Wednesday, 3 September 2008

Minor Defects, Major Thoughts

Back to blogging after a 2 week break to go and get married in the US, the procedure to get a UK visa for my wife led to some thoughts

You can apply for your Visa online, the website is

Initial impressions weren't too good when we had to choose the current state of residence of my partner and found Massachusetts spelt as "Massachusettes"

My testing senses then tingled some more when I saw screens like the one below

As there is no option on this screen to enter any text, why bother to have the instruction that all questions must be answered in English ?

No serious bugs though so we were able to complete the application and got the visa

Once we were back in England the next step was to get a National Insurance number, this is done at your nearest Job Centre and there is a website to help find the nearest one.
All you had to do according to the on-screen instructions was enter your town/city and press the 'Find' button
So I entered 'Bracknell' and was told that "Bracknell was not a valid postcode"
Enter my postcode and voila, the location of my nearest centre

All of which led to this sequence of thoughts

Initial thought on finding these problems was "Who tested this ???"

Thinking more, it was possible that the defects had been found but a decision had been made not to fix them. They didn't stop the programs from working. Would be nice if government websites had higher quality standards though.

For the postcode/town problem, what was the real defect ? The spec could have been that a customer enters a postcode and that it was the label telling you to enter a town that was wrong.

Or maybe the tester was so used to entering a postcode when prompted for a location that they didn't pay attention to the label.

What if I was a uTest tester and reported the postcode defect as the application not recognising "Bracknell". Would my bug be rejected and I earn no money because the actual defect was that the label asked for a town ? Unless I have access to the requirements then how would I know which part was correct ?

Having heard James Whittaker's talk on the future of testing ( which he has now blogged about ) and how crowdsourcing could work then maybe I was proof of the concept - I was part of the crowd and I had found a bug some bugs.

Except that I wasn't going to take the time to report them.

In the future would all programs have a 'report this bug' button ?
Would The Crowd bother to press it ?

Who would the bug report go to ? The website owner ? But what if it was a browser bug or operating system bug - should they be sent all bug reports as well ?

And what happens when the bug report arrives - the tester of the future gets a virtualised copy of my system, a log of my actions - but could still end up looking at the screen and wondering exactly what the problem was and what bug I was reporting.

Or maybe I just think too much and shouldn't be such a grumpy old man when I find mistakes....


Lisa said...

Congrats on your marriage, the fact that so far it has survived all this poorly implemented software is a good sign!

Michele Smith said...

First of all congratulations on marrying a Massachusetts girl, on behalf of all girls born there, you got lucky ;)

I think you answered your own question when you said “Except that I wasn’t going to take the time to report them.” You have the customer opinion in that statement. People are just too busy today to take the time to do much about anything that bothers them even if it is a service that is provided for them in person.

Where I live, which is way too far north for a person with any sense, the customer service level is at an all time low. Most people will not take the time to report to management if they have an issue with a company. An example would be the local department store. In this store the cashiers will be carrying on conversations about their personal lives or gossiping about co-workers who are not currently working while they are waiting on patrons. Everyone that I know who ever shops there (which is to avoid the mega-department store in the area) says the same thing, but no one wants to take the time to demand that management do something about it. So the cycle continues and the atmosphere grows worse.

The users may push the button described in your scenario in hopes for something to change, but mostly there would be abuse of the process. People value their time too much.

Oh, on a side note, I do not mind reporting to management if their staff is acting defective. I do not ask for anything other than it is addressed. Believe it or not, on occasion it has been and a marked improvement has followed. Then again, I am old enough to know the difference between cashiers having fun and total disregard for the customers, so I don’t abuse the option.

spchampion said...

Hi! Stanton from uTest here.

You have some great ideas, and hopefully the future of testing can be as open and flexible as you describe.

As for your questions about our software testing service, if this site were a customer they would start their project by submitting testing requirements. Different customers have different interests, and testers must read and understand the requirements to see what they need to do.

If a bug is within the scope of the testing requirements, the customer usually approves it. We keep an eye on the process to make sure everyone is playing by the same rules. So far the arrangement works very well!

Let us know if you have questions, or feel free to join our uTester community.

Happy testing!

Stanton Champion
Marketing Manager