My first job was with a company that made programs for typesetting books, so I was exposed to a whole new vocabulary and trade secrets: widows and orphans, kerning and leading, serif and san-serif, hanging punctuation, drop caps. Once I’d learnt the basic concepts and seen good and bad examples, it was difficult for me to read a book or a newspaper without first casting a critical eye over how it had been typeset.
This eye for detail came in useful when I became a tester. I was good at spotting typos, inconsistencies and ambiguities, ugly layouts, etc. The danger was that I could focus on these aspects and ignore other qualities that were more important to the user.
If a book is laid out beautifully but has a weak storyline, is it any good? Conversely, if it has a great story but an awful layout, is the design off-putting enough to distract from the story? If it’s a historical story, are the period details correct? Would readers care if a character at the Battle of Waterloo pulled out a Colt 45? Are the characters in a story consistent, or does the heroine change from a blonde to a brunette? If the book is aimed at six-year-olds, are the words at an appropriate reading level? If the book is aimed at a worldwide market, are there cultural references that readers from other countries won’t understand?
Testing a software system can have similar parallels—a realization that led to this blog post. You can concentrate on the layout, noting where the font is wrong, breaking for long names looks ugly, or bad kerning makes things hard to read. You can also look at the other qualities of the system, the aspects that hold the “story” together.
Are terms and labels used consistently throughout the app?
A recent issue I found was a mix of date formats, with one field showing 23/8/2015 and another field showing 23 August 2015.
Is the app designed for worldwide use?
If so, internationalization and localization testing needs to be done.
What’s the audience for the app?
Test that the app is appropriate for them. For example, one issue reported was that an icon used in an app might make teenage boys snigger because of how it looked. A website aimed at the teen market will have a different look than one aimed at retired people.
Don’t get me wrong—it’s still important to pay attention to layout details, since done poorly, they can distract from the purpose of your work. But getting the story right comes first, whether you’re dealing with software or books.
Looking for more ways to test? Read some of the other posts in this series:
- Lights, Camera, Action, Bugs!
- Follow the Data
- Quick Attacks on CRUD Apps
- Is it a Good Story?
- Testing for App Consistency
- Quick Tests for Your Web App
- “Alarming” Problems You Should be Preventing
- A Tester’s Consistency Checklist
- Peripherals? I’d Forgotten about Those…
- Alternating Phone Models Per Test Cycle
- Using Tea/Coffee Breaks in your Mobile Testing
- Testing Error Conditions