Posted in accessibility testing, kiss, mobile testing

Minimalism design in testing

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Usability Heuristics

A while ago I wrote a few words about Usability Heuristics and what is their role in software testing. You might also heard about the KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid) rule, which seems also to be impotent is such activities like web or mobile design. In this post I would like to focus on one particular issue (or trend), which becomes more and more popular nowadays. On the other hand, it seems to be just the common sense output of your software development – The Minimalism.

Good application – what does it mean?

Each year Android community chooses applications that were outstanding during the year. Competitions might differ in details, but one feature is clear and repeatable among all winners – good design.

When we are talking about design, we might be thinking “wait a minute, isn’t it an art – related stuff like sculptures, paintings or furniture?” Well – yes. But not only. I’d say that web or mobile app design is as important as it’s final working version. At the same time the role of software tester in development process, who is aware of good design importance, is essential as well. If the application works fine and causes no error, but simultaneously it is ugly – no one would use it. Or – in best case scenario – he’ll use it once (and it’s get deleted 🙂 ). Keep in mind that 80% of mobile applications are being deleted after the firs use. Why oh why? Most of all because they don’t work as expected, but sometimes – because they’re ugly 😀

A stunning example of beautiful, thought through application is Hopper – the one and only last year winner of best apps ranks. I’ll recommend you to download it from Google Play or App Store and just play around. Using this app is so pleasant and surprising like playing with a piece of art.

When I think about examples of good mobile design – I recall Hopper all the time. Pure love.

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Aesthetic and minimalism design

Minimalism is achieved by reducing a design to only the most essential elements.

This heuristic states that aesthetic (which is rather a subjective feeling) and minimalism design (which can be measured somehow) are important.

For example: dialogues should not contain information which is irrelevant or rarely needed. Every extra unit of information in a dialogue competes with the relevant units of information and diminishes their relative visibility. This heuristic is extremely important to be followed in mobile app design.

Mobile applications are not supposed to be over packed with tabs, buttons or unnecessary content. App designers should keep layout as tidy and simple as possible. That is also a great challenge for the tester in the very last phase of each development – to make sure that all elements that have originally been designed are delivered within the working application. Always remember about the KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid) rule. It’s equally important on each stage of development process.

Testing usability is somehow about taking beauty into consideration.

Following trends

Essentially, minimalism is about breaking things down to the barest elements necessary for a design to function. In addition, taking things away until nothing else can be removed without interfering with the purpose of the design it’s also a minimalists’ routine. Remember, though, that certain design and graphical elements will directly affect the readability or usability of your website. Note, that it might be highly important in accessibility testing.

Minimalism could be applied to various branches of art or architecture, including web design as well. Testing minimalist websites or mobile applications might seem challenging, but possible for anyone.

Before you test anything in the area of usability – make sure that you are familiar with good web (mobile) design examples. It is good to know what’s on at the moment, keeping in mind basic rules as well. Take advantage of big players like: Twitter, WhatsApp, or less known such as: TheMinimalists, NorthKingdom, Sarah Hultin.

Don’t think it’s easier, because it’s simpler

When it comes to minimalism, don’t think it’s easier just because it’s simpler. Because there are fewer elements, you must provide the same level of usability (perhaps even better) with less interface. To balance aesthetics with functionality, minimalist web design is defined by use of space, amazing visuals, vivid photography, striking typography, and an overall focus on the content itself – and nothing more.

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Posted in kiss

KISS the Usability

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I would like to begin a series about mobile testing based on the KISS principle:

K – Keep

I – It

S – Simple

S – Stupid

It is useful in web design, but especially useful in mobile app making and testing. What is it all about? Most of all about making apps beautiful and fun by keeping their functionalities and design as simple and tidy as possible – without messy popups, shouting images and annoying music in the background. Basically, it is all about good apps quality that people enjoy and share.

How to obtain such level of simplicity without loosing the content? Lets begin from UX point of view and go through the idea of Usability Heuristics designed by usability consultant – Jacob Nielsen.

Including heuristics’ check in our work may result with more smooth and awesome apps that enable users to explore our products in desirable way. In the world of mobile apps where all comes to sharing and tweeting delivering products of great design, quality becomes the priority for all development teams.

From testers’ point of view – usability testing becomes a new challenge. Apart from functional or performance testing of each product – they suppose think about the look of it and pay attention to user interface details. In such environment – tester becomes the last level of UX control before the application gets to the market. It is a great responsibility.

To level up usability skills – testers should follow ten heuristics and stick to their demands. That simple routine would make every application better and impress the users.

It is always a good idea to visualize things in order to keep them in mind, so all heuristics below are provided with good and bad examples of each rule in real-life situations.

  1. Visibility of system status

    The system should always keep users informed about what is going on, through appropriate feedback within reasonable time.

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  2. Match between system and the real world

    The system should speak the users’ language, with words, phrases and concepts familiar to the user, rather than system-oriented terms. Follow real-world conventions, making information appear in a natural and logical order.

    vx

     

  3. User control and freedom

    Users often choose system functions by mistake and will need a clearly marked “emergency exit” to leave the unwanted state without having to go through an extended dialogue. Support undo and redo.

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  4. Consistency and standards

    Users should not have to wonder whether different words, situations, or actions mean the same thing. Follow platform conventions.

    vx

  5. Error prevention

    Even better than good error messages is a careful design which prevents a problem from occurring in the first place. Either eliminate error-prone conditions or check for them and present users with a confirmation option before they commit to the action.

    vx

  6. Recognition rather than recall

    Minimize the user’s memory load by making objects, actions, and options visible. The user should not have to remember information from one part of the dialogue to another. Instructions for use of the system should be visible or easily retrievable whenever appropriate.

     

     

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    Uncle Google is a great example of using this rule in practice, so is iOS as well. It is always a good idea to learn from leading good examples.

  7. Flexibility and efficiency of use

    Accelerators — unseen by the novice user — may often speed up the interaction for the expert user such that the system can cater to both inexperienced and experienced users. Allow users to tailor frequent actions.

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    Another good example – this time from Android, which helps people to use the system in a more efficient way and basically faster.

  8. Aesthetic and minimalist design

    Dialogues should not contain information which is irrelevant or rarely needed. Every extra unit of information in a dialogue competes with the relevant units of information and diminishes their relative visibility.

    vx


    I think that one day Twitter would ban me for tweeting about their flaws 🙂 Anyways – think about your dialogues – nor for web or mobile. User would like to know what is happening at the moment.
  9. Help users recognize, diagnose, and recover from errors

    Error messages should be expressed in plain language (no codes), precisely indicate the problem, and constructively suggest a solution.

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    Oh, I love GitHubs 404 so much!!!!

  10. Help and documentation

    Even though it is better if the system can be used without documentation, it may be necessary to provide help and documentation. Any such information should be easy to search, focused on the user’s task, list concrete steps to be carried out, and not be too large.

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    OK, Twitter, you’re doing it right:) Don’t be mad at me.