizes. However, they’ve certainly allowed for it to look suspicious.

The actual contest is handled by ePrize, but I don’t think we can handle the entirety of the campaign upon them. Someone has created a landing page for the promotion located at

Nothing makes a user feel better than seeing an IP URL
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Revel in that for a moment, friends: The interactive agency couldn’t spring for a domain name or use a subdomain of an existing site. Instead, they rely on a raw IP address.

Geez, I hope users feel insecure enough when they see that. It’s the official page, as it’s related through the e-mails ePrize sends out when you fill out the form to which you’re redirected at I couldn’t find any inkling of this promotion on the Bayer Animal Health pages themselves, which is another indicator of the level of interactive agency we’re dealing with here.

Come on, kids, spring for a domain. Otherwise, you’ll look cheap to those who know and like a Romanian who wants your identity to those who don’t.

Fixing Optional

Monday, April 28th, 2008 by The Director

A programmer waxes about great programmers:

It’s funny that non-programmers tend to perceive programmers as cocky and arrogant, when in my experience a programmer’s humility always increases with their skill. The best programmers I know are quick to admit their mistakes and trumpet their horrific learning experiences; they also tend to be some of the most cynical people I know, readily admitting to the inevitability of future catastrophic failures of their work product.

Ah, but fixing their mistakes. Therein lies the rub. In my experience, programmers often trumpet themselves as cynical and quality-minded, but point out an issue, and they’ll work hard to prove it’s your fault and then discuss the tradeoff in time and effort of actually fixing a problem. Before returning to their normally scheduled participation in the latest geek fad ancient wiseman board game.

In our experience, the best programmers are the cowed ones who are eager to please QA and avoid any of those confrontations and acrimonious lessons learned meetings that end up as lessons fading from our short term memories meetings. The ones whom you can call at six thirty in the morning and get problems fixed on production immediately, before the rest of the world knows they’re there. Not the ones who answer the phone and pass you off to the deployment specialist, who asks you to call the project manager, who tells you to call the developer, who asks if you’ve called the deployment specialist….

Reminder: Test Month Fields with September

Monday, April 28th, 2008 by The Director

A posting at DailyWTF reminds us that we should always test month edit boxes with September, especially when the user can enter 09:

See, Javascript supports octal numbers. Any number starting with a zero is octal, even if it can’t be an actual octal number. In certain languages, like Perl, trying to use a non-octal number as an octal number results in an error. In other languages, like Javascript, it silently fails.

This problem can also occur when the user selects the month from a drop-down list and converts it to a number for database purposes, so you should always test with September at least once in your testing.

That’s Probably A Good Idea

Monday, April 28th, 2008 by The Director

What we have here is a failure for [null] to log into the database:

Just saying No to [null]
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It’s less of a good idea to try and fail publicly in this manner, though.

(Link seen on Boots and Sabers.)

A Spell Checker for Code

Saturday, April 26th, 2008 by The Director

If you’re not compelling your developers to spell check their code, you’re falling down on the job.

ComponentOne is offering one that works with Microsoft Visual Studio. It runs through comments, HTML, and string constants.

Quote from the story of the product announcement:

Billy Hollis, an author and Microsoft “regional director”—one of a number of volunteers recognized by Microsoft’s Developer Platform evangelism group for technical expertise—suggested that developers should use a spell checker to improve the perceived quality of their work.

“The only way users can judge quality is [by] what they see,” Hollis explained. “If they see misspelled words, many will assume they are seeing shoddy work.” He believes that many developers depend on testers to find spelling problems that appear in the user interface and submit the spelling errors as bug reports.

Yes, indeed. And if you’re expecting QA to find all the words in all of the messages, you’re expecting more out of QA than I do.

That Cannot Be Bad News

Saturday, April 26th, 2008 by The Director

Oracle is picking up Empirix’s e-Test Suite.

The product can only get better. Of course, if anyone had picked it up, it could only get better. As you might know, gentle reader, I remain singularly unimpressed with the product.

That Could Come In Handy

Friday, April 25th, 2008 by The Director

Joe Strazzere points to a tool that looks handy: BareTail.

Some of my happiest years in testing occurred as I sat in a dark computer lab, watching a bank of monitors run automated scripts while a main monitor (19″! At the time, it was worth an exclamation point!) used the command tail to display a scrolling list of the latest entry to the test logs.

Were those happy, halcyon days because I got to work in a darkened computer lab? Because I was young and still optimistic? Or because I had the wonderful tail command?

It’s hard to say, but I did move on to other things and DOS/Windows environments without access to the joy of the command line tail, and I did become a bitter, cynical, distrusting quality assurance professional you readers all know and, well, read.

