• Guest Blog: Design Testing – Birth of a new methodology

    by  • October 8, 2013 • Agile Insights, Test Management, Thought Leadership • 0 Comments

    Design Thinking (DT) is one of the re-discovered tools in the space of product innovation.  Even though DT has no “testing” word in it, I see not only a correlation of testing  but also, huge benefits of embedding testing team in the DT Process.

    The picture below provides the typical steps involved in the DT process, which is non-linear.

    Picture courtesy: http://dschool.stanford.edu/

    Design Testing

    A foundational or a focusing question is created before the DT process starts.  The question could be as simple as  improving the design of a chair to a complex/more serious one like saving lives of baby in remote villages.

    Let us look at each of the DT steps shown in the above diagram and see how testing relates to them.

    Empathize:
    This step is about being in the users shoes and living their experiences.   As the DT team interacts with the end users of the future product, they are testing if the “focusing” question created makes sense or not.

    This TED video shows the power of the  Design Thinking.  Jane Chen shows the low cost  incubator that her team created in saving the lives of the millions of premature babies in the developing world.

    When their team started their DT journey, their focusing question was “how can we build a low cost incubator ?”.  Their initial assumption was that, the hospitals in rural areas didn’t have expensive incubators, and that’s cause of high mortality rates.  However upon visiting the hospitals in rural villages, to their surprise, they found that many did have the incubators.

    With this new first-hand knowledge, they started digging further to understand the real reason behind mortality rates.  This is where the testing in this phase already started. The teams were putting their focusing question to test and testing their own assumptions.

    Define and Ideate:
    With the wealth of knowledge acquired from the Empathize phase, the team is ready to define new focusing question or define the real needs for the end users.

    The DT team will identify  different scenarios and suggestions to find an impactful way to enhance the user experience.   The DT team is encouraged to generate as many ideas as possible without judging any of them.

    In the typical IT projects applying Scrum, testers solely depend on Product owner for the requirements. These requirements are used to build the test cases and scenarios by imagining different possibilities sitting  within 4 walls of the room.   I consider the current process being followed in most of the IT Projects is inferior in nature. This is due to the inability of the testers to experience the real world scenarios of end users, and build everything based on imaginations.

    You ask any testing expert about the key skills of testers, their answer is always domain knowledge and thinking from customers’ perspective.  So, the quality of testing depends on the testers’ ability to think through imaginations.  This creates not only too much stress on testers but on the stakeholders as well.

    This stress can be alleviated and the quality of test cases can be improved by embedding testers in the DT process.  This inclusion would enable the testers to observe the customers closely and build only relevant and pragmatic test cases.

    Carefully looking at different activities mentioned above in each of the steps, isn’t it  clear that Design Thinking and Testing are inseparable ?   In every step of DT process,  assumptions, ideas and prototypes are tested instantly and incrementally.  Testers could build quality, pragmatic test cases  and thus saving effort, in turn precious money for the stakeholders.

    Prototype and Test:
    These two phases provide an opportunity to test the ideas and test cases written in the earlier phases.   The testers could refine the scenarios and cases that can be reused during the development phase of the product.

    Carefully looking at different activities mentioned above in each of the steps, isn’t it  clear that Design Thinking and Testing are inseparable ?   In every step of DT process,  assumptions, ideas and prototypes are tested instantly and incrementally.  Testers could build quality, pragmatic test cases  and thus saving effort, in turn precious money for the stakeholders.

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