Should that link open a new window?

If you test software that allows users to navigate using hyperlinks you need to think about new windows. It sounds simple enough, links send the user off to a different place, but context should determine whether the link opens in a new window, or tab, or re-uses the existing one.

During an E-commerce checkout you expect the “Buy now” button, or link, to open in the window or tab you’re using. The same thing with “Sign Up” flows, they are part of the main journey and so should be re-using the main window. It would be pretty strange to end up with multiple tabs each displaying part of a “Sign Up” journey.

What about “FAQ” or “Terms of Service” pages? Well it depends. If you click one of these links in the main site footer then it makes sense for the window to be re-used. If however I click a “Terms of Service” link from a checkout or payment page then I really hope it opens in a new window or tab to avoid interrupting my purchase.

Resuming journeys
Have you ever tried to purchase something from a website only to be sent off into a “Sign Up” flow? If you were lucky you completed the “Sign Up” and were gracefully returned to the page you were originally on. Sadly this isn’t always the case. As a user it is hugely frustrating when websites make you repeat actions just because they wanted you to do something else first. Make this easy. Return users to the page they were originally on.

Indicating behaviour
Links to external websites or services should open new windows as the default behaviour. In addition, external links, and mailtos, should be labeled with the standard icon to indicate that they will take you away from the current site. Have a look around a service such as Spotify to see these icons in action.

Interaction between tabs
More complex tab thinking leads to considering the interaction between tabs. I often search for items on Amazon and open several tabs to compare different items. After I’ve compared the items I might add one or two to my basket. I expect my session to exist across all the tabs. That means that I am logged in on all the tabs, and my basket is gathering items from all the tabs. Checking out on any one of the tabs should show me a basket containing all of my selected items.

Following these guidelines will help make your website intuitive to use. However the question of context must still be answered. What happens on your website when you open a new tab and log in? Are both tabs now showing the correct state? Is that correct for your service? How about if you log out? Or purchase something? Think about the standard behaviour but always do what is right in your context.

Thoughts from TestBash 2015

I’ve just returned from the fourth TestBash conference. Each year it grows, getting better and better every time. A packed out conference (10 speakers!) and many social events make it easy to catch up with old friends, and make new ones too.

I kicked things off with the social event on Thursday evening. Sadly I hadn’t been able to attend the workshops during the day but there were plenty of people singing their praises over drinks. I had a whirlwind of catching up, beers, and a little bit of 99secondtalk prep with my fellow Weekend Tester facilitators Neil Studd and Dan Billing.

After just a few hours sleep, something of a tradition at testing conferences, it was run time! Once again there was a fantastic pre-conference run along the seafront. I love starting the day with a run, this year was an especially beautiful morning and we had a good turnout despite the early start. One of my favourite parts of the run is having 10 minutes or so to just chat with fellow testers completely uninterrupted. We run and we chat. Then we all dash off to try and get ready in time for Leancoffeebacon.

The conference itself had a fantastic line-up. Michael Bolton gave a predictably solid talk on language. A great reminder to actually say what you mean. Ian McCowatt was up next with a great talk on Bug Detection. He gave me the push I needed to pick up Harry Collin’s “Tacit and Explicit” book. I was also reminded of the importance of re-reading books. It’s so easy to get caught up in the endless of book list that sometimes I forget how much you can get from a book on the second, or even third reading.

There were great talks from Martin Hynie, Matt Heusser, and Stephen Janaway. There is still plenty of digesting of the ideas but it was fascinating to hear Martin’s experiences of the job title ‘Tester” actually limiting tester’s ability to get involved in projects. Stephen Janaway had some really interesting ideas in his talk “Why I Lost My Job As a Test Manager and What I Learnt As a Result”, the coaching menu was particularly interesting to me. I can see something like that being very useful on my team.

Vern Richards, and Richard Bradshaw both gave thought-provoking talks. Richard’s story of moving into automation only to find that he had “automated too many things” was really good. So many teams have the goal to automate everything. it was interesting to hear what happens if you actually succeed in doing so.

