As technology grows more complex, so too does software development. User expectations are increasingly evolving, making it difficult to pin down a standard set of elements to include within any given project. For this reason, quality assurance professionals must step in to the shoes of the user and evaluate the application based on their requirements. However, this is often easier said than done as there are a number of considerations to address when testing for these individuals. Here are a few factors that will help QA teams test according to a user perspective in order to ensure end-user satisfaction:
1) Job description
Possibly the biggest component in user testing is the individual's role in the company. Each employee will approach the application differently based on his or her needs, and this must be understood by software testers. A person in finance and a member of marketing, for example, will each use the program distinctively. While they both may use one feature of the app, it's unlikely that they will both leverage all the same tools the software has to offer.
"Knowing what the user wants and needs to do with the system will enable a proactive mindset regarding requirements and feature reviews, acceptable behaviors, operational inconsistencies, interactions, and interoperability," StickyMinds contributor Paul Fratellone wrote.
The person's job will also likely regulate how technical the program is to interact with. If the app is for the overall company, it's more likely to be user-friendly than one that's just for IT staff, for example. The interface must be able to reflect the person's capabilities and ensure that users are able to easily find the resources they are looking for at all times.
2) Platform of choice
While it seems like mobile devices have been around forever, it's only been a decade since this hardware really started to change how people operate and what is expected from the workplace. The consumerization of IT is something that software testers should be prepared for. The wealth of smartphones, for example, all must be provisioned and supported in today's mobile enterprise. In fact, according to a report by Symantec, 63 percent of employees are allowed to use smartphones for work purposes. An additional 44 percent even had these devices supplied by their organization.
This type of accessibility has lead to potential security vulnerabilities, which software testers must be able to mitigate. The situation is made more dire by the fact that 91 percent of respondents can leverage their work smartphone for personal use, but only 51 percent have security policies regarding such activities. Symantec recommended enforcing regular updates to ensure that all devices are appropriately protected and that business can be conducted securely.
[A]s smartphones become more sophisticated, end users are using them for an ever increasing list of daily activities, and in many instances can even replace existing specialized technology with their smartphones," Symantec stated. "As end users store more of their digital lives on mobile devices, the need to properly secure and manage them will only increase."
3) Find all ways to break the app
Users can often be prone to human error, but this does not mean that the app should cease to function appropriately due to these types of mistakes. TechTarget contributor Deepa Nallappan suggested attempting to break the program on behalf of the user by inserting values that would ordinarily make no sense. This will help gauge how the software responds and what types of errors - if any - are present. Testers can then use this information to create conditions for such situations, redirecting users to the necessary resource if a misstep should occur.
Within a Web page, Nallappan also tests every hyperlink to see what happens. Although this may seem random for an actual user to do, it can yield valuable insights to help people better navigate the site and stay on the resources they need.
"The developers look at me and wonder why a user would ever do that," Nallappan wrote. "Again, the point is that they may not do it on purpose. However, you should expect that every combination of logic would be attempted at some time."
In order for an app to be successful, software testers must be able to place themselves into the user's shoes. By addressing each of these considerations, QA teams will be able to ensure that the software meets quality standards and meets end-user expectations.