Software Quality Assurance is a buzz word quite a sometime but with the agile transformation hits the ground, there were some questions like ‘will it die out sooner or do we need a separate gang to assure quality?’ But, still, it stands tall with other areas in the software field with more interesting methodologies and practices. Anyway, as QAs, we kept questioning by various parties about the real requirement of a QA or in other words, what we are actually doing other than just testing functionalities in the application and adding bugs.
I can remember a few years back, one of my colleague developers also questioned us about a designation which we have added to our QA track. He blamed that we took an engineering track which belongs to them.
Whatever the things done in the past, future of the QA depends on the change that we are going to be incorporated and how effective it is. In this article I like to emphasize on one factor which we can gain the boost and differentiation. That is how QAs can be UX Engineers.
In our projects, we are normally working with product owners and stakeholders directly to get the requirements. So this is a better move rather than requirements are coming from a BA or a person who is dealing with the customers. Hence, this is a very good chance to get leverage over traditional mechanisms.
I need to start like this, according to my experience and knowledge, User Experience (UX) has two areas which can depict as follows:
According to the diagram, the first area is basically related to UI/UX engineers on the project. They need to make sure that the web site should be designed according to the user expectations. Say for an example, if we are creating a website for Scandinavian countries, they have a different color set and unique thinking patterns which we need to read.
Other than that, as the second area depicted in the diagram, QAs have a big part in order to ensure the functional and non-functional user experience. Why functional and non-functional areas related to user experience. What is the relationship. I would say, even though it is not highlighted, QA is all about ensuring functional and non-functional user expectations and improve the experience. Now let’s have a look at how exactly this happens.
Functional User Experience:
In an application, first priority should go to the functionality. I will take ‘Login to the system’ as my user story in all the cases. Let say login functionality is not working properly, it is directed to the sub page instead the home page. You can see, obviously, the user experience ruined. User is not satisfied and there will be a lot of customer complaints. To fix this issue in the application, we need to check root cause and the quality assurance process to understand why it is not being tested. Are we covered it or not in the test case suite. If it is covered then why it is not being executed, etc. So the point is, whatever we call, functionality is directly affected to UX.
Nonfunctional User Experience:
Even though first priority should go to the functional areas, a lot of big problems coming from the nonfunctional part of the application. Say for an example, in my project, due to a performance issue, we had to spend 2 weeks to find the problem. Fortunately, we were able to but at a cost. Some of the experts say, nonfunctional requirements or problems are not clear enough and it’s like a hidden part of the iceberg. Hence user experience upon nonfunctional areas is crucial and we need to spend more time on it.
I will take the same example. Let say due to the weak password validation mechanism, unauthorized user entered into the system and deleted some valuable info. Now some of the real users cannot access the site as their login data is missing in the DB. So this triggers a big impact on the user experience (UX) and really bad for the reputation of the application and the brand. Sometimes, an entire business can be collapsed within few days due to such incidents. Hence, all the QA engineers need to concentrate on the Security aspect and need to learn how to apply these tests in the testing process.
In the peck time of the day, if some of the regular customers cannot login the site due to a performance issue, it will lead to a big loss in the reputation and the growth of the business. This is an often situation in the Sri Lankan GOV web sites, since it is free of charge we are not bothered much. But, if it is a service for a certain cost, then we have to face a lot of problems from the users. Therefore, whether it is Performance Engineering or whatever, it is impacting the user experience (UX). Hence, we should look at these nonfunctional areas from the beginning of the production cycle than wait till the end.
I am not going to describe the reliability and maintainability but those are also big pieces of the UX puzzle. Therefor when you get the requirements from the customers or end users, we need to check the SLAs (Service Level Agreements) and Security background (Who are the user group), etc of the application. I encourage you to have a nonfunctional requirement gathering document which we can send to our customers or end users to fill with their requirements. If they are not technical enough to fill that, better we fill it with the past experience and send for the validation. Following are a few sample questions for application performance data gathering:
Finally, What I have to tell you is that, even we have divided into several areas such as Quality Assurance, Security Engineering, Performance Engineering, etc., User Experience (UX) is the umbrella which there in the top. Hence, all the QA Engineers should think from the user perspective first of all before going to the technical separation as I mention above. In other words, we should be UX engineers than QA engineers.