Sally Goble and Jon Hare-Winton demonstrated that it is possible to do a good double act. Maaret’s talk ” Quality doesn’t belong with the tester!” was a really resonating experience report. Being the only tester on a team is challenging and Maaret shared lots of ways that she tackled it. I really liked that she had talked to her team of developers about how they wanted to define testing. So often it seems testers want to name everything and tell developers how it should be done but developers do testing too, it’s just different.

Karen Johnson wrapped up the day (well apart form the 99second talks!) with a really engaging talk on asking questions. There were so many great ideas in this talk, and a number of interesting book references too.

All in all I have watched so many brilliant talks from engaging, interesting people. I have a list of new books to read and lots of thinking to do. I’ve come away from TestBash having seen so many friends. I’ve got a list of names of my new friends in my pocket and I feel inspired to get stuck in to some testing!

Thanks, Rosie and all of the TestBash speakers and organisers. It was an absolute blast. See you next year!

What works for me might not work for you. Reverse. Repeat.

Earlier this week I posted my thoughts about DevOps and Continuous Delivery. TheSunshine tester responded on Twitter with a strong defense for Agile

I love that methodologies are able to create such passionate responses. Even amongst the truly committed I doubt I would find any passion for the Waterfall method. Yet the Agile, DevOps, and CD communities seem genuinely excited about working together in this way.

Software Development has greatly improved in the last few years but I still think we have a long way to go before it is considered reliable. Last year reported that the majority of ERP projects are over time and over budget. If Agile is truly the silver bullet then all teams would be adopting it, and finding success with it. Unfortunately that doesn’t appear to be the case.

No matter how successful Agile, or any practice might prove to be we should still be seeking new and better ways of working. Humans are unique and our involement makes every project equally unique. The team who has success with agile is unlikely to have the same team make-up, or collective experience as one who doesn’t transition, or who fails to succeed with agile. Our interpretation of what a process involves, and our previous experiences all serve to influence what the end process will actually look like.

We need to have discussions about DevOps because it has arisen from an apparent divide between developers and Ops people. Whether this divide is caused by agile, or a failing of the implementation is irrelevant, the fact is that many teams are finding things as they stand are not good enough.

At Songkick we’ve followed Lean practices for many years. We have small cross-functional teams, daily stand-up meetings and weekly retrospectives. We measure things and try to remain flexible and responsive. Despite this we were having trouble releasing working software. Implementing Continuous Deployment was an enhancement to our agile practices. It went beyond giving us a framework for working together and gave us the steps we needed to make frequent releases too.

One of the criticisms I often hear is ‘it wouldn’t work here’. Hopefully these reservations come from understanding that there are no best practices, but whatever your reason for resisting copy-book change you are right.

What has worked for me, in my team, on my project will never work in exactly this way with your team.

Simply put, best practices do not exist.

Continuous Delivery is the current trendy approach and that is a concern. You should be trying to fix a problem not copy a textbook. If you cannot identify the benefit of any practice, agile ones included, then you shouldn’t be using it. One of the most valuable skills we learned from adopting Continuous Delivery was the ability to review our process and identify exactly what was working and what wasn’t. We continue to review things, making changes as our needs, or the team, changes.

Talk to other teams, listen to their experiences, read widely but use their processes as your guide. The most useful thing you can learn from other teams is how they implemented change. What were the triggers or warning signs? How did they know it was working? How did they choose this change?

These are things that you can apply to your own situation. These are the things that are likely to actually help you deliver good software.

DevOps with Testers

Last week I spoke at QCon London about Songkick’s experience of moving to Continuous Delivery. You can download the slides, or watch the longer version of this talk on the LondonCD Meetup’s Vimeo channel.

My talk was part of the DevOps and Continuous Delivery track hosted by Eoin Woods. QCon videos of all the talks should be available soon.

One particularly interesting talk was by Steve Thair on ‘DevOps and the need for speed‘. Previously I thought DevOps was about developers and Ops people collaborating to enable faster software delivery. Steve’s definition went much further and ended up being closer to how I think about Continuous Delivery.

