Test automation doesnt mean you test less, it means you test more

How user personas and automation help improve and expand our testing.

About 18 months ago I wrote a blog post on how testers might approach their work and their mindset in relation to non-testers. Having now been part of the SPACECRAFT design agency through many new builds, re-designs and custom developments I wanted to re-visit that last post and update it adding in some thoughts of my colleagues.

Accessibility Testing'Dragon Naturally Speaking' is one of the many tools SPACECRAFT uses to test Accessibility 

Why accessibility is important from personas to test cases

Previously I spoke about testing from alternate viewpoints; view of the customer, the product owner etc. I'd really like to focus some thinking on our obsession with accessibility and making our sites easy to use for all. Our test case suite involves tests covering a range of personas now, and it would be a mistake for anyone designing digital services to miss out people who have disabilities of any kind. So we try and ensure that our testing covers a broad range of disabilities and that includes our personas.

For example, these include, ensuring if I’m a user with a mobility impairment that I can still navigate around the site with the keyboard. Or if I’ve a colour blindness problem that I can change the settings and the design can deal with this without losing detail or information.

Or if I’m a user with cognitive problems, testing the information layout is front loaded so I can take key points from it without confusion. Similarly if I’m a younger user or English isn’t my first language that common web standards and a clear layout will help me locate contact details, search fields, site-maps etc.

Additionally some users utilise extra tools such as a screen reader, zoom aid or voice controlled software. Testers should ensure the Jadu site responds and works with these tools allowing all users the same access.

Testing should cover all geographies and cultures too

As we expand our customer base through Australia and the US we’ve had to think about their viewpoints too. Different currencies, time formats, time zones, spellings all add more consideration to our testing.

Cover more ground by automating as much as you can

And what about test automation? A wise old colleague once told me that ‘automation doesn’t mean you test less, it means you test more’. Automation helps you cover more ground allowing time for exploratory testing, reaching further into edge cases and more test personas. The nature of SPACECRAFT’s work has a heavy focus on user experience and accessibility which don’t lend themselves to automation but identifying ways to automate html validating and error checking has helped.

Different points of view

I spoke to a couple of our graduate testers, who’ve spent time with SPACECRAFT. How have their testing brains and thought processes changed since they joined Jadu?

My colleague Shekinah discussed the move from testing theory to practice and how SPACECRAFT’s  focus of ‘All about the user’ is true. She stressed the benefits of collaboration and the value of working closely with User Interaction experts, gaining knowledge testing for usability. “It’s not always clear what’s a bug in design” she said, “it’s less clearly defined than in the development team”.

My second testing colleague Vineethaa, spoke about the benefits of experience she’d gained in design testing, saying those unfamiliar with styling checks would not necessarily spot the same problems as those who were used to looking out for those sorts of bugs.

As for the unique viewpoint of testers, they posed some questions which neatly summed it up. “A tester will always say ‘If I do this, what does it do? Can I then do this? Or this?’ regardless of how it’s supposed to work.”  This was backed up by UI designer Prash who added ‘not only do the SPACECRAFT testers approach it as testers looking for issues but as general users trying to view a friendly and accessible website making sure they can navigate around without any problems’.

And a developers viewpoint? James says ‘The value of testers for me is contemplating things from a user's point of view, or far less technically then I do. If I develop something, I've decided how it should work, and therefore naturally find it difficult to use it in any other way’.

If you find testing interesting (or better still, understand it’s importance if delivering digital services) and want to know more about how SPACECRAFT Agency can help, why not drop us a line.

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