Archive for December, 2009

Why Would The User Use A Native Browser Feature?

Thursday, December 31st, 2009 by The Director

I know, as a Web developer, you automatically assume that your awesome Ajaxy Web-service lovin’ application is better than anything else ever devised in the history of mankind.  Ergo, it’s impossible that you would think that a user would use something outside of your browser to perform a function that you have specifically coded into your application with all the deft, loving care you could between 4:10 and 4:30am the morning the application was scheduled to go live.

I mean, a user who is accustomed to the CTRL+P keystroke to print something, what a backward rube!

Right, Bing?

Say, for example, you need a Bing map to the Cambridge Hyatt.

Here’s that map on the computer screen:

On screen!  I typed that in my Jean-Luc Picard voice.
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Now, CTRL+P and:

That's, uh, where am I?
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Gee, that’s handy of them to tell me in a bit of text that I wasn’t doing it right, but here’s a thought: you’re not doing it right.

You need to account for things the user can do to your site with the browser.  Even if it’s just a little text marring your beautiful screen layout that says, “To print, use the icon we provided because we suck.”

Bonus points to the person who can identify the other defect with the printed map.

Overexposure

Tuesday, December 29th, 2009 by The Director

That’s what I think of this state of the Tell a Friend form on this Taster’s Choice Flash wheel o’fun:

My God, it's full of drop-down lists!
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As a reminder, your Flash applications do not sport the same basic usability behaviors that you get out of Web sites rendered in browsers or in applications built with robust development languages.

Instead, it’s going to let you expose all of your drop-down lists at the same time.  Which makes no sense, since the user can only act on one and the others clutter up the interface and obscure the text of the message.

It’s a lack of attention and a lack of QA.  Don’t let it happen to you.  Test the basic behavior of your Flash applications to make sure it conforms to what other applications do.

Teach Your Print People Well

Monday, December 28th, 2009 by The Director

Make sure you have a hand in educating the people who will handle print communications relating to your Web sites, especially the URLs.  Because someone who doesn’t understand URLs and how they work can easily make a simple mistake, like this:

Those are two different URLs.
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Note the additional period in the one.  If your user types that into the browser, the user gets a 404:

That's a big 10-404, goood buddy.
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Here are some other things that they will do to your URLs that will render them inoperative:

  • They put spaces between the words in a URL, like www.qa hates you.com.
  • They wrap URLs onto other lines by adding a hyphen that doesn’t belong, such as www.qa-
    hatesyou.com.

If you can think of any others, throw them in the comments.

Now, what can you do about it?

If you’re like me, you put the proofreaders within your organization in the QA department or task some of your people to look over marketing materials.  The same people who proof your Web copy can proof your marketing materials.  At the very least, you should take some interest in educating your copywriters and proofreaders into the nature of URLs and what they should not do to them.

Because when a user or consumer comes along and can’t reach your Web site, you know whose fault it is?  Your Web site’s.  Or your company’s.  Either way, you’re dinged.

Wait for the Mouseover

Wednesday, December 23rd, 2009 by The Director

Another design bit that gets me: divs or ads that display open before I mouseover them.  Like this thing on the front page of Lowes.com:

Its prepopped.
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The Today’s Deals panel displays over the main Flash presentation when the page loads.  At first glance, it looks as though the layout is broken.  But it’s the design that’s faulty here.

If you’re not having luck getting people to expose the panel by mousing over it, maybe you should rethink it instead of just making a mess with it.

Parse Your Own Exception, User

Tuesday, December 22nd, 2009 by The Director

An Amazon.com blog passes through an exception from one of its subcontent providers:

Hey, users are XML-consuming applications, too!
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I’ll leave it to you to play QA Quincy, MD, and figure out why this is popping up in a JavaScript alert box.  Personally, I suspect it’s debug code in production.

A Classic Tale of Users Exploiting The Kludge

Monday, December 21st, 2009 by The Director

From 2005, or, as it is known in Internet time, the world before Time, a group of people got together to defeat an unkillable monster in EverQuest and did because its immortality was a kludge.

I’m Not A Designer, But….

Friday, December 18th, 2009 by The Director

I feel qualified to ask what the designer was thinking when he put a text box with the words “1 message” in the middle of a table of images in the December Lexus e-mail:

Well, if it were two messages, I couldn't see them simultanesously, I guess.
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You know, in QA, you’re not hep to the latest gimcrackery that the designers smoke, and although they would look over their thin glasses at you if you dare, you have every right and qualification to say, “What the Niflhelm are you doing?”

Because users and consumers, even those who might consider a Lexus, are untouched by the design gods and are not capable of interpreting genius that’s demonstrated in the inscrutable or the insane.

