There are a lot of implications for enhancing the end-user experience with quality engineering. Happier customers, better products, more efficient business operations are some of them. However, achieving this doesn’t fall on the technical aspects alone. SLASSCOM Quality and Business Excellence Summit 2019 explored this under the theme of “Accelerating End User Experience Through Quality Engineering”.
Bringing people together can accelerate end-user experience
Dan Cuellar is the founder of Appium, an open-source project that he calls a broker for automation. Dan has been part of the project for 7 years. One of the things he believes in is to bring in as many people as possible to the team. The idea is to streamline the entire development process with other business operations. This allows issues to be resolved more efficiently.
According to Dan, bringing more people into a team works better when communication is emphasised. For instance, it’s important that ideas are shared with everyone. It’s equally important to listen to everyone’s ideas as well. So while product issues and other related matters are addressed early on, ideas on improving the current development environment are also paid attention to. Hence, enhancing the end-user experience.
Feedback is important
Another aspect of enhancing the end-user experience is to act on feedback. Particularly customer feedback. Dr Rainer Deutschmann, COO of Dialog Axiata says that no company can outsource customer feedback and experience anymore. For example, outsourcing customer service to a third party may make sense financially, but it will never add value. Third parties will never understand situations as the company itself would. Having an integrated set up within the company because it helps to get better product feedback. This essentially helps improve existing products.
But just getting customer feedback is not enough. Appropriate action should be taken. Dan says in the age of social media it’s very easy to spread a message. You don’t want that message to be anything negative about your product. Accountability is the key element here. Rather than waiting on the customer, it’s better to anticipate and work towards improving the product.
Measuring user experience
With feedback its possible to user experience. But measuring user experience is very tricky. As per Manoj Kumar, Lead Technical Specialist & Evangelist at Applitools, it comes down to emotions and empathy. So the focus should be on capturing those emotions right.
On the subject of user experience, Dr Rainer took the example of MyDialog app. Here, a number of Dialog’s businesses are brought together. So there’s a lot of work in the backend to connect several APIs. Any failure will be reflected in the frontend to the customer. One of the ways Dialog looks to ensure smooth customer experience is having a real-time operations monitoring mechanism. Through this Rainer and other relevant personnel can monitor the status of the MyDialog app at any given time. The idea behind such mechanisms is to enable rapid feedback internally to improve products and services.
Usability testing: things to focus on
In the world of user experience, usability refers to how well a certain product behaves compared to its intended purpose. Usability takes on two perspectives. One is through the tester’s view and the other, the customer’s viewpoint. Manoj states there are three points of focus for usability testing.
Learnability: How easy is it for users to learn and make use of the product?
Efficiency: Once users learn the design, they should be efficient enough to use a product. How quickly can users perform the task?
Memorability: When users return to the design after a period of time of not using the product, how easy is it for users to perform tasks efficiently
If usability testing is to be optimised, it’s important that testers are part of the user testing experience. Generally, product owners, UI developers, UX developers, and others involved in building a product, tend to look at it with a sense of optimism. But this may be different when real users test the product. Therefore, bringing in testers at the user testing phase enables better decision making in terms of product development.
Manoj believes that it’s better to bridge the gap between business processes and development operations. Dan Cuellar shared similar sentiments, where he believes in making a team more inclusive of other parties as opposed to functioning in silos.
Accessibility isn’t an add-on
Accessibility is also something that needs higher attention in products. Manoj sees accessibility as a form of limited human interaction as opposed to a physical condition. But how can teams account for accessibility during product development? After all, it isn’t quality engineering if accessibility is addressed properly.
Accessible Rich Internet Applications (ARIA) is a good place to start in the case of web applications. But accessibility goes beyond defining a set of attributes. Among the factors that need to be considered include building multiple ways to navigate products, adding colour contrast options, and enabling smooth functionalities with assistive technologies like screen readers.
But development is only complete as long as appropriate testing is done. Accessibility can be factored into various testing methods such as card sorting, wireframing, A/B testing and the likes. Additionally, there are also many tools such as Google digital marketing toolbox available for this purpose.
