It’s easy to get swept up in the thrills of new product development and forget that oh-so-essential step: testing.
Testing Equals Confidence
Until you test, your idea is simply that – an idea. Use tests to validate not just the abilities and limits of your product, but the experiences and benefits that your customers can expect.
Failing to Test is Risky
Quality is EVERYBODY’S responsibility. Failing to test can result in a product that:
- … does not meet customer needs, driving market share to your competitors
- … does not honor business rules, creating havoc when trying to integrate with existing business processes
- … does not perform a duty at a rate that is satisfying to customers, causing poor customer reviews of your product
- … breaks after each new release, leaving customers with an impression that your product is of lesser quality than competitors
The ABCs of Testing (a.k.a. The Scientific Method)
Project teams both large and small have room for testing, and we can keep it simple, yet effective. Here’s a quick way to apply the scientific method in process and application development to ensure your product is both testable and tested:
- REQUIREMENTS: Declare your problem statement
Propose the process or application by creating a list of ideas that will make it successful.
- TEST STRATEGY: Form a hypothesis
Determine how to test the proposed process or application, how to measure if it is complete or not, and document these hypotheses.
- TEST PLAN: Design the experiment
Determine how to create the proposed process or application in a way that can be measured, and write down the specific measures success and failure.
- RESULTS: Collect and analyze data
Build and test the process or application, measuring and documenting performance according to the test plan.
- QUALITY REVIEW: Draw Conclusions
Determine if the process or application met the list of requirements created in the first step.
Test, Retest, Repeat
Plan, schedule, budget, but most importantly perform testing to ensure the best experience for people that use your product or service.
Ready to test and looking for tools to help document your test plan? Here are three ideas:
- Excel Workbook – 1 worksheet per test, easy to email and file share
- Wiki – Organize By Feature, 1 page per test – we like Confluence: https://www.atlassian.com/software/confluence
- Cloud Test Planning – we like Visual Studio Team Services: https://msdn.microsoft.com/library/vs/alm/test/manual-exploratory-testing/getting-started/create-a-test-plan
We have noticed a distinct trend with our clients, business partners, and colleagues; while many of them talk the talk of a design approach centered on customer requirements, most skip the step of asking their customers, taking the path of “I already know” and “if we build it, it will be awesome, and they will come.” If IBM’s move to a Design Centered Strategy is any indication of the popularity of a design-centric approach, then why are so many businesses from startups to public companies paying lip service to design first, but not actually doing it?
This position is not without some justification; customers willing to talk with you are likely to be more amenable to your offering and provide you with a “warm fuzzy” response to any product that you show them. While participating in an alpha testing program for Tamr Catalog, their UX designer didn’t just ask about functionality. In fact, their first question about a prototype was, “How does this make you feel?”.
It truly altered the way I was thinking about the design I was looking at. Instead of focusing on does it have feature a or b, I was now thinking about how the design felt a little cold and “all business,” I was confused about what unlabeled icons meant, and I wasn’t sure what to do first.
And all of this happened in a few short Google video chats, each less than 30 minutes. While they did ask about my requirements, they did so within a lean, design-centric framework, also asking indirect questions to help uncover true pain points.
Don’t be constrained by your existing business model, naysayers that refuse to acknowledge the value of early customer feedback, or doing just good enough. Talk to your target customers to understand the key features that they want.
March 30th, 2014
Seabeck Systems LLC
Peter had a blast at Startup Weekend Seattle Greenovations in February, so Seabeck Systems is excited to co-sponsor again for the March 21-23 and April 11-13 events. Startup Weekends are a great place to work with new people, and they’re a whole lot of fun.
At the invitation of fellow Greenovations attendee and eager entrepreneur Josh McBroom, Peter joined forces on team ignation: an online platform to connect entrepreneurs with mentors. Both Josh and Peter strongly believe that entrepreneurs should have access to the experts they need.
ignation launched at Redesign Seattle on March 21st thanks to a great pitch by Josh, a go vote from the Startup Weekend crowd, and the hard work and ideas generated with team members Nanda Lella, Erin Kirby, Roy Kim, and Bobby Sands.
Seabeck Systems and team ignation thank all the organizers, coaches, and judges for their guidance, inspiration and energy. Congratulations to all the Redesign Seattle teams on a job well done, with special kudos to GiftStarter (1st place), Spur (2nd place), and FastBar (3rd place).
Josh and Peter enjoyed working together, so next their next steps for ignation include building a demo site and vetting their ideas with input from colleagues. Team ignation welcomes your input in the coming months, especially if you are an entrepreneur with questions or an expert with knowledge to spare.
March 3rd, 2014
Seabeck Systems LLC
This February Seabeck Systems was one of nine sponsors for Seattle’s first sustainable edition of Startup Weekend: Seattle Greenovations.
We had a blast at this high-energy event, and we were proud to support critical thinking around stewardship of planet earth. In 54 hours about 100 attendees pitched 35 ideas, then formed 11 teams to tackle startup ideas for ride shares, water quality, air quality, energy conservation, animal welfare, recycling and more.
Peter Loos participated on the five person WaterNation team, featuring Carolyn Yang’s “Lab in Vial” startup idea. Members gathered data online and on the street to vet their idea for citizen-based water quality reporting. With the help of coaches, the team was able to invalidate their original idea halfway through the weekend, change direction, and generate a revised business concept to present on Sunday night.
In addition to taking a mini startup journey, Peter Loos shook lots of hands, shared many thoughtful conversations, and ate fresh local foods. He was impressed with the active, inclusive vibe, and enjoyed this chance to work with a unique group of motivated professionals. Peter’s tips for future Startup Weekend attendees: plan an extra day of sleep before and after the event – you will need it.
If you missed Greenovations, that’s okay: Seattle hosts four Startup Weekends in 2014, and Seabeck Systems will definitely sponsor again. To find an event near you visit the Startup Weekend event page.