Archive for September, 2011

QA: Still Good For You, Probably Not As Good As Coffee, Though

Friday, September 30th, 2011 by The Director

Who knew QA was good for your mind?

An Australian psychology expert who has been studying emotions has found being grumpy makes us think more clearly.

In contrast to those annoying happy types, miserable people are better at decision-making and less gullible, his experiments showed.

QA knew, that’s who.

What’s The Format, Kenneth?

Tuesday, September 27th, 2011 by The Director

As I was planning to leave a clever and pointed comment, I encountered the following captcha:

A number and a word, and the answer is a....?

You’ll notice it’s a math problem where the first number is given as a number, and the second number displays as a word. So the answer should be….?

If your clever designers and developers build forms with fields whose expected format is not clear, you should make them identify the expected format so the user doesn’t click Submit and have to wait for the application to choke on the incorrect format. This is especially true if the resulting error message does not include the correct format. The user isn’t filling in your form because he like to solve puzzles.

Some of the field elements where this can be problematic:

  • Phone number: ###-###-###? (###)###-###? #########?
  • Postal/ZIP code: #####? #####-####? Open string to accommodate British or Canadian codes?
  • Dates: ##/##/##? ##/##/####? ####/##/##? ##-##-####?
  • And so on.

    You can avoid these, of course, by putting in separate fields for each of the parts of the whole, whether drop-down lists or edit boxes. But if they won’t suffer you that, they should darn well make it obvious what the user should enter.

Manufacturing Quality Guys Have All The Fun

Monday, September 26th, 2011 by The Director

Another story about how manufacturing quality guys have all the fun, this time at Shure, manufacturer of microphones:

If you’ve ever played in a band or done some home recording, chances are good you’ve come across a Shure mic. Their products range from entry-level throw-aways to wallet-goring audiophile tools.

And while the company’s products are sometimes short on sex-appeal, their ubiquity is testament to their consistent level of quality: Shure knows how to build sturdy microphones. Ironically, this is due in no small part to the company’s equally impressive ability to destroy their mics as well.

“You test until something breaks, then you fix it,” says Boris Libo, Shure’s Manager of Corporate Quality Engineering. “And you keep going until you can’t fix it anymore.”

The SM58, a standard for live vocals known for its rugged design, is one of many products that Shure employees decimate on a regular basis. A few mics from every batch are brutalized in Shure’s destructive testing facilities to ensure they perform up to par. There they are scorched, smashed, frozen, and bathed in synthetic sweat.

Meanwhile, if one of us software quality guys brings a chainsaw on site, suddenly the contract is cancelled and you’re escorted to your car. Um, so I hear.

A Quiz To Cross Your Eyes And Test Your Monitor

Wednesday, September 21st, 2011 by The Director

Here’s an interesting test for interactive QAers: a color acuity test that identifies how well you can differentiate between very close colors (or how old your monitor is).

Good color acuity comes in handy if you’re doing interactive QA especially, since clients are going to be very particular that the colors are the right match for their expensively consultant-determined Pantone colors, and if some intern fat fingers the CSS files, hilarity will ensue.

As some of you know, I spent some time in the printing industry, so I attribute that to my achieving a pretty good score of 18. Red Lewis, the printing plant foreman, though, he would have scored a negative number because that man could smell the differences in colors, word.

No Friendlies Fire

Tuesday, September 20th, 2011 by The Director

A couple emails hit my email box last week with problems:

Missing a noun in the Mad Lib
Missing a noun in the Mad Lib

It looks as though someone forgot to fill in an important noun in the mass market email programs’ Mad Libs.

If you’re offering this sort of service to a client, wherein he or she can roll-his-own using your backend technology, you are at the very least offering a service wherein your competent quality staff can look over the client work for a small additional fee, aren’t you?

If not, why not?

Bit.ly Thinks The South Will Rise Again

Friday, September 16th, 2011 by The Director

Apparently, Bit.ly has its mind stuck back in the time of the American Civil War or something:

Two countries, 100% American

Either that or they’re buying into the divided nation thing, where one nation is rich and the other is poor or one America is teal and the other America is mauve.

Or maybe they just forgot to include “Other/Unknown” in the graphic representation.

What’s The Difference Between A Classic Rock Radio Station And A Software License Management Solution Provider?

Thursday, September 15th, 2011 by The Director

In the advertisement featuring a tattoo on a woman’s back, the classic rock station model wears clothes.

Aspera ad
Classic Rock 104.7 The Cave ad

Hey, I’m not against using sex to sell a product, but, come on. Software license management software? Really?

As a side note, I only know of one woman who actually had the logo of a piece of software our employer sold tattooed onto her shoulder. Of course, the employer got acquired and the product got spiked, so it’s essentially now a piece of collector swag you can’t sell on Ebay.

They Can Have Any Priority They Want As Long As It’s “Normal”

Thursday, September 15th, 2011 by The Director

Sitemeter’s support page has an incident report form with only a single priority level:

Priority Normal is all fouled up.

Why bother including it if there’s only one choice?

They grafted a third party package onto the Web site and did not suppress the field or they have a system beyond that which is customer-facing with other priorities but did not suppress the field on the customer-facing site. Either way, you can guess what I think they should have done.

Suppress a field where the user has no choice.

