TestBash SF 2019 Live Blog: Your Brain on Usability: UX for QA's

Next up is Jessica Versaw. Apparently a mid century antique hunter in her spare time… she needs a reality tv show :smiley:

Jessica comes to us as a product designer speaking to us at a testing conference… but she WAS a QA and feels that this is a great opportunity to connect. I agree :smiley:

UI and UX. What is the difference?

  • UX encompasses all aspects of the end user interactions with the company/service/products (Don Norman)… this aligns closely with the testing mindset
  • UI deals very much with the visual representation. Not how it is used.

What makes design good?

  • Don Norman - Discoverability
  • Dieter Rams - Useful
  • Transparency (missed who to credit this to)

A bit of a dive here into cognitive psych 101

  • what makes something discoverable, useful, transparent?
  • Memory - Long term (partially infinite and can be built upon over time)
  • Memory - Working (very limited capacity and often the focus of our testing)

Good example of repetition and chunking as methods to expand working memory.
But it still decays quickly. It is also audio/visual processing. designed for tasks. designed to be completed.
Very limited and precious. People get super frustrated when they need to focus on working memory to make sense of your software. The cognitive load limit is reached.

What about Perception?
It is how we process what we see in the world.

  • Top down vs bottom up processing
  • Top down eg: we know floppy disc symbol means saving… even though many have never used one.
  • Gestalt Theory: tool to use as a non-designer when looking at design.
  • She walks us through some examples of diagrams where our brain fills in the gaps when it is familiar, proximity grouping and colour grouping. It is amazing to see how fast our brains process some of these images, based on symmetry, shapes, arrangement. This is a dimension of testing I had not considered. Are there unintended consequences to the design? Can we apply these principles as testers to help the design be more useful and “sticky”

Mental models in design:
Gulf of Execution: When the mental model that we are using does not appropriately apply to our user base.
Affordances: Using perception and cultural models to communicate. Example a handle that implies pull when in fact you need to push.

  • Pattern - click on logo to go to home page
  • Explicit - “CLICK ME” buttons
  • Hidden - eg. hover
  • Metaphorical -
  • Negative - Eg… greyed out
  • False - basically a clear bug

Visual Hierarchy
How information is organized on the page. There is a lot of information that is implicitly transferred based on how and were it is arranged.

This talk has been fascinating. I do see testers focusing in many of these dimensions when doing accessibility testing, but I have rarely come across explicit testing of UX based on some of these dimensions. Look for tweets on this talk #testbash as it was highly visual. This slides are great.


  • Design of everyday things - Norman
  • Nngroup.com
  • RefactoringUI.com
  • Don’t make me think - Krug
  • About the face: Essentials of Interaction Design