As we face increased demands or speed, change and technical excellence, the pressure, and the need, for tool support for testing increases. Organizations want to automate aspects of testing. Is this possible? What effect does it have on the work and on the people doing the work? Success is not just about selecting and implementing tools and technical infrastructure. People ensure the success or failure of testing and of tool use; they must drive the project.
Isabel is midway through a research project to explore testers’ experiences with tools and automation. So far, she’s uncovered some illusions about tool usability, some attempts at magic, and many new questions.
Interviews, workshops, and survey responses from nearly 200 testers revealed people found tools and automation to be problematic in many ways, leading to people expressing high levels of emotion, stress and distress. Over 30% of the respondents to the anonymous survey answered questions about their experiences with test tools in a way that indicated emotional responses. People talked about tools leaving them “stuck in limbo” and unable to do their work, expressed their frustration that tools are treated as “magical solutions for all of the test problems” and expressed their fears, and the demotivation they felt: “I think I should leave my job.”
Part of the problem was the usability of the tools. This was the attribute most often discussed by testers when describing both their aspirations for tool, and their frustrations with tools. It is not just that some tools have been built without usability in mind, but that where usability had been part of the design criteria, it merely offered an illusion of usability, with a superficial veneer to the UI that didn’t address workflow, differing needs among testers, and their changing requirements.
In this reflection on her research and industry experiences, Isabel talks about learning new ways of working after decades in the industry, her findings so far, what she’s discovered that will help your testing now, and her plans for the rest of the research. She’ll be asking you to contribute to a survey to discover who is doing testing, and how they are doing it. This will feed into a model for designing test tools that support people, and make test tool design a people-centred activity.