TL;DR: User experience is too important to be left to designers. User journey testing that helps to build those great experiences is too important to be left to testers or developers. Read on to see why it must be a team sport and how you can enable your entire team to be part of it.
User Journey, simply put, is (a) path user may take to accomplish a goal. At times, this may involve just a single application like a website, web application or a mobile application. Other times, this may involve multiple applications, accessed in certain sequence. Even in cases where a single application is presented to users, that single application typically assembles all those interactions behind the scenes.
So it is imperative for a team that is striving to build a great, seamless experience to understand the ‘entire’ user journey and build solutions with users at the front and center. This is different from a systems based approach, where the focus is on building and optimizing systems to support and deliver capabilities.
At Softrams, we call the design approach Human Experience (HX) Design, to build engaging and empowering digital services. Our overall approach can be simplified with the following four ideas:
Put users at the front and center
Design and build withusers, not just forusers
Leverage technology to empower users
Build iteratively and learn more about users at everyiteration
User Journey tests; tests that mimics and validates a path user may take to accomplish a goal, are hence critical, particularly in this modern world of micro-services and micro-frontends where the final end user experience is assembled from varied sources and backend systems. For almost all non-trivial applications, this end user experience is built by multiple teams.
User journey testing should not be confused with ‘Usability Testing‘. Usability testing is done by real users of the product/service as part of Human Experience Design process to evaluate if solution is indeed useful and usable. Real users are typically asked to complete tasks and/or accomplish certain goals as our teams watch and learn.
While slightly different with respect to focus and objectives, these tests are also referred to as end-to-end tests, acceptance tests etc. In some organizations, there are dedicated teams to perform these tests. Some teams (often referred to as QA teams) perform these tests manually, clicking through as a typical user interacts with a web application for example. Some teams hire ‘Automation Engineers’ to build ‘browser automation’ test suites so that these tests can be run in an automated fashion. Some organizations tend to push this responsibility to developers that build those very applications to build these automated end to end tests as part of development itself and eliminate dedicated QA or Automation teams. Some organizations use a hybrid approach in that continuum.
As building great user experiences is a team sport, we believe that this important aspect of User Journey tests cannot be left to developers, QA, or automation engineers alone, but this must be a team sport as well, where every member of the team must be engaged and be able to contribute.
This requires us to build that culture in the team to begin with and use tools and processes that nurture this culture.
One important aspect of this approach is to use tools that are accessible to everybody and enable everybody in the team, those with programming background and those without programming background. Traditionally any testing or automation tools are left to developers or automation engineers as it requires writing code to build these automation tests.
We evaluated multiple tools and finally chose Gauge framework about two years ago and have been able to successfully implement it across the organization. We also built some supporting tools to enable our teams to successfully adapt the framework in various products.
Gauge + Taiko Framework
Gauge with Taiko driver offers significant benefits to building user journey tests. You may learn more at https://gauge.org/, but here are key benefits that made a big impact to our teams.
Tests are written in plain english using Markdown so anybody in the team can contribute
Allows creating easy, readable, and maintainable tests by anybody in the team
Great interactive report and documentation for test runs that include a screenshot for all failures
Ease and flexibility to organize test cases in multiple ways to run a sub-set of test cases etc.
Fully configured browser based environments
We have also created a fully browser based environment for non-programmers to easily access test projects and environments to review, contribute, and run tests (without having to install and setup locally). This provides a docker container based environment with all test tooling setup and opens VS Code inside browser. You may provision and run workspaces using these containers to offer a fully automated browser based test environments.
Gauge Taiko Steps is an open sourced and free to use implementation of most of the common actions a typical user will rely on to interact with a web application. This repository implements common gauge steps for Taiko API, so that tests can be created in plain language without having to programmatically implement steps for most common scenarios. This means, anybody in the team can write fully executable and verifiable test specifications, in plain language, without any additional programming or development needed.
I would like to show a very simple test scenario to demonstrate the readability of test case, which is still a fully executable and automated test case. Each line that begins with * is an executable test step. You can see the plain language used in each step (compared with typical automation test that only developers can understand).
# Navigation User Journey Test
This is the place you explain the key user journey scenario in plain text or Markdown.
You may additionally **add more notes** about this test scenario.
In this sample, we will visit https://www.cdc.gov website, one of the most widely accssed health information website and search for Covid information.
## Open the CDC.gov website and search for Covid
Visit CDC.gov website
* Goto "https://www.cdc.gov"
Verify that page is correctly loaded by looking for specific text on the page.
The presence of this text "About CDC" confirms that page has been loaded fully.
* Check text "About CDC" exists
Now the page has been fully loaded, go ahead and run Accessibility check to see
if there are any accessibility issues
* Audit page for accessibility
Let us test how the search functionality work on the page, by searching for "Covid" in Search box and
press Enter key on keyboard.
* Write "Covid" into "Search"
* Press "Enter"
Once search page is fully displayed, let us go ahead and verify if there are any accessibility issues on the page
> Note the flexibility in the framework to evaluate Accessibility at each user interaction on each page.
* Audit page for accessibility
Go to Videos tab and look for a specific video. Again, once the page is loaded audit for accessibility
* Click "Videos"
* Check text "Know Your Risk of Getting COVID-19" exists
* Audit page for accessibility
Once the test is run, here is a screenshot of the test report, again to demonstrate the ease and readability of the test case, by anybody in the team.
Since the adoption about two years ago, Softrams teams have built 1000s of test cases, with contributions from every member on the team across many programs.
We are eager to know how others are approaching to build user journey tests. Let us know your thoughts and ideas. Also, do try to use the tools or frameworks shared in this post and provide your feedback.
Softrams has been awarded a new contract by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) with their Office of the Chief Information Officer (OCIO), Information Security Center (ISC) to provide cyber security support.
Softrams is hosting its first career fair happy hour to engage in networking where you can learn more about the company, our culture, and the work we do. Play games, win prizes, and find your next job all in one!
The need to ensure accessibility of user journey tests extends to each team member. Our open-source steps library enables everybody on the team, irrespective of their programming background, to be able to contribute to user journey tests.