Archive for September, 2009

Quick Usability Hints

Thursday, September 24th, 2009 by The Director

Here are some things to complain about if your Web site under test doesn’t conform: 10 Useful Usability Findings and Guidelines.

(Via the Twitterverse.)

They Said Make It Big

Wednesday, September 23rd, 2009 by The Director

A case of the mouseover image not matching the plain image at the Webster Groves (Missouri) city Web site.  Wax off:

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Wax on:

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You know how you catch your inattentive designer in this case?  You mouse over the images.  There.  That’s the hidden secret.

But, Director, there are many images on the site!

Mouse over them all.  What, do you think you’ve got something better to do today?  Something more important than making sure the thing is right?

You say “ArmageddON”, I Say “ArmageddEN”

Tuesday, September 22nd, 2009 by The Director

Maybe that’s overstating the dark portents, but here are 7 signs your UI was designed by developers.

It says “The”, but you know there are other omens.  Stacking dialog boxes 4 or 5 deep is a particular peeve of mine.

Another sign: Misspellings everywhere.  Or swapping normal button order, so Cancel is to the left and OK is to the right (although that’s also a sign that you’re hep on a Macintosh, too.)

(Via the Twitterverse.)

Trending in the Wrong Direction

Tuesday, September 22nd, 2009 by The Director

My Web hosting solution makes things look worse than they are:

Trending down!  Quick, do something rash!
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You know what I like to see better than declining Web traffic?  A buggy report displaying a graph that’s supposed to be read right to left.

World Record For Typos In Ad Recruiting QA?

Monday, September 21st, 2009 by The Director

Could this be the world record in typos in an ad recruiting for quality assurance people?

At least they spelled QA right.
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Given that the recruiter misspelled 3 of 50 words, that’s a 92.5% success rate.  Acceptable!

Also, note the hourly rate: $27-33.  Don’t be fooled.  That’s -6.  He expects you to pay him six dollars an hour for the privilege of acting as his personal spell check.

Ha! Missed One!

Monday, September 21st, 2009 by The Director

Here’s a Guinness e-mail that is almost perfect, but I’ve found the one heading image alt text that does not match the image text:

I'd like to play Memory against the guy who thinks these match.  For money.
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It would appear the copy writer and the designer are not on the same page, the production person doesn’t care, and nobody does quality assurance.

I could understand the reverse, where the design team might have truncated it a bit for space reasons, but to use more characters?  Maybe to fill space on the image better.

I can’t even guess why it happened.  I only know it did.

I Am the Jan Harold Brunvand of Software Development

Friday, September 18th, 2009 by The Director

Urban Jungle asks if it’s an urban legend that QA hates you.

I supply that answer.  Almost every day.

Thanks to Damian for the pointer.

Keep That Number Handy

Friday, September 18th, 2009 by The Director

I hate esoteric error messages that include numbers that are not relevant to the user:

Maybe you should print out this page for your records, too.
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Keep your debug info to yourself, hey?

Playing Hide The Unsubscribe Link

Thursday, September 17th, 2009 by The Director

In this ABC television e-mail, take a quick look at the standard footer verbiage.  Notice anything?  I’ll put arrows in for you:

That's not an unsubscribe link; that's just text!
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Huh, what are the odds?  The links to unsubscribe and to manage one’s account (unsubscribe!) are styled like plain text, even though a link to view the content on the Web is styled, right above them, like a hyperlink.

Accident, or plain good marketing?  And by “plain good marketing,” I mean “tricks designed to keep our opt-in numbers high.”

I Think It Has Something To Do With Eric Clapton

Monday, September 14th, 2009 by The Director

An undefined variable:

Pluck Envy?
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Don’t know what pluck_env is?  I think that’s your regular Guitar Hero-playing developer’s relationship vis-à-vis Eric Clapton.

Pluck envy, you see.  Crikey, it’s not as funny when I have to explain it.

