This app stinks. We’ve all said something along those lines after downloading an application that we feel lacks the intuitive self-service efficiency of the apps we know and love, i.e. the apps we come back to every day on our own. smartphones and other devices.
More productive would be a situation where using “stinky apps” gives us feedback to the software application developers and operational engineering teams who build and release these less-than-perfect applications in the first place.
Not just Twitter rants
Ideally, what we’re suggesting here is more than just a Twitter rant aimed at the corporate @handle of the software’s makers; this is a more structured and methodically systematic channel to provide feedback and (hopefully) even improve the software app in question.
We’ve heard a lot about so-called citizen developers and the rise of low-code & no-code software application development platforms, so this is citizen users getting a new testing role – this is citizen testing.
Finland-based Esko Hannula thinks there’s room for this role among the average user base, but it’s a process that comes with some caveats and concerns if we’re going to do it right. Hannula is vice president of robot testing at low-code Salesforce specialist software management company Copado. Although his company specializes in test automation, he has a broad view of how, when, where and why human citizen testers can play a role.
“Our planet is already home to a large number of citizen testers, including you and me. When you notice that an application has bugs or a website is not working and you tell someone, you are a citizen tester,” says Hannula. “A citizen developer is very likely also a citizen tester, because no one else is testing their app for them.”
Dogfood for burger developers
He’s right of course, the burger developer is (in most scenarios unless he or she has some really good friends) the only one likely willing to eat their own dog food and work with what could be a rather experimental and clunky application .
As long as the citizen developer is also the sole user, everything is pretty simple. They will notice when the application breaks and thus (hopefully) fix it. No harm was done to other users and hopefully, but not sure, no incorrect or malicious transactions were made and thus no data loss occurred. It gets more complicated when the citizen developer’s app is used by other people or affects their lives in some other way.
“Citizen testing can also be (and really should be) an organized activity. Many companies organize the testing of new software releases so that the employees who will be using the application perform an activity known as User Acceptance Testing, or UAT. In SAP implementations, for example, this practice is more of a rule than an exception,” explains Hannula.
A test methodology & mindset
Why is all this important? Because, he says, when we bring citizen testers into the fold, an organization needs to remember that a successful tester needs to understand how to design tests that are likely to detect errors — and these kinds of testers have two specific strengths and characteristics: testing methodology and the mindset. from the tester.
Hannula also reminds us that it is also of great value if the tester understands the application (in terms of nature, purpose and function) and technology domains (the platforms it will run on, the form factors of the device it will be used on, understands, the database backbone and cloud service it will rely on, etc.) also in use.
“If you ask a normal person to test something, they will more generally find out how it works, how to perform tasks with it, and form an opinion about whether they like it or not. A tester’s mindset is very different: they’ll figure out how it’s supposed to work and then try all sorts of things to prove it doesn’t work that way,” he said.
Talking about the experience gained at Copado in exactly this space, Hannula emphasizes that in order to remain productive, the tester must be able to automate the tests they have designed.
“Because it is a manual and repetitive activity, running tests is a good candidate for automation. Modern test automation tools are no-code: a citizen tester can automate tests without any coding skills. But just as the most awesome text editor can’t turn any person into a great novelist, the most awesome testing tool can’t turn any person into a great tester. Again, we come back to the fact that great testing needs a testing methodology and the mindset of a tester to be in place and exist,” Hannula said.
Burger testers, we need you
Test purists (and, frankly, Copado has a few) argue the Pareto principle, suggesting that less than 20% of professional software developers have the mindset of a tester.
Going further, even fewer of them have learned testing methodologies.
This means that, if we follow the logic, there is over 80% chance that a professional software developer is also a citizen tester. There may not be a clearer validation for lay users to join the software engineering and become citizen testers in a more formalized way.
You are already a citizen tester, please figure out your methodology and mindset.