However, BareTail looks to provide the same functionality as tail with some additional Windows bells and whistles. Whereas I’ve sometimes thought of writing my own utility to do this, it looks as though I’m spared that effort. I’ve downloaded my copy and cannot wait to try it out.

Cue the renascence music, and watch for a smile on my face. Professionally, I haven’t had one for years (save for dark mirth and gallows humor), but it might happen. Might.

5 Ways To Be Effective in QA

Thursday, April 24th, 2008 by The Director

Well, no, ComputerWorld calls them 5 easy ways to commit career suicide, but I have found them to be effective techniques in establishing proper business relationships when you’re in QA. Particularly #3, Contradicting the boss in public.

I never inappropriately discharged a firearm in the presence of coworkers. I’m stuck on deciding which punchline to go with here, so you choose whichever you like best:

  • In all cases, the discharge was appropriate.
  • I wish I’d thought of it.

Put Your Back Into Your Spam

Thursday, April 24th, 2008 by The Director

Jeez, when I’m comparison shopping the quality replica watches, best online pharmacies or honeys, or places to download executables purported to be OEM software, I base much of my purchasing decision on the quality of the e-mail marketing.

And leaving the subject of the message as a variable name probably won’t convince me.

That's not a subject.
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On the other hand, you know what I would be interested in, truly? Not quality replicas, but quality assurance replicants. I’d gladly hand over the company credit card for a couple of used Nexus 6 models.

Haphazard Form

Thursday, April 24th, 2008 by The Director

So this Mylicon Pamper Your Baby sweepstakes form is obviously slapped together badly. Look at how the I accept the terms and conditions checkboxes is not marked as required and appears above the top of the form itself, including the legend indicating that the required fields are marked with an asterisk:

Poor form, Peter
Click here for full size

Let’s leave aside the fact that the form displays below what looks to be an introductory page with a button labeled Let the Pampering Begin.  Let’s leave aside the obvious logical flaw in reconfirming your e-mail address when you haven’t confirmed it a first time.  No, let’s focus on what a user would do with the form.  Like fill out the fields marked as required and click Submit. What happens? The worst possible thing, of course.

Uh oh.
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Okay, so I exaggerate. I have much worse things I can imagine than the application displays validation messages that you failed to fill out fields not marked as required, and the application uses some cookie-based system to actually hide many of the required fields that you didn’t fill out. But this is bad, regardless.  The user cannot correct his or her mistakes, and because the page uses cookies, the user cannot simply refresh the form to see all fields again.  The user must clear all cookies and then reload the form to reenter all data.  Assuming, by this time, the user wants to continue.

Pamper Your Baby? More like Make Your Users Cry Like A Baby.

On the plus side, these invaluable compromises made by the management staff trading off quality for expediency and profit probably allowed this project to come in on time and on budget, which in the interactive world tends to mean only a little late and only a little over budget.

I Hate It When I Cannot Get My Caffeine

Tuesday, April 22nd, 2008 by The Director

ePrizes, LLC, the most experienced interactive agency in the whole universe and a QAHY Hall of Fame member shows its attention to detail and strict adherence with JavaScript best coding practices on its promotional site for Caffeine, its self-service offering that lets companies build their own online promotions with just as many bugs as professionally developed ones.

However, if you click the start button on any of its pages, it pops up the Flash-based program builder and throws up an Access Denied JavaScript error:

You want the caffeine?  YOU CAN'T ACCESS THE CAFFEINE!
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Ah, well, you cannot access them all.

I told them once, I told them a thousand times (not them ePrizes, but the vast unenumerated they found in sweeping generalizations: If you’re going to sell your professional services as an Internet something, make sure your own Web site works right. It’s like when I reviewed resumes for quality positions. One spelling or grammar mistake on the resume or the cover letter, and I threw it out.


Nothing Wrong With Limiting Supported Browsers

Tuesday, April 22nd, 2008 by The Director

PayPal is going to limit the browsers that it allows to use its application:

PayPal, one of the brands most spoofed in phishing attacks, is working on a plan to block its users from making transactions from Web browsers that don’t provide anti-phishing protection.

The eBay-owned company, which runs a Web-based payment system that allows the transfer of funds between bank accounts and credit cards, said browsers that do not have support for blocking identity theft-related Web sites or for EV SSL (Extended Validation Secure Sockets Layer) certificates are considered “unsafe” for financial transactions.

“In our view, letting users view the PayPal site on one of these browsers is equal to a car manufacturer allowing drivers to buy one of their vehicles without seat belts,” said PayPal Chief Information Security Officer Michael Barrett.

In a white paper that outlines a five-pronged action plan aimed at slowing the phishing epidemic, Barrett said there’s a “significant set of [PayPal customers] who use very old and vulnerable browsers” and made it clear that any browser that falls into the “unsafe” category will be banned.