Security testing isn’t optional either
We can’t talk about testing without talking about security. This was what Christina Thalayasingam’s session focused on. Christina, who is an Associate Quality Engineering Lead at Sysco LABS, talked about security testing and how various vulnerabilities can be paid attention to during the development process.
OWASP is a good starting point as it includes many useful documentation around the subject, such as the top 10 list of vulnerabilities for 2017. Of the list, vulnerabilities such as injection and broken authentication can be patched up during the development stage instead of a post-launch vulnerability situation, says Christina. The President’s hacked website is an apt example here.
Security testing as part of the continuous testing process translates into a better end-user experience. Furthermore, regulations like GDPR dictates data privacy aspects are taken into serious consideration. One way of ensuring this is to bring quality engineers together with the security testers. This is because quality engineers understand product features and conduct frequent testing. Therefore, joining the two parties brings synergy and efficiency towards security testing. This goes back to the point Dan and Manoj made about bringing people together in a team.
How digitisation helps continuous improvement for service level organisations
It’s an open secret that data is invaluable to companies today. The digital footprint of a customer helps companies make quick decisions and act upon them. Increasing the size of this footprint helps companies do so even faster. According to Dr Rainer, part of that involves moving people towards digital payments. Why? Because Sri Lanka is primarily a cash economy.
Of course, there are other South Asian countries like India, which have taken far more radical approaches. But it would probably be impractical for Sri Lanka to adopt a similar approach. The key is to incentivise people to be active online, particularly with payments. For this to work, aspects such as security, transparency, and insights need to be conceptualised in detail from the perspective of a customer.
This draws into how digitisation could enable continuous improvement for service level organisations. Take the example of the retail industry. If the business is primarily cash-oriented, there are limited insights on offer. Sure, this still has data that can be converted into useful analytics. But the process is time-consuming and challenging at times. A digitised retail environment includes more components that can be translated into meaningful insights. Additionally, such an environment makes it easier to capture these insights. This allows organisations to continuously improve their offerings.
Dr Rainer drew on the example of Dialog Starpoints loyalty program. As customers accumulate more points and spend them, the retailers start to get a better understanding of the customer. In turn, decisions can be made based on these transactions representing customer behaviour.
Personalisation and listening to customer feedback
It’s no secret that machines are better at sorting through datasets than people. Not leveraging technology leaves you at a disadvantage. So in the future, personalisation will be an essential component for a business – even more so than a marketing strategy.
Of course, customers don’t always think of a product the way its creators intended it to be. This was something Dan realised back when he was part of the ‘Outlook for Mac’ team. Outlook is obviously an email client. But upon observing one of their largest clients at the time, users tended to operate Outlook on the keyboard. Thanks to keyboard shortcuts there was hardly any use of the mouse. Messages were usually shorter than two sentences. In other words, it was used as a messaging service of sorts rather than an email client.
This goes back to one of Dr Rainer’s original points where listening to customer feedback and acting upon it. After all, “no good executive will argue with making the customer happy,” says Dan. It would make far more sense rather than delivering some arbitrary vision concocted in an executive’s head.
End of a summit
At the SLASSCOM Quality and Business Excellence Summit 2019, the conversation expanded into other segments such as Blockchain, Lean and Six Sigma, and even building a quality robot. The sessions touched on how each of these varying aspects falls into the theme of user experience and quality engineering.
Following up, Sisira Kumara, Head of Quality Assurance of London Stock Exchange Group Technology made the closing remarks with the Vote of Thanks delivered by Tharindra Jayamaha, QA Architect at 99X Technology.
At the end of the day, a better user experience through quality engineering involves many vantage points. For instance, usability testing needs to factor in things like accessibility and security. Additionally, different teams need to work in unison in organisations to optimise the product development process. Likewise, communication and feedback also go a long way in accelerating end-user experience through quality engineering. With that marks the conclusion of SLASSCOM Quality and Business Excellence Summit 2019.