Now, let’s come to the point…
Last week, I was preparing a document – a product research document to be precise. I had to go through our competitor sites and pick out products that are not offered by our service. And make a list comparing the features of the competitor products and our products. I was left wondering what can a Tester learn from this exercise.. I was very frustrated with “not” testing our application and was not interested in browsing through other sites “peeking” at what they had to offer..
It was at this time I saw Pradeep Soundararajan online in skype. So I thought of asking him about this whole exercise and what can I learn from this scenario. Pradeep replied: (I’m copy pasting the reply without editing, don’t want to spoil my readers expectations :))
“That’s one of the fantastic questions I have heard. Not everything that we do might result to a learning. We must be aware that some learning is conscious and some are sub conscious. At times the sub conscious becomes conscious and we say, “Ah! I have seen something like this before”.
While you are exploring competitors products, you might also want to test a little bit. Or, you could also try to make notes of how you search, what is your thought process when you did whatever you did, what were your alternate ideas and so on, to make a conscious effort to learn something conscious. ”
Oh my god! This is certainly more than what I thought!!
- Make a conscious effort to learn something
- Make notes on how you go about searching
- Track your thought process when you are doing something
- Try to device new/alternate ideas in doing the exercise
Thanks a lot Pradeep 🙂
And now comes the bigger surprise.. 2 days later, I logged into Skype and saw the one and only James Bach online 🙂 As you might have figured out now (through the link above), he is offering testing lessons through Skype. Though I was satisfied with Pradeep’s answer, just wanted to know what James thought of my “Product Research”. So I asked him the same question. And I was struck with lightning when I saw his reply:
- I might discover something about testability by seeing a feature the competitors have that makes their product easier to observe or control
- I might discover something about risks by studying complaints about competing products
- I might discover what the general standard of quality is in this product segment
- I might learn what are considered standard features
- I might learn about users
For instance: I’m looking at medical devices that have been recalled,so that I can better argue for why certain kinds of testing is needed for the medical device I am working on now. Pay special attention to: error messages, input methods, sample data, claims made about compatibility etc. This knowledge helps, when you are arguing about which bugs are important and which are not. If you can point to other products that work better, you get leverage”
I shared Pradeep’s answer with him. And I was offered a little more wisdom 🙂
“He’s right that you pick up things that you don’t necessarily know you will need. Imagine that you are invited to a bug triage meeting. Someone might say “why do we need to fix this bug? People can work around it.” Perhaps you will say, “Our biggest competitor doesn’t have this feature. If we do this well, we might gain market share.” or “Our biggest competitor has this feature, but it’s unreliable. If we can do it a lot better, we can gain market share.” Whatever people are saying against your competitors, make sure they can’t say that against you.”
I am short on words by this time.. 🙂
And it did not end there.. He shared 2 XLS documents which contained some data about software recalls and wanted me to find patters in it – that’s not all, each pattern should be described with a label which should NOT be more than four WORDS.
By this time I was totally out of my mind and misread the “four WORDS” as “four LETTERS” (BIG MISTAKE!). But I am happy that I misread it – you know why? Because he gave me one terrific example of reporting the summary of a bug 🙂
Here they are:
Platform Incompatibility: The product fails in some cases to function with a third-party component that it depends upon.
we can turn this into two, perhaps;
Transient Platform Incompatibility: The product fails in some special cases to function with a third-party component that it depends upon.
Chronic Platform Incompatibility: The product fails always to function with a certain optional third-party component that the customer may be using.
I always try to report a bug with as much details as possible – with proper Summary too. But since I misread James’ words, I ended up pathetically short on this one. Do you want to see the pattern I gave to James? (Now, don’t laugh ok? It was just a small mistake :))
“SYST – failed by compatibility” !!!! 😦
Now that I understood what James meant, I would try to rewrite one of my patterns – “DEP – failed by dependence with other systems”. (Readers please excuse, this is totally related to the XLS documents James provided me – I cannot share it with you without his permission)
“Dependency with product module – Two models installed with Version 8 software is showing a potential risk of over infusion related to a warning message in the user interface, when used in conjunction with the Product Module “.
(I feel this is much better than my earlier crap reporting, but I would like to know what my readers think about this..)
So, the lessons learned:
- Even if you are not testing, you could always look for testability
- You can get information about basic standards, quality of a particular type of product while browsing
- You could get possible bugs by going through product recalls and check whether any of those can be reproduced in your products
- When you are listening to something, concentrate on the topic 🙂
- Ask questions if something is not clear to you (I didn’t, at least for this time!)
- Always try to report an issue with precise details – so that developers can reproduce and fix it
Dear James, I hope I have not disappointed you 🙂 I would like to attend many more sessions from you..
Readers, sorry for the lengthy post! Please share your thoughts on my “Question” and the answers of Pradeep and James.