Archive for December, 2010

The importance of testing – 001

Thursday, December 9th, 2010

This will be a series that runs and runs… and runs.

As you may have picked up from earlier posts, I think testing is pretty important. Testing for the back end engine is for, well, the back end engineering guys. Usability testing is just as important. It doesn’t matter how clever the database engine is – if the user can’t see the results then who cares about how fast the data was found?

Skinning of applications has brought a new level of ease and problems – it is now up to the user to find a colour scheme that works for him or her. Assuming of course that a decent set of skins have been made available.

For a while now software companies making photo editing software have realised that the apparent brightness of a photo can be enhanced by making the surrounding screen real estate dark. Remember though, that since the original Mac, the mimic has been black text on a white background – just like real paper. So a dark background means subclassing all the controls and rendering your own. This should always ring full-test-required alarm bells – anything missed and an editbox, dropdownlist, whatever, will suddenly become invisible or unusable.

Here’s an example:

Depending on the brightness of your display, the four dropdown arrows may be quite hard to see. No drama, the writers of this well known photo editing application have provided a “light” version of the interface.

Yes, now those arrows are clear as a bell. Pity about the editboxes though… They’re even worse! Surely this was spotted during test? Obviously not. So, the dark skin is easier to use – just. We change back to it and…

…what’s happened to the two controls on the right? They have kept their “light” version graphics. That kind of error is small and can happen to anybody, and is simply a bit careless. The point I am trying to make is the bigger one concerning genuinely unreadable screens. Photoshop is full of (un)usability problems, the panel bin on the right of the window is appalling for visibility.

Testing not a priority at Adobe? It MUST be a priority for YOU.