“At PayPal, we are in the process of reimplementing controls which will first warn our customers when logging in to PayPal of those browsers that we consider unsafe. Later, we plan on blocking customers from accessing the site from the most unsafe—usually the oldest—browsers,” he declared.

I don’t have a problem with limiting browser support; however, PayPal needs to provide some feedback if a user tries to visit the site with an unsupported browser.

Of course, the phishing sites will continue to support unsafe browsers, so those who fall prey to phishing–casual users who created a PayPal account in 1999 to pay for a Beanie Baby auction and haven’t kept up with their accounts or technology–will still be vulnerable to phishing attacks.

Next Step? You Cannot Perform The Next Step!

Monday, April 21st, 2008 by The Director

The crocs Next Step Campus Tour sweepstakes offers a chance for a daily entry into a sweepstakes. Amusingly, the submission success page includes a prominent link to submitting a daily entry:

The next step for the Next Step?
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It’s amusing, because you get only one entry per day, so if you click that prominent image-based link, you get a warning message. Complete, of course, with a link to perform the same operation that you just failed:

Is this the next step?  I think we know the answer!
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You know, it’s probably not a good design to limit user frustration if you constantly encourage user to do something they cannot and then taunting them for trying. This is the Lucy Holds The Football school of Internet design, and it’s about as funny as Peanuts in the 21st century.


Remember The Positive Test Cases, Too

Friday, April 18th, 2008 by The Director

Perhaps too much focus on negative testing explains this thank you page for the MicroCotton Fill Your Closet with Luxury Towels contest success page:

Is that a sidebar or important text?
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On the other hand, given that the “word count” field actually only counts spaces, producing a potentially flawed word count and allowing the application to accept only a space as input, perhaps the company didn’t test at all.

Space count, more likely.
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Geez. Don’t try to do too much, fellows, if you’re not going to do it right. Pro Bono QA For Big Companies

Tuesday, April 15th, 2008 by The Director

Another organization has fixed one of its problems found on This Cottonelle sweepstakes.

It’s good to see an interactive agency cares. By the way, if you’re in New York City, Ketchum is hiring a Quality Assurance Specialist. If that link goes stale, go to and search for it. The interface prevents you from singling out a specific job in the Ketchum Web site, and the “Send to friend” will just send you to the search page, even when you click it on a specific job posting. Slops, but that’s not Ketchum’s fault.

Developing While Color Blind

Monday, April 14th, 2008 by The Director

You know what? If your validation message says red, maybe you ought to put something in red. I’m talking to you, “Spike” TV. Here’s the form for the After Hours sweepstakes before data entry:

The form, with nothing in red.
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Now, trigger the validation message by clicking Submit without entering data:

The only thing we have to highlight in red is highlight in red itself
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The only thing highlighted in red are the words highlighted in red. Delicious irony, friends, delicious.

Remember, fonts changing color is not really the best way to do things since this will cause problems for color blind people and does not conform to Section 508 compliance best practices. Not that I would expect someone who works for “Spike” TV to know about that.

And while I’m thinking about it, what’s it with the right-aligned display values in the drop-down lists?

You Can Say That Again

Monday, April 14th, 2008 by The Director

In the Old Milwaukee You Build The Ride sweepstakes, the year in your birthday is very, very important:

Say it again, Sam.
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You know how to avoid bad validation messages, right? You trigger the conditions to make sure that the messages display, for one, and that the text within them is grammatically correct as well as actually refers to the controls with missing/bad data.

I would call it common sense, but apparently, quality isn’t common sense.

It Looks Good In Firefox

Friday, April 11th, 2008 by The Director

In a companion piece to an earlier post, we find a page that looks good in Firefox, but looks bad for 75% of Internet users. It’s the Scotts Earth Day Giveaway sweepstakes form:

Think of it as pruning the controls
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Maybe they’re just pruning the right edges of those edit boxes to ensure good root growth.

Enhancing Playability for the Color Blind

Friday, April 11th, 2008 by The Director

Many games rely on colors to distinguish good versus bad or your team versus another team; this can cause problems for the colorblind:

I’m color blind and have trouble seeing various shades; purple vs. blue, red vs. orange, green vs. red, yellow vs. orange, etc. Very few games seem to take color blindness into account. If you want to take a color blindness test, you can try one out by clicking here.

For years this wasn’t a big issue, as it normally only affected puzzle games, and I’ve come to accept it. In Bust-a-Move people normally focus on the colors, while I look at the shapes inside the balls. I’ve given up on playing Super Puzzle Fighter. I know in Luxor I’m going to occasionally shoot an orb into the wrong spot.

It might be a nice thing to bring up in your requirements meetings. I mean, it’s not required by Section 508 compliance or anything, but there’s probably a class action lawsuit waiting to happen, and your organization could get ahead of it.

(Link seen on Instapundit.)

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