Craftsman Experience Required; Hammering Nails, Cutting Wood, Not So Much

Thursday, December 17th, 2009 by The Director

I was reviewing this job posting, and its skills required list touched lightly upon one of my pet peeves:

 Skills:

Quality Center
Clear Quest

I hate job postings where they require detailed knowledge of a particular brand or flavor of QA software.  Instead of focusing on the underlying skills that the tester will need, organizations focus on the superficial.  It’s akin to a job as a home remodeler being predicated on whether someone has experience with Craftsman tools versus Kobalt or  Black and Decker.

I know why that junk is in there: so HR interns can winnow some people out of the crowd.  However, it also winnows out skilled people who worked at places with smaller budgets and elevates lesser applicants who worked for comparably-budgeted QA departments, particularly when any of the big packages are named as required.

Computer Error in Your Favor – Collect $200

Tuesday, December 15th, 2009 by The Director

The State of Missouri in the United States has uncovered a computer error in its favor:

 Missouri acknowledged Monday that it reported inflated numbers of food stamp recipients to the federal government, calling into question millions of dollars of bonuses paid to the state for running one of the nation’s top-flight programs.

The Department of Social Services said a computer programming error has consistently exaggerated the figures submitted since September 2002.

You know, the most cynical amongst us would claim that computer errors that “accidentally” would give preferential treatment to the organization using or writing the software would get qualified as lower priority defects and would be allowed to run as long as possible.

However, the teams I’ve worked on probably wouldn’t allow that sort of thing to occur.  But maybe I’m not cynical enough.

The Secret Seasonings of Punctuation

Monday, December 14th, 2009 by The Director

A Welcome e-mail to the restaurant San Francisco Oven’s e-mail list is chock full of quotation marks and punctuation errors.  For flavor!

The punctuation errors make it tasty.
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Let’s see, we have:

  • Extraneous “use” of quotation marks.
  • Periods outside of quotation marks in the British style.  I doubt this was a stylistic decision.  I bet it’s using the American style wrong.
  • Inconsistent use of periods (or lack thereof) in the first paragraph.
  • In addition to “extraneous” use of quotation marks, we have a stray quotation mark.

Speaking forensically, what was missing from the process responsible for this?

  • A professional copywriter.
  • A proofreader.
  • Review by anyone who uses English as a native language as opposed to whatever argot the damn kids speak or text these days.

Solving One Problem. Badly.

Friday, December 11th, 2009 by The Director

As you know, I have a particular problem with the infinity that occurs when e-mails provide a Web version of the e-mail with a link to a Web version of the e-mail.

Fox eliminates that problem in this e-mail in a creative fashion:

This link....
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There’s the link in the e-mail.  Does it appear in the Web version?

... is not in the Web version!
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Hey, the View it in your Web browser link is gone.  Good work, Fox Broadcasting.

You know how you catch this sort of thing?  You promote the e-mail version to the Web before the friendlies go out.  Since your friendlies only lead the actual e-mails by a couple of hours (unless you work at Utopia, where you have until tomorrow as well as no personality conflicts at all nor problems to correct), you can get away with some links to content that hasn’t been promoted yet (if the e-mail touts an upcoming program).

That way, when you test those friendlies, you can test the Web version at the same time.

Another way to catch it: get your own freaking e-mails and look them over.

But to let that go to a 404?  That’s not acceptable.

Good ‘n’ Cracked

Wednesday, December 9th, 2009 by The Director

If you watch North American, and by “North American” I mean “United States,” football, you might have noticed a new set of television commercials from Wonderful Pistachios that probably try to emulate the success in years’ past of Emerald Nuts.  Wonderful Pistachios has a Web site and everything, so its agency got some budget.  Which it apparently spent on the commercials and turned the Web site over to interns.

Let’s enumerate some of the problems.

(more…)

Exceptional Service from La-Z-Boy

Tuesday, December 8th, 2009 by The Director

So say you turn off your pop-up blocker on the La-Z-Boy room designer and get to use its application.  Then, you lay out your perfectly complex room full of expensive furniture and want to save it.  First you need to register.  But when you click Save:

It's good clean fun when it's a SOAP exception.
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All right, I get the point. You want me to go into the showroom.

So I did.  And then I bought from my homies at Ashley Furniture, based in Arcadia, Wisconsin, who has a manufacturing plant larger than Arcadia, Wisconsin, itself.  And whom I forgive for having content overrun their design on their About Us page’s Today div:

 Think of it as exuberance.
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I would ask again, “Can’t anybody here play this game?”, but I think I’ve proven the answer is, “Not really.”

Daddy’s Coming Home Alert:  Welcome to my new La-Z-Boy readers!

A Love Letter To An UnQAed Storefront

Monday, December 7th, 2009 by The Director

This blog post sounds like some of the storefronts I’ve QAed.  Before I got started on them.

I am trying to purchase a product called “Sothink SWF Quicker” from their online store. They have two ways to pay, and I preferred the one that allowed me to use my credit card.