Steve defined DevOps as a model that “encompasses a product-centric view across the entire product life-cycle (from inception to retirement) and recognises the value in close collaboration, experimentation and rapid feedback.” He emphasised that the business and testers should be engaging in the collaboration just as much as developers and ops people.

An interesting distinction between Steve’s DevOps definition and Dave Farley’s Continuous Delivery definition focused on the definition of ‘Done’. Continuous Delivery is defined as being about “making businesses more experimental through the early and continuous release of valuable software”. It appears to be complete once the release is out in production. DevOps adds an important final step of evaluating how much value the release is actually adding once it’s in the hands of users.

I love Steve’s definition of DevOps but unfortunately think this term is sadly restricting. I doubt business people or testers will feel included in something called ‘DevOps’. Even more confusingly I believe there are both devs and ops people who do believe ‘DevOps’ only covers devs and ops.

Even re-defining Continuous Delivery to extend beyond the release doesn’t really help the situation. We’re trying to create a process that keeps the software in a state where by it can be released whenever the business wants it to be. Obviously there are some questions around why the business would suddenly decide to release with little notice and whether we should support that or not. Leaving this aside I think Continuous Delivery is a positive way of working to remove unexpected delays to releases.Any process that encourages collaboration and stress-free releases should be given strong consideration in my book.

A name is always just a name but in the case of improving processes and making sure all roles are covered I think it becomes pretty important. We need to hear everyone’s voice as we attempt to fix software development.The concepts being discussed are important and will affect us all. I personally feel that neither the ‘DevOps’ or ‘Continuous Delivery’ terms are quite right for describing an attempt to engage with all stakeholders and release timely, and functioning software to end-users. Regardless of this I believe everyone involved in software design, development and releases should be involved in deciding the best way to fix the software industry.

What do you think? Are you a Continuous Delivery or DevOps fan?

Did you scroll to the bottom of the page?

It’s easy to get caught up in the one thing you’re testing right now. This narrow view of the world (or system) makes it easy to miss obvious problems.

One technique I use is to always scroll to the bottom of the page. It doesn’t matter if my test calls for me to click a link in the page’s top nav, first I scroll down, then I click my link.

It takes just seconds to scroll to the bottom of the page. By taking just a little time to broaden your view of the world you might find you see some surprising things.

A Sole Tester

Many years ago I led a fantastic team of testers. Together we were able to plan and execute testing in a rapidly moving environment. Our skills and experiences were varied and complimentary. Most usefully we had skilled people who could cover our absences.

More recently I’ve been grappling with the unique challenges that come from working as the sole tester in a development team. The additional pressure to plan and execute testing efficiently. The unmovable fact that your skills are the only tester skills available. Whilst the learning opportunities are huge you’re likely to find yourself relying heavily on the (fantastic) testing community to support you through the testing challenges.

You can read more about the challenges and opportunities of being a sole tester in my Testing Circus article.

A look back at 2014

2014 was the year that I resolved to do less stuff. I have a terrible time turning things down. Empty calendars seem to fill me with fear, and I simply can’t help getting involved in things I believe in. Unsurprisingly I ended up busier than ever.

I attended, or spoke at some fantastic conferences – TestBash, Let’s Test, Agile Cambridge, BBC Develop, and EuroSTAR. At each event I met, or re-acquainted with fantastic testers from around the world. My conference highlight of year was being involved in organising Pipeline. It took months of hard work but it was hugely satisfying to see the conference unfold on the day.

A few difficult months of writing and editing finally saw my contribution included in Build Quality In. If you’re interested in Continuous Delivery this book contains some fantastic accounts of how different teams have approached it. Steve and Matthew did a great job of selecting contributors and editing the submissions.

After many years of deferring I finally completed the Black Box Software Testing Foundation certificate, and attended James Bach’s RST course in Brighton. One day of Security Testing training with Bill Matthews completed my training for the year. My greatest takeaway from all of these courses was a realisation that I do have the time, and the desire, to learn. Hopefully I’ll be building on this in 2015.

