WTEU-47 – Time to Chat!

WTEU-47 – Time to Chat!

Date: Sunday 20th July 2014
Time: 3.30pm – 5.30pm British Summer Time (4.30pm – 6.30pm Central European Time)
Facilitators: Amy Phillips, Neil Studd
Participants: Dan Ashby, Michael Bolton, Ajay Balamurugadas, Alessandra Moreira, Vernon Richards, Jayshree Rathod, Daniel Billing, Aleksandar Simic, Richard Bradshaw, Ioana Serban, Carol Brands, Christopher Chant, Jaswinder Kaur Nagi, Vlad Romanenko, Srinivas Reddy, Shravan Kumar, Vijai Anandh, Raghu

This was the European chapter’s first session in over three years, with Amy Phillips and Neil Studd hosting as new facilitators of a now-monthly meetup. It also saw the record number of participants for a European session, showing just how active and driven the community has become in recent years.

The session began with a mission overview: We were going to use a selection of heuristics to help us learn about a previously-unseen application. The chosen application was World Chat Clock, a site designed to help with arranging meetings across different timezones.

There was a brief discussion about what a heuristic is (a rule-of-thumb; a fallible way to solve a problem or make a decision) and how you might recognise opportunities to use them. (When discussing how testers apply heuristics, Michael Bolton commented: “You’re always testing with heuristics… talking about ‘testing with heuristics’ is like talking about ‘making music with sound’.”)

The facilitators outlined that, for today’s exercise, we’d be using Elisabeth Hendrickson’s excellent Test Heuristics Cheat Sheet (PDF). The attendees split into four groups, with each group given four distinct heuristics to utilise during their 40-minute test session.

After testing, the four groups provided a debrief of their findings. Unsurprisingly, because each group was given different heuristics, each group discovered its own set of equally-interesting issues. As each team described their observances, the whole group discussed whether the issues seemed significant, or whether they were issues at all.

Michael made an interesting comment that nobody appeared to have considered the true purpose of the application. Several attendees commented that they had observed messages within the application, stating the application’s intention to help with chatting across timezones, and that it was designed to be “visually appealing”; Daniel Billing was first to spot additional clues on the page, indicating that the application was a portfolio piece produced by the developer (with About Me / Hire Me links). We chatted about the consistency heuristic (“Is the behaviour and state of this product consistent with the image that the developer wants to project?”)

The debrief concluded with further discussion as to whether we had all missed this critical consideration: Who was our client for this testing? If we were testing for the developer, their requirements could be very different to those of the end-user. We noticed that participants hadn’t asked for clarity on this front, but also the facilitators hadn’t provided up-front clarity during the mission statement. It focused our attention on ensuring that we ask for important details like this up-front, to contextualise our testing.

Because of the amount of time that we spent discussing the issues that we’d found, we didn’t have as much time to discuss the use of heuristics as we would have liked. Nevertheless, several people remarked on their benefits. Ioana Serban said: “What I found really interesting was that using the cheat sheet made me frame some of the tests I would have done anyway in terms of applying a certain heuristic.”

And with that, the return of Weekend Testing Europe came to a close. We received some useful post-session feedback from attendees (which you can find within the session transcript below) which will be used to help shape future sessions, but everybody seemed to enjoy themselves and now we’re counting the days until next session. Europe is back!

Session Logs:

Further reading about heuristics:

More about World Chat Clock:

Experience reports from session attendees:

About the Author

Neil is a tester from the United Kingdom who has been testing desktop, mobile and web applications for the past ten years, working in a range of agile roles for organisations as varied as Oracle and Last.fm. In his spare time, he participates in freelance and beta testing projects, as a way of learning and developing new approaches to testing.