In fact, they’re using the same payment system that RACS does, through Yahoo. But it’s loused up somehow; when I tried to connect to it, it hung forever. I used the HTTP sniffer in Proxomitron to see what was going on, and it was a series of SSL connection attempts that timed out and failed.

So I thought it might be a transient glitch. I tried it again an hour later; same thing. Next day; same thing. I sent them an email describing the problem. Couple of days after that, I tried it again; same thing. Also, no response from them.

Tonight I decided to try their other payment option: Paypal.

It seems like a no-brainer to put a business online these days.  Unfortunately, that’s just what a lot of online retailers invest in it, much to the chagrin of people who would be their customers but for their online shopping experience.

We Have Met The Argoty, And He Is Us

Monday, December 7th, 2009 by The Director

You know what gets me to open a sales e-mail?  Promising me a BOGO.  As this e-mail does, but does it deliver?

Spot the Bogo and win!
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Do you see the BOGO?  I’m sure you can spot the TYPOs, but those are different things.  What, nothing explains what the BOGO is?

BOGO is marketing speak for Buy One, Get One.  Unfortunately, EZ Vacuum uses internal argot and expects you to know what it is.

How do they sell vacuum supplies so cheap?  They eliminate the proofreaders and professional designers and have the CEO’s nephew and the rest of his kindergarten class create the e-mail and pass that savings on to you!

Missed It By That Much, Wherein “That Much” Equals 200 Miles

Thursday, December 3rd, 2009 by The Director

The QAHY World Headquarters recently moved from the St. Louis, Missouri, area to the Springfield, Missouri, area.  That’s about 3 hours travel time if you test the state highway patrol’s speed limit enforcement.

Verizon, which handles the wireless needs of QAHY and its subsidiaries, partially caught on to the move as the following marketing material indicates:

The closest stores are 200 miles away
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Procedurally speaking, it would make sense to me to have the promotional material draw nearest store addresses from the address to which the promotional material is going, not to the previous address (or to the current billing address, which I hadn’t changed to that point).

But then again, I am just a customer.  Who’s not going to drive 3 hours to trade in a functional phone for a more expensive model.

The Common Twitter Juxtaposition Embarrassment

Wednesday, December 2nd, 2009 by The Director

The wonders of social media integration leads to this juxtaposition:

They only play rapists on Twitter.

Oh, yes, their marketing team felt clever and they got to use the greatest technology ever, padding their resumes.  However, when you allow dynamic content of the lowest common denominator (don’t forget to follow me, the lowest common numerator, on Twitter, the greatest technology ever!), you allow for this sort of thing.

Think of the fun if that Twitter account gets hacked!  Think of the fun when the Fail Whale appears on the billboard or Twitter returns one of its frequent errors.

Some people have no pride.

UPDATE: In an unrelated note, Facebook points out that one of its more annoying apps, FarmVille, has more players than Twitter has users.  Keep that in mind when figuring out how much budget you should blow on that particular interactive bucket.

La-Z-Design, Boy

Wednesday, December 2nd, 2009 by The Director

Funny how if you visit the La-Z-Boy Web site’s design center and try to launch its room planner, the page just seems to reload.

Well, it does if you’re using your browser with its default Block Pop-ups setting.  If you’re using Internet Explorer with the sound turned up, the little boo-plick sound and icon gives it away:

That's lazy, all right.
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Look, I get that sometimes you want to spawn an additional window to provide nifty little applets and whatnot.  However, you need to recognize that most people are going to use their browser’s default settings or turn the security and annoyance avoidance level up.

You’d better work around that or at the very least let the user know that he needs to allow pop-ups.  Because making it look like nothing is happening but the page reloading will frustrate your user, and let’s face it, the Slumberland.com Room Planner works.

Although the menus look like crap in Firefox, with the menus overlaying the menubar and displaying random pixels:

 I wonder what that says in English, using the Latin alphabet.
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Jeez, I go over there to make sure I can make a point about its room planner working, and I find a defect there, too.  Can’t anybody here play this game?

IT People Who Stare At, And Rub, Goats

Tuesday, December 1st, 2009 by The Director

Rub the Estimate Goat whenever you need to come up with those project numbers.  It’s more efficient than puzzling over dependencies, tasks, and whatnot and not accounting for the unknown.  And probably just as accurate!

(Link courtesy of the Twitterverse.)

Something My Child Won’t Get For Christmas

Tuesday, December 1st, 2009 by The Director

I don’t know what NorthernTool.com has against my children, but it’s denying access to a cool looking toy:

 No CAT toy for you!
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I realize that’s not going to prevent me from ordering the toy.  What prevents me from ordering it is that it costs $200, and in the hands of two QAlings, it would soon be a pile of $35 parts on the living room floor.


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