Testers: Why you need them in your team

Testers: Why you need them in your team

If there’s one thing we can all agree on, it's that Lego is awesome. It spans generations and genders, and for many, it's our first experience of being able to build something cool.

But as I fast approached my angry teen years, I found that tearing down Lego structures was a lot more fun than building them up. Not only to see how they fared against wanton destruction, but also to see how they'd been put together.

I still carry around this inquisitiveness today, but I tend not to break things so much as it is generally frowned upon within the modern workplace.

To stop people from breaking your stuff, you need to make it bulletproof. And that applies to just about anything, physical or digital. That's where Testers come in – looking for vulnerabilities, examining functionality, comparing the work to the brief, and so on.

Previously at Kyan, this role was assumed by Project Managers or Junior Developers who would undertake the majority of their testing at the end of a project. But recently that all changed. We opened up roles for dedicated Testers who can embed themselves into projects to work alongside teams from start to finish. Not only does this increase quality across all of our builds, but it’s also a more efficient way to run our production.

Mobile device test lab
The Kyan Tester Starter Kit: specs, MacBook Pro, blue jeans, wistful stare.

Meet Ilia and Jamie.

Ilia joined Kyan 5 months ago, having worked in similar testing roles for Nokia and Sky. Likewise, Jamie is no stranger to QA, having spent 10 years at Testology, a gaming company just down the road in Aldershot. I spent some time with them both, and whilst we didn't get a chance to play with Lego, I did benefit from some great insight into the importance of Testers and just how screwed we'd all be without them.

Jamie, rather disappointingly, explained to me that QA isn’t always about trying to break stuff.

"A Tester is fundamentally another set of eyes on the product that aren’t those of the developer. We make sure the dev work matches the design work, and we make sure that the product functions as it should. To do this, we really have to put ourselves in the mindset of the end-user.

"Sometimes mistakes can be glaringly obvious to a Tester but not so obvious to the developers, who can spend a long time working on the product."

Having spent 5 long years in email marketing, I have fond and not-so-fond memories of Litmus. It's a browser-based testing platform that uses virtual machines to emulate various email clients. It was good for checking off desktop renders, but we quickly learned that for mobile renders there was no substitute for live testing on real hardware.

Mobile device test lab
Kyan's Device Lab for mobile testing.

With that in mind, Ilia and Jamie have helped build Kyan's new Device Lab. Whilst we've always ensured that we test across the ever-growing roster of phones and tablets, we've never had a place to keep them always accessible, always charged. It does mean a slightly longer walk down the office, but Ilia is keen to constantly grow out the Device Lab as a home for all relevant devices, new and obsolete.

"Having an embedded, dedicated testing team work alongside our developers is a fairly new thing for Kyan. But as Jamie said, it makes perfect sense to separate the roles. It is now our responsibility to ensure that everything we build renders correctly and functions properly, and the Device Lab is a sensible and trusted way to do that."

It all started getting quite technical, with the guys throwing some big words about. So we swiftly moved on to the subject of #LifeOfKyan. What's it like working at Kyan?

"It's hard work but it's great fun... Kyan Campus is not your average office or even an office at all, really. There's a strong culture of trust and collaboration. Kyan trusts us to define exactly how we do this – devising our own processes and procedures. And Kyan gives us the time and space to collaborate with our Project Managers to make sure that we give them the correct information."

Kyan backend testers
Jamie and Ilia working through a test case.

With the constant evolution of smartphones and handheld products, the native experience of these devices is a fundamental part of what we do. So I wrapped up by asking Jamie what's next for mobile.

"I think that once we iron out the practical issues with VR, that is where it will go. If we can put VR technology into apparatus that is affordable, then something as simple as looking around a building or doing online shopping will be a completely different experience for everyone.

"We need something that just costs a fiver. Something like Google Cardboard. It would be great if something else rises to widespread popularity the same way that Google Cardboard did. I'd like to see a breakout application for the technology in the same way Pokemon Go put AR on the map."

Ilia adds, "Considering the news lately, I think we are going to see a huge revaluation of security systems and privacy policies. Tech users span many levels of understanding – whether they've just bought their first smartphone or they're a fully-fledged, top-level programmer, data privacy is a concern for everybody and until it's "fixed" users won't be so keen use certain sites, apps or programmes."

It may be a while until VR or AR becomes a practical, everyman tool. And it may be some time until big companies really understand how to handle the masses and masses of data that they process. But one thing is for sure; innovative products and game-changing websites are all around us and they are a fundamental catalyst for digital transformation. So it's Testers like Ilia and Jamie who are a key component in delivering a problem-free and easy-to-use experience. Just like Lego.