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, mobile testing

UI goes first. Mobile Testing.

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You’ve probably heard about usability testing. It’s one of non-functional testing ranges.
A quick reminder about non-functional test types below. Usability is the one that we will be focusing on now.

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Why testing mobile apps, when Usability comes first is so important?

Because form UX point of view application should be:

  • attractive
  • functional
  • useful
  • fun

Application should make the user happy – not frustrate him. How is it possible to be done? By providing great, clean UI. No matter if we are talking about iOS or Android applications – rules are similar. Keep It Siple Stupid.

What is more, you’ll have to keep two facts in mind:

  • Mobile customers are intolerant and fickle. (You know you are). If your app isn’t a knockout on first impression, it’s probably going to be deleted or will be forgotten on their smartphones.
  • 50% of the users expect, that an app is ready for use under 2 seconds

Silicon Valley analyst Andrew Chen attests that the average app loses 77 percent of its users in the three days after they install it. After a month, 90 percent of users eventually stop using the app. In addition, research by Mobilewalla revealed that users eventually delete 90 percent of all downloaded apps. Make one wrong move that angers or frustrates users – and chances are your app will be deleted.

We could say that testing mobile app is one of the most stressful jobs on the planet – if you don’t succeed – the app doesn’t as well.

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Even if the UX design is correct during your testing remember about following check list:

  • get familiar with you users (by research, Google Analytics, Twitter etc.)
  • mind screen size (device fragmentation)
  • check on proper OS versions
  • select correct device types and brands (brand fragmentation)

Remember, that in mobile testing, more than anywhere else – tester is in charge – not only by keeping the initial design in shape through all development and testing process, but also by protecting user’s needs.

Posted in accessibility testing

Accessibility testing

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Web accessibility testing is a subset of usability testing where the users under consideration have disabilities that affect how they use the web. Wikipedia might tell you more about it.

But why is it so important?

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Can you imagine that? There is 1 billion people with disabilities, who might be the users of your application – either web or mobile. Basically, it depends on your testing, if they would feel comfortable with that or not.

What does disability stand for?

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Disability is an impairment that may be cognitive, developmental, intellectual, mental, physical, sensory, or some combination of these, and that substantially affects a person’s life activities.

In creating apps that satisfy the needs of all users – we should mainly focus on:

UI features:

 

  • color selection
  • icons size
  • display customization
  • ease of use and installation (if needed)

 

Backed features:

  • volume (regulation, presence)
  • adjusting to VoiceOver (iOS) and TalkBack (Android)
  • correct structure
  • guided access
  • speech adjustments
  • captioning
  • audio description

You could obviously wonder if people with disabilities use ‘normal’ apps? Aren’t there special apps or website for them? The answer is – yes – in both cases. They use “normal’ apps, as they need them just like any other person and there is a tiny range of apps dedicated for people with disabilities.

You may also wonder how – for example blind person – would be able to use my mobile app. The answer differs in the way that people and disabilities differ, but it doesn’t mean that we are not supposed to think about it while developing or testing.

Google said:

Everyone should be able to access and enjoy the web. We’re committed to making that a reality

I would completely agree with that. What is more, I personally believe that in societies, where technology is present in everyone’s life and life length extends – this is our duty to create software that is beyond ‘standard’ rules.

As Google tells you about the approach to accessibility – Android and iOS do so. If you don’t know how to start – just follow their advice.

Your accessibility testing should have the following, high level goals:

  • Set up and use the application without sighted assistance
  • All task workflows in the application can be easily navigated using directional controls and provide clear and appropriate feedback

Treat such testing as an act of kindness for all the people, who will use your app in the future.

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The following tests must be completed in order to ensure a minimum level of application accessibility.

  1. Directional controls: Verify that the application can be operated without the use of a touch screen. Attempt to use only directional controls to accomplish the primary tasks in the application.
  2. TalkBack /VoiceOver audio prompts: Verify that user interface controls that provide information (graphics or text) or allow user action have clear and accurate audio descriptions when TalkBack /VoiceOver is enabled and controls are focused. Use directional controls to move focus between application layout elements.
  3. Explore by Touch prompts: Verify that user interface controls that provide information (graphics or text) or allow user action have appropriate audio descriptions. There should be no regions where contents or controls do not provide an audio description.
  4. Touchable control sizes: All controls where a user can select or take an action must be a minimum of 48 dp (approximately 9mm) in length and width, as recommended by Android Design.
  5. Gestures work with TalkBack/VoiceOver enabled: Verify that app-specific gestures, such as zooming images, scrolling lists, swiping between pages or navigating carousel controls continue to work when TalkBack/VoiceOver is enabled. If these gestures do not function, then an alternative interface for these actions must be provided.
  6. No audio-only feedback: Audio feedback must always have a secondary feedback mechanism to support users who are deaf or hard of hearing.

A friend of mine, who is a blind person but uses smartphone or web on daily basis, said one day that iPhone is waaaay better for her than Android devices. But the question is – if that depends on OS itself and their talking software or on poor Android apps that don’t fully support TalkBack and – to be honest -are annoying even for people whose vision is completely OK. I’m leaving you with this question.

In case of any comments – stalk me on Twitter.

 

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.

    vx

  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.

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  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.

     

     

    v

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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.

    v

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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.

    v

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

Posted in tools

How does the Internet work? #Balsamiq

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Two at once blog post.

#1 Balsamiq

Balsamiq is an amazing tool for UI prototyping. Any of you could take advantage of it. It helps not only in UI prototyping, but also may be used in any sort of your visual communication with customers, stakeholders or developers. It is simple, free to try for 30 days and easy to use. Balsamiq provides various options for web and mobile prototyping.

What I wanted to visualize today is an interesting question:

#2 How does the internet work

Let me rephrase that question: what happens when you type http://www.something.com into your web browser. My Balsamiq-made info graphics – hopefully – would be an answer.

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What the browser is going to do?

Step 1:

It will try to translate your URL into IP address. In order to do that – the browser checks cache (a place where system saves last translation results). If the cache is empty – browser will send a request to DNS server. The DNS server provides the browser with URL translated into IP address. Finally our browser would know the address (a default HTTP port = 80) which is responsible for GET our request.

Step 2:

Server transforms the request and if everything is OK response with the HTML website and at the same time 200 OK status.

Generally, in order to understand how does the internet work, we would have to know the answer to a question – what the HTTP protocol is.

HTTP stands for “Hypertext Transfer Protocol”. The entire World Wide Web uses this protocol. Almost everything you see in your browser is transmitted to your computer over HTTP. For example, when you opened this article page, your browser probably have sent over 40 HTTP requests and received HTTP responses for each.

HTTP headers are the core part of these HTTP requests and responses, and they carry information about the client browser, the requested page, the server and more.

To make my above graphics simpler – we could present it this way – using Balsamiq again:

http

Hope my short post encouraged you to try Balsamiq and use it within your testing tasks.
In case of any comments –  stalk me on Twitter 🙂