Burned Out and Handling Burn Out

Friday, September 11th, 2009 by The Director

Let’s face it, this is a thankless, ultimately heartbreaking profession, QA.  Personally speaking, I’m very passionate about quality and about making everything right.  It gnaws at my craw when management ships flawed product or dismisses too facilely concerns I bring up.  As such, I suffer from burn out.  A lot.  I’ve found that about three years is the maximum I’ve worked in a position so far.  At that time, I start thinking Is this the job I want to have for the next 20 years?  I evaluate where the company is going and where I am going and determine whether I want to try something else or if I want to work anywhere else.

This all comes from reading Art Wittman’s “‘I’d Rather Work Anywhere Else’” essay about burn out.

You know how burn out feels.  A sort of listlessness, a bit of restlessness, and a certain impotence, a dash of I don’t care that’s particularly disabling in QA staff.  You doubt you’re having an impact and begin staring at things which aren’t the application under test.  You stop looking for more ways to improve your effort and your contribution and focus on willing the minute and hour hands counterclockwise.

So I find something new to do within the company, some reason to stick around, or I get out (note to Mr. Wittman: we’re not machinists here; there is no gee, I’m glad I have a job gratefulness when you’re burnt out).

Now, burn out exists and can recognize the signs in ourselves and others.  You can take certain steps as a manager to help prevent your charges from burning out:

  • Keep communications open from top to bottom. Burning out can come from no longer feeling excitement about your employer as much as work.  Your company should talk straight about its business challenges and prospects and not try to hide troubles or try to convince the employees that the big announcements from the pipeline are perpetually next week.  What passes for optimism sometimes is mere dishonesty to the burning out.  In the cases where it’s not just mere dishonesty.
  • Keep the political crap off of your employees.  I’ve mentioned this before as part of my management style.  That is: make sure that you’re the one intercepting useless timelines or misplaced criticism from your employees.  They don’t need project managers riding them about failing to find defects, for example, or customer account people coming to them to ask them to look at their potential clients.  They need to know you’re the guy in charge and will handle any static so they can do the fun things, like breaking things and reducing people to tears.
  • Keep the job varied.  You know how fun the Monday night: meatloaf; Tuesday night: spaghetti; Wednesday night: pot roast; Thursday night: Hamburger Helper; and Friday night: leftovers menus were?  Yeah, take a look at what you’re asking your people to do.  If it’s Monday: smoke testing; Tuesday: running financial test scripts; Wednesday: running account management test scripts; Thursday: retesting and reopening defects; and Friday: status meeting and writing new test scripts for the defect fix that passed, you’re going to find a lot of people taking long lunches with ties on.
  • Keep the employee learning.  As part of keeping the job varied, make sure that your people are learning new things.  Getting smarter feels good and gives one self-respect.  Doing the same thing over and over again, and they might as well be working on the assembly line.
  • Reward the employee. You need to do something to make sure the employee feels appreciated.  Aside from atta boys.  Aside from office store trinkets and certificates.  You need to get your people raises, bonuses, extra days off, or something tangible to show the company really, fiscally appreciates them.  Regardless of the economy, regardless of how the company is doing this quarter, your people need to feel they’re appreciated.  Because they’re here now, and if you expect them to keep being here at the same salary with additional responsibilities, you’d better make sure they’re not spending their afternoons looking over the salary surveys and compensations for similar titles.

Personally, my cure for corporate burnout was to become an independent consultant, where I flit from job to job and project to project before the corporate culture can get me down.  But that’s not an option for a lot of people.

It Gave Me The Joy of QA

Wednesday, September 9th, 2009 by The Director

Pepsi Canada’s Joymeter is rife with what I assume is the Canadian language.  Here in the United States, we’d call it rife with grammar and spelling errors.

Handwritten spelled with a hyphen:

Maybe that's a minus sign, not a hyphen.

Here’s a run-on sentence:

Maybe the two distinct sentences are sharing a single period.

On one hand, this is not a run-on sentence; on the other hand, it’s a comma splice:

Well, the comma is near the period on the keyboard.

Being Canadian, they naturally spell things with an “eh”:

A natural variant spelling.  In the colonial period.

Missing the serial comma here.  And the apostrophe.  But the apostrophe is missing from most messages.