Follow Me, Men!

Wednesday, September 14th, 2011 by The Director

Yes, that is a Beach Head II reference. Never mind, I feel so old.

But thanks to Matt Heusser for identifying me as one of the top 29 testers to follow on Twitter.

I’d like to add “Read my blog!” But you, gentle reader, are already convinced of that wisdom.

About That Breadcrumb Trail On Your Home Page

Wednesday, September 14th, 2011 by The Director

Yeah, Journal Interactive, it doesn’t work:

Someone's eaten the breadcrumbs all up!

It’s a small oversight including this design element on the home page where it does not have the proper values to populate a breadcrumb trail. However, it’s on the front page. Of an interactive agency trying to court business.

In my experience, interactive agency Web sites fall into one of two categories:

  • They’re like the cars mechanics drive. If you know any low level mechanics working out of a double bay garage on the corner, a lot of times they drive the most motley-looking vehicles, older models that the mechanics hold together with the minimum amount of work and least amount of labor. They’re busy working on other peoples’ cars, see?
  • They’re modern art designed to impress other modern artists. I mean, come on, fully immersive Flash environments that take a minute to download, laden with chat features so other current Web site visitors can select their avatars, their home planets, and their space-themed usernames to chat with each other? Your basic navigation is star charting, with panel loads looking like interstellar travel? And what the devil is Hitler in a tutu supposed to represent, bad Web design? A shout-out to the film Little Nicky? I don’t get it, clients won’t get it, but day-um that sure looks pretty in your portfolio when you show it to a future employer.

Good to see Journal Interactive has the common touch, anyway.

Oh, lordy, they’ve made their logo not a link to their login page, but to their client Extranet login, which features more elaborate functions in the breadcrumb trail:

Someone's spit the breadcrumbs all up!

Layer on the first mistake what I would call a basic design error (The logo should link to the home page, not a login screen), and you’re not doing it right again. No, wait, they’ve got a login screen with a logon button. I’ll stop counting now.

I’m Getting Secret Messages In Maintenance Pages

Tuesday, September 13th, 2011 by The Director

Our long distance dedication comes today from Justin, who writes from Minneapolis, Minnesota:

i’m waiting for the snarky piece on target.com being incommunicado for so long

Well, Justin, here is your snark. The Target Web site was indeed up and down a lot on Tuesday morning, with the following message displaying and looking awful when viewed in IE:

Target destroyed

I especially love the message from the guys in the computer room at the bottom: We’re up and running here. Bully for you.

But the lesson for the rest of us, as demonstrated by Target.com: Check browser compatibility of your error and maintenance messages. I doubt that page is Section 508 compliant.

Someone Get Some Bubble Gum For That Test Data Leak

Tuesday, September 13th, 2011 by The Director

It’s a test that I passed, but Lysol’s Web team failed.

Go to the Lysol home page, type 4 in 1 in the search form, click Search, and….

Lysol test coupon

Oopsy daisy. Good to see they have a quality assurance team that checks things in production to ensure this does not happen.

By the way, don’t click it hoping to find a $1,000,000 coupon. It leads to a 404. You want $1,000,000, you buy a lottery ticket like the rest of us.

We’re Not Laughing With You, We’re Laughing At You

Tuesday, September 6th, 2011 by The Director

Yeah, I know, comma splice in the headline. Deal with it.

So I’m flipping through the Saturday Night Live Web pages on NBC.com, trying to figure out when the new season starts, but that’s apparently a closely guarded secret. Please, NBC urges me, watch some highly dated topical humor from October 2010 instead. Christine O’Donnell jokes will be eternally funny!

So I start clicking the next > the slideshow of Recap clips in the middle of the page, and it says:

Err....undefined

err: undefined does sound a little like a British non-lexical vocable speech disfluency, kinda like the machine is saying, “Uh….oops.” However, it’s two bad things in one: an error condition and an undefined error condition.

Within a content management system (CMS) environment, which I assume NBC.com uses, they have a way for non-technical people to enter content into a slideshow presentation like this, complete with images and links and whatnot. Some Web sites are built with a base set and expanded or replaced as needed. How to test for them?

In the beginning and in smaller starting sites or with content rotators that will not change content, you can simply manually test to ensure the content and images are there and correct.

With a larger site that’s going to be out there long term with a bunch of interns mucking around in the CMS, you should try to get some automated testing running through it that clicks through the elements in an individual content rotator and looks not so much for grammar errors or incongruities between the text, image, and links (if any), but instead focuses on making sure that each click brings a complete new slide with image and not an error or missing content. Then, you should schedule that automated test to run regularly, nightly if you can make it, and send you results that will highlight when someone has bollixed it up accidentally.

And a note about this particular error: it does not show in Internet Explorer, but in Firefox, it overlays the screen as seen above. The most basic things, such as link checking, should be part of your browser compatibility tests especially if they involve anything more complicated than links using the <a href=""> HTML tag. JavaScript has its ways of making differences known amongst the varying browsers.

QA Music: 30 Seconds Short Of A Rock Anthem

Monday, September 5th, 2011 by The Director

Say what you will, but I think the intro to the television series Hardcastle and McCormick rocks.

Another 30 seconds, and that would be an awesome rock anthem.

Here are the lyrics if you can’t make them out.


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