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There is a silent killer out there and the public is feeling the brunt of the damage. Every time we use software applications, whether online or offline tools, we are faced with the inability to complete tasks. Why?


Software testing is facing a crisis.


As much as I write about the lack of website usability testing and the demise of user friendly websites, the situation with software is worsening. There are unemployed software QA people in the USA who have been pushed out of their jobs by budget cuts and poor management.


I know this because of the extreme slow down of work for myself and more importantly, my spouse and our friends whose careers are in software QA testing. This includes back end, such as performance engineering, automation and functional testing and in the realm of front end testing, the situation is a disaster.


I wrote two articles for Linkedin that are not exactly my best work but they were responded to in Linkedin and Twitter by people whose software testing careers were suddenly ended or changed to be something else entirely.


When Did Software Usability Testing Stop?

This most recent piece was inspired by David Travis who wrote this in the latest User Focus newsletter,


"I was at an industry event this month attended by people who work in software testing. One surprise (for me at least) was that no-one was discussing usability testing of software. As I questioned people, I discovered that involving real users in real test scenarios was entirely absent from their radar."



In my article I provided two recent examples that clearly illustrate that usability testing was not performed. One example is from Turbo Tax.


The other missing area for testing and implementation for application development is accessibility. Interestingly, Facebook has announced a way for blind users to "see" photos.


Testing before launch is not done and budget is not the sole excuse. The failure of the Healthcare.gov site, which I and my fellow testing professionals would never have allowed to be put into production, is an example of management ignoring logic, data and test results to meet deadlines.


Everyone in the software testing industry has experienced impossible demands by management that has no idea what goes into the actual testing process or why it is so vital to the brand.


Whenever I raise the topic, I hear from people trained to test software and/or websites who were replaced due to budgets. There are companies with management that are afraid of change and unwilling to adapt to today's technologies. They completely ignore users and user experience.


While some forms of software QA are still being performed, such as automation and regression testing, there are gigantic gaps in the areas of mobile, accessibility and usability. Programmers are not experts with Photoshop but are now expected to be. User testing with the target market is not budgeted for. People who speak in other languages are not included in testing or design. Tasks are not evaluated for understandability, logic, and environmental situations in which they are performed. Human behavior studies are not performed.


I often wonder when the market will become so saturated with applications and websites that are abandoned if companies will wake up. Tremendous numbers of mobile application abandonment alone doesn't seem to be making a dent. In the old days we used to have a link in website footers inviting users to alert the webmaster if there were any problems using the site. This is a practice long abandoned.


What do you think? Are you seeing more badly made software apps and websites?

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On the contrary, most apps and sites I see are far better than they used to be. Could it be that QA is now a part of the overall design process, meaning that external QA is not longer required?


"In the old days we used to have a link in website footers inviting users to alert the webmaster if there were any problems using the site. This is a practice long abandoned."


This was always pretty amateurish - it is better to sort these problems out before launch. Besides, people are VERY quick to moan on SM or review pages if something does not work properly, there is no need to provide a link in a footer to guide them.

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I think that the shopping cart service providers should put a lot of work into the usability of their products. If they would invest one time, all of their merchants would benefit. There is more than one part of the usability. There are shoppers using the cart, there are shipping department people using the cart, inventory control people, designer/developers, accountants, and business owners. People in each of these roles have different needs. I know a lot about a couple shopping carts and a little about others and I don't think that the people who built these products realize the many facets to usability.


Perhaps part of the problem is that many of the people who decide to build shopping carts are programmers rather than merchants and they program their poorly informed thoughts on what a shopping cart should be like. Then they defend their positions when merchants clamor for performance, efficiency and functionality.

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I may need to clarify...I wrote the above and the articles elsewhere on the topic from the position of someone who works in the software testing industry and has strong, in fact daily, ties to it.


QA testing is brought in (or should be) from the start of any project to work with project managers to create the requirements and write up the documents that designers should follow. At the end of the project, QA, with their test cases and test plans, validates that each requirement was met (or not). Critical defects are show stoppers, or should be. However, in the age of rushing and releasing before ready, defects are rolled out, as well as a host of front end issues.


Programmers today are expected to design front ends and that's not in their wheelhouse. Graphic designers and UI engineers are expected to be programmers, and again, this is not their area of expertise. Neither are marketers or conversions experts except in rare cases of cross training. Programmers are not trained to add accessibility code and most UI folks are not either, so apps are not accessible and in fact, this is not even a requirement.


Shopping cart testing is something I provide in my site audits for ecom sites. I've never had a cart pass all my testing criteria. The shopping process requires user personas, which are not done, so they are designed for one or two buy paths (Add to cart, purchase). A lot of lessons have been learned however, such as better ways for formatting data entry fields for credit cards and validating data entry.


Not all software is web public facing. Software QA is part of tools development, financial and healthcare and education software used by people in those fields, travel sites and more.

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