STANZ 2012 – From the back of the room (Christchurch)

01 October

During STANZ in Christchurch, I had the opportunity to attend Sharon Robson’s “Leading The Way – From the Back of the Room”. This session discussed what leadership entailed – more than just managing but guiding and empowering others to do their job well. Leadership involved: 

  • Learning from the past (make new mistakes not repeat old ones), learning from the future (where do you want the team to be in 5 years, what do you need to do get them there) and learning from your team (they may know things you don’t!);
  • Earning respect, trust and buy-in from your team (and others);
  • Architecting – don’t sweat the small stuff, focus on the big picture, don’t micromanage;
  • Delivering upwards & downwards – you’re going to have to get things done so that there’s something to show upper management and you’re going to have to share information downwards with your team;
  • Empowering – allow your team to make their own decisions and stand by them. Make sure you give them the information they need to make the right decisions.
  • Respecting the team members and the decisions they make;
  • Showing – walk the talk, be what you want the team to be, show them the way;
  • Harnessing the skills of your team (strengths are overcompensation of weaknesses, broken comb model);
  • Inspiring – get people to do the right things because they want to (they believe!) and not just because you told them to;
  • Providing the team with what they need to do their jobs (time, resources, pens, training, etc.)

This reminded me of my university principal. People enjoyed working with him; it never felt like he was the boss – he inspired, motivated and empowered people to do a better job. He made the tough decisions and he never lost sight of the big picture. I thought he was awesome!

I loved how Sharon said that a good leader should listen more than talk. We have two ears and one mouth so use it in that proportion!

Julie Gardiner’s workshop in the afternoon on “Usability Testing in a Nutshell” was fantastic. She introduced various usability techniques such as:

  • Heuristic Evaluation (from Jakob Nielsen) – list of ten items to look out for;
  • Cognitive Walkthrough – focuses on effectiveness, how easy it is for new users to accomplish a given task;
  • Personas – representing a group of users who will use the software, based on behaviour and motivation criteria rather than demographic criteria;
  • Co-discovery Learning (“Think Aloud” Learning) – explain what you’re thinking while doing the task so those observing you understand the thought process going on. Pair testing or putting a tester & user together to test usability are other examples;
  • Usability Labs – major investment & cost but it is possible to rent labs or outsource the testing however it is important to choose the right subset of users;
  • Satisfaction Surveys such as SUMI, WAMMI, and After Scenario Questionnaire (ASQ) but remember that these are subjective measures.

There are many other usability techniques out there but the biggest challenge is to get usability bugs taken seriously. As Julie likes to put it, the usability bugs are seen as ladybugs (“ooh, so cute they’re not really a bug”). To be taken seriously, it is important to express usability problems and consequences in a language your audience understands. For example, if money matters to them, then talk about the consequences in terms of money costs or if it’s quality that matters to them then talk about the problem in those terms.

In conclusion, when doing usability testing don’t forget about factors such as what devices (mobile, iPad, etc.) will be tested, who will do the testing, the impact of speech dictation technology, the need for accessibility tests, and finding tools which can help you as a tester!


Posted by Donna Chin