Unexpectedly I found myself co-facilitating Weekend Testing Europe. Meeting, and having the opportunity to learn with the Weekend Testing attendees has been a pleasure. Alongside Neil and Dan I’m excited about the sessions we have (almost) planned for 2015.

Podcasts seemed to be a theme of my year. Steve and Dan were kind enough to have me on Testing in the Pub twice and I wrapped up my year with a great chat with Rosie for The Minitry of Testing Dojo.

Throughout 2014 I have thoroughly enjoyed all the interactions with so many testers – thank you to all of you.

Resolutions for 2015? Well I think I might have another go at being just a little less busy…

Quick start guide to… Weekend Testing

I’ve recently teamed up with Neil Studd to re-launch the European chapter of Weekend Testing (WTEU). Both of us were inspired by Alessandra Moreira‘s excellent talk at Let’s Test conference in May. Weekend Testing, originally set up by Ajay Balamurugadas aims to facilitate peer-to-peer learning through monthly Skype testing sessions. I’m a little embarrassed to admit that before taking steps to resurrect WTEU I had never actually taken part in a Weekend Testing session, somehow I just always seemed to be too busy…

As a soon-to-be facilitator I stated joining testing sessions with the other Weekend Testing chapters in the vain hope that some of their experience would rub off on me. I discovered that not only is Weekend Testing great fun, It’s a fantastic place to meet like-minded testers from all over the world, and most of all, a great place to learn.

So what’s Weekend Testing all about?
Originally started by Ajay as a place for peer-to-peer test practice. There are now four chapters (India, America, Australia/New Zealand, and Europe). You are welcome to join in any session, the locations drive the session time rather than the entry criteria. I recently joined a fantastic session with the Australia/New Zealand chapter but it did start at 5am…!

How does it work?
Each session takes place over Skype (typing, rather than talking). Skype, Tweet, or email the chapter to let them know you want to join the session and be on Skype 20 minutes before the start-time to be added to the session. Each session has a theme or topic so keep an eye on for full details.

What can I expect from a session?
Expect to learn. Each session lasts for 2 hours and is roughly divided into four sections – Intros, an introduction to the session topic, some time to carry out the mission, a post-session discussion on what you learnt. Sometimes you’ll work in pairs, or small groups, sometimes you’ll be working alone and then re-grouping to share your findings. Each session is unique.

Who attends sessions?
Everyone! Each session has a mix of people from all kinds of backgrounds, most are testers but we welcome anyone who wants to learn about testing. You are not required to bring anything along other than your curiosity.

How do I know when session will take place?
Chapter’s generally try to hold their session on a regular slot but each session is announced on as well as over email and Twitter.

What if I can’t make the whole session?
That’s OK. Weekend Testing is very informal so feel free to come and go as you need to. Obviously if you can stay for the whole session you will get a lot more out of it but everyone understands that sometimes life has a way of interfering.

If you’re still not sure it’s for you then take a look through the write-ups of past sessions on or drop me an email at

Visiting an Open Device Lab

When I first heard about TestPartners’ Open Device Lab on The Software Testing Club I was intrigued. Like many teams we try to design and test for the most popular web browser and mobile devices. Unfortunately as any mobile user knows the speed of change makes it difficult, and certainly expensive, to maintain a test device library.

Finally last week I had the need to visit the lab. After a couple of emails with Steve our booking was confirmed.

When you book in to the lab you have the option to reserve specific devices for testing. We didn’t have any specific requirements, really we just wanted to test some recent front end changes on a range of modern devices with varying screen sizes. When we arrived we were presented with a box full of tablets and phones. Each was carefully labelled and had a charger too – something that never happens with the devices I manage at work!

An information sheet provided full details of each device, including screen size and resolution. In addition we soon discovered that each device was set up with its own email address so we could capture and share screenshots of bugs and email URLs to the devices for quick checking.