No comma, no apostrophes.  For space reason.

Additionally, the Joyous Word widget has a little problem with displaying the information panel; if you place your mouse cursor just to the left of the little i, it flickers or displays nothing at all:

It's not a spelling problem.

Here’s a tip: when you’re testing a gee-whiz, pointless, and ultimately foolish Flash presentation that your interactive agency tells you will be the greatest thing evah! and builds you something it wants to build to please its creatives and impress its peers but that will not attract repeat visits or please consumers, make sure you read the words.

I Love To Burst Your Bubble

Tuesday, September 8th, 2009 by The Director

From the slideshow accompanying this story, we find how one company makes its office into a dance floor:

Employee Nick Miyate demonstrated the red light and bubble machine that turns on whenever an engineer fixes a software error, or “build break.”

Some companies I worked for, we would have gotten nothing done under nothing but red lights and all of our computers would have eventually suffered from bubble exposure.

I take it to mean that they activate it only when someone breaks a nightly build and fixes it and not when a developer fixes any old software defect.  If it does, the bubble machine usage could be deployed sparingly if:

  1. They don’t have QA and only defects the software engineers find are logged and fixed.  That is to say, about six per release.
  2. They do have QA, and all defects except six per release are logged by QA but resolved in the defect tracker to won’t fix, not reproducible, obsolete, not a bug, or all of the other resolutions designed to handle defects without troubling the “engineers.”

We handle this sort of thing not to dissimilarly, by the way.  Whenever an engineer “fixes” a defect, we laugh bubbly at him and reopen it.

Link Dump from My Open Tabs II

Monday, September 7th, 2009 by The Director

Another machine yields this set of open tabs:

  •  The Good Enough Revolution. When Cheap and Simple Is Just Fine.  This is why the rest of your organization sees QA as superfluous at best: because the dominant culture has become tolerant of failure.
  • Testing Vs. Checking.  This is an important consideration.  You could probably use some of both on your team, with the checkers being the people your organization wants you to hire for the same salary as grocery store checkers.
  • Programmers Top 10 Sentences.  This is just to the general public; if it were a list specifically to QA, it would include classics as “Did you clear your cache?”, “That will be fixed in the next build,” and “Could not reproduce.”
  • 5 Top Non-Technical Mistakes Made By Programmers.  Of course, crossing QA would be right up there, but arguably, that is technical.

Oddly enough, I’ve added Making Good Software to the QA Merely Dislikes list to the right.

Link Dump from My Open Tabs

Friday, September 4th, 2009 by The Director

No time for the big takedowns you expect from QAHY, but here are some links from open tabs on one of my machines:

Thanks to my Twitter friends and Software Testing Club.


I’m Considering Removing Metallica From The QA Playlist

Wednesday, September 2nd, 2009 by The Director

Based on the results of this study:

 In the study, 14 cotton-top tamarins were played 30-second blasts of music while the researchers noted any changes in their behaviour. The animals were played Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings and a soft piano piece from The Fragile by rock band Nine Inch Nails, followed by Metallica’s Of Wolf and Man and an excerpt from The Grudge by rock band Tool.

They then heard the specially composed monkey music.

The only human music that elicited any response was the heavy metal band Metallica, whose music had the unexpected effect of calming the monkeys.

There will be no calm monkeys in my QA department.

Everyone Do A Global Search And Replace RIGHT NOW

Tuesday, September 1st, 2009 by The Director

So I was at this Web blog reading a post about how Microsoft might want little ol’ me to be on its team, and I got a link to this “job posting.”

Except it wasn’t:

 One out of two is still batting .500
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What do you know?  Another error has occured.   Is this ubiquitous misspelling a part of a Microsoft library somewhere?  If so, could my loyal Microsoft readers please change it to the non-passive voice We were eating our own dog food, as you can see since we have just splugged it all over your carpet?

Put down in your best practices document, gentle reader, that a part of the build process should include an automatic global search and replace for occured and spell it correctly as occurred.

I guess that job posting is fixed now, but I’m probably not Microsoft material.

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