February 24, 2006

Organizing a Test Fest

In the past, I've organized some testing sessions for non-QAers.  We called it a "Test Fest". (fun, fun, fun!)

It usually turned out to be a very valuable exercise.

In order to get buy-in:
  • Advertise. Make it sound like an exciting opportunity to help the product be better with everyone's input.
  • Plan a recap session immediately after the test. During this recap - solicit feedback about the user experiences, but most of all thank everyone publicly!
  • Food always helps. copyrightjoestrazzere
  • Sometimes prizes (the best bug?) can help. Nothing elaborate - a box of chocolates, a bottle of wine, something like that. Winning a prize is more important than the value of the prize itself.
  • Make sure that people know what they are getting into, how long it will take, and what they will be expected to do. Many people can carve out an hour or two from their schedule if they know far enough in advance.
  • Make sure that people know that you will give them the details of what they will be doing. Some folks may be worried that they will look stupid if they don't know what to do. Don't let them be worried.
  • In my sessions, I had 5 or 6 exercises to be carried out, in any order the tester chose. I handed out sheets with all the instructions needed, screenshots, etc, along with any data needed. Each exercise was on one page, with space to write down any unexpected results.
  • Make sure management is committted. You don't want folks to worry that their managers would rather that they didn't participate.
  • Have assigned "helpers" - people who can run over to a tester who needs immediate help, so that they aren't blocked for any length of time.
  • Make sure that users note the time when they start and end a task, and when anything unexpected occurs. This can help correlate their observations to messages you find in the logs.