We found TestPartners’ device lab to be extremely useful. The lab is located in Bank, London, close enough to our office to avoid major inconvenience. It certainly allows us to maintain a device library of only our most widely used devices and then supplement this with visits to the device lab.

I think it’s fair to say that we’ll be returning to the ODL in the near future!

Thanks to TestPartners for making their devices available for use.

What is the Business Value of Continuous Delivery?

Michael Bolton sparked a fascinating discussion on Twitter by asking what exactly is the business value of Continuous Delivery? I’ve attempted to capture the conversation on Storify but I also want to explore the topic a little further.

Michael quite rightly pointed out that beyond CD being technically possible and cool, it is difficult to see the business value of the approach. I agree with him that there are practically no systems that could ever need to release new features every few minutes. In fact I can’t think of a single system which would require such frequent updates.

Despite this I believe that Continuous Delivery can provide value to the business.

Let’s step back for a moment and consider what ‘Business value’ actually means. It obviously means ‘providing something of value to the business’. Usually this ‘something’ will be a new feature or maybe a bug fix. Being able to release frequently could certainly get either one of those out to the business, but CD is only one possible solution to this problem. Even more important that releasing frequently is releasing reliably.

Almost every business wants to know exactly when a feature will be useable by real users. Releases require code to have been written and tested. Deploy scripts need to be reliable. Code needs to be packaged for release. Release documents, notes, maybe even marketing materials need to be produced. It seems logical to think that with so many parts to a release, and most likely the need for multiple people or even teams to be involved, you should release as infrequently as possible to reduce impact. In reality the more infrequently you perform an action the more likely you are to make a mistake.

The more frequently you practice a series if actions the more natural they feel.

Painful systems requiring workarounds or insider knowledge are often accepted if the user only has to feel the pain once in a blue moon. Bringing the pain forwards is really the only way to motivate people to fix these issues.

Simon Stewart responded to Michael Bolton’s initial Tweet questioning the business value of CD with the benefit of cleaner code. To be successful at CD you will need to learn how to be disciplined about writing and maintaining code. Developers need to be adding automated checks, and builds will need to be manged. My experience of adopting CD showed that having a goal that the developers were excited to achieve could be be a great motivator to get people fixing test environments, taking responsibility for quality, and maintaining automated checks. Obviously there are others ways that you could achieve these benefits but it would be foolish to dismiss the impact that CD can have on a development team.

Maybe the value of CD only starts to appear when you have multiple development teams contributing to a single code base. With a single developer and a single codebase the thought of releasing multiple times a day points to poorly written and tested code being endlessly thrust upon the user. If you consider a CD approach for multiple small development teams working on a shared codebase then you can see that if you do 3 releases in a day you are not necessarily saying that each developer released in that day. In fact at Songkick our release problems increased as the development team grew. Each developer was spending around 1-3 days on building and testing new features but this alongside regular bug fixing and technical improvements meant we were exceeding our release capabilities.

We could see that creating a process that allowed developers to commit code freely and receive fast feedback would be a huge improvement. Once we had made the necessarily cultural and technical changes to our process, attitude, and environments, we realised that with just a few additional changes we could ship our code directly to production without increasing the risk beyond our comfort zone. Taking this final step was hugely motivating for the development team; we wanted to create an environment where everyone has access to the information they need, can make decisions based on their expertise, and has access to support when they want it. At Songkick we did this by giving all developers the freedom to ship code whenever they were ready.

Unfortunately it seems rare for a team to sit down and define their release process, instead they rely on some process which evolves over time to handle new tools or respond to problems. Business value can only be achieved if you have code that actually makes it to the hands of your users. Being able to release the code to production in minutes doesn’t remove the need to define, design, build, and test changes but it can help you to develop a reliable release process.

I consider CD to be a technical solution to the problem of release delays. As with all releases there is likely to be some impact to the user, consider what this means and then plan accordingly.

Look at the risks of every release and identify actions to monitor or mitigate them. CD gives you a hugely flexible release process, you have the means to release quickly and frequently, but you also have the choice over whether you use it.