How should organizations set up ongoing development to ensure they keep customer needs and the user experience central to all activity? What processes and best practices can help support these efforts?
To provide quality software, an organization must perform testing in a systematic way. We interviewed Max-Emanuel, talking about how companies can implement an effective remote crowdtesting strategy to meet the market demand for speed, flexibility, and UX focus – as a critical part throughout all stages of the development life cycle.
Testbirds: Hi Max, how are you?
Max: Hi! I’m doing fine, thanks. I’m convinced that a lot of people, including me, are trying to make the best of the situation and see things as positively as possible. Being an active person, I work on my daily routines and do lots of sport. A few weeks ago, I finished my first half marathon – I’ve planned that for years and now I finally did it. I’m also grateful that working from home isn’t a big barrier in my daily work. Even before Corona, we normally set up most of our meetings as video calls, so colleagues and clients from remote can join as well.
Although I’m a big fan of this remote development, I am also an advocate of in-person meetings, especially for workshops. I have the opinion that this creates much more empathy between the participants compared to a remote meeting. So, I’m also looking forward to when we’re all allowed to get together again – with family, friends, and colleagues.
Testbirds: I think we’re all looking forward to that. How long have you been with Testbirds, and what do you do here?
Max: Well, before Testbirds, I was a software developer and requirement engineer at an IT consultancy for several years. I was primarily responsible for gathering product and user requirements, as well as the creation and testing of UX concepts for B2B and B2C applications, which then got implemented by our development team. Using and building digital products that offer a great UX is my biggest passion, so I decided to look for a new job opportunity, where I could focus even more on delivering amazing digital products for end-users. I started my new job here at Testbirds as an UX Consultant and Project Manager in May of last year.
At Testbirds, I think that my prior working experience really helps me to better understand and consult our clients in terms of integrating UX research and testing within their product development process. In my role as Project Manager, I’m responsible for supporting our clients in testing and improving their digital products to match user needs – from the test setup with our clients and the test execution with our Crowd to the evaluation of results and presentation of concrete recommendations for our clients.
Testbirds: So, you already did UX research and testing before you joined Testbirds. Did you also make use of crowdtesting?
Max: To be honest, when I started at Testbirds, I didn’t know that much about crowdtesting and its benefits. I was used to always fighting for budgets to do UX testing and UX research, to better integrate the users into the software development process. In today’s agile world, everything evolves so quickly, and many companies put all their resources on a feature-driven development strategy, but often forget about the actual user of the product. The reason is usually that testing and user research can take a lot of time for acquiring participants and delivering the insights back to the development team, which may conflict with fast-paced agile development.
During my first few projects at Testbirds, I was astonished over how quickly and easily we could deliver valuable insights to our clients. It really depends on the test type and target group, but sometimes it only takes a couple of days from setting up a test to delivering the results. I think this is really a game changer and will become even more important in the upcoming years, when more work is done remotely and the demand for rapid user feedback increases. Thanks to crowdtesting, we don’t have to invite users to a UX lab or deal with long recruitment times – all testing projects can be done fully remotely from anywhere in the world.
Testbirds: What is your favourite thing about working at Testbirds?
Max: As a consultant, I have the chance to look deeper into development processes and testing setups with our clients, in order to develop long-term testing strategies together. Apart from working with very ambitious customers on a wide variety of interesting products, I’m also very happy that we constantly evaluate our portfolio to create new services and adapt existing ones, so our services are tailored to the needs of our clients. Recently, one of my colleagues had the idea of offering a new service to our clients – a specific QA testing framework for clients that offer a chatbot on their website. Since we didn’t already have this type of service, he pitched the idea in our weekly “Founders Open Door” meeting. I was surprised that it only took two weeks from having the idea, pitching it to the founders, and finally having a pilot project running with one of our clients.
Besides the benefits of my professional development – definitely all the great people around me, especially during morning Freeletics workouts with colleagues or our beloved after-work beers every Thursday (even remotely).
Testbirds: Where can crowdtesting provide the most value and which types of testing are most important?
Max: When clients ask me this question, my first answer is always, “It depends”. Since the development setup, products, and needs of a client vary a lot, I try to listen first to get a clear understanding of the challenges the client is facing. Once I understand the big picture, I propose a solution that I think best fits the client. It’s also not only the type of test that’s very important, but in which phase of the development cycle the product is in. And of course, when should we test?
When people think about testing, they usually assume that it’s conducted with a finished or almost finished product, or at least a prototype. In my experience, however, it’s very important to start early in the development process, with user research and testing. I have the strong opinion that it’s important that we get users involved early – even before a single line of code is implemented – for example by doing interviews to gather more knowledge about the users’ contexts and real needs. Unfortunately, the importance of testing and research in early development stages is still underestimated. Due to its flexibility and the access to specific target groups and devices, crowdtesting can bring a lot of value right from the start. It helps you better understand the users and eliminate issues in early phases – which saves time, cost, and future headaches. So, testing “early and often” really is a worthwhile investment in the future success of a product.
During the past 12 months, I’ve had the chance to conduct many remote interviews with our testers. For these projects, our clients either had a completely new idea they wanted to elaborate, or they had a product that was not accepted by their users and wanted to start from the beginning. Both scenarios showed that they first had to understand their users. With remote interviews and a mixture of other methods (e.g. card sorting, tree tests, prototype evaluation), I was able to help our clients get better insights for their target group and identify crucial knowledge to kick off their development.
Testbirds: In a practical sense, what are some use cases where crowdtesting really excels?
Max: I would say speed, efficiency, and quality. With quality, I’m not only referring to the results and deliverables we get from our testers, but also that we really can deliver the exact target group our clients request. As an example, if a German client needs Chinese testers to use an app running on different smartphone models that are only available in China, that would usually be a really big challenge for UX agencies. How would they get phones and testers from China, unless they go to China? With crowdtesting this is no issue at all. In our Crowd, we have testers all over the world, with a huge variety of different devices. Our clients define which smartphone models they want their target group to test on, and we look for these criteria on our platform and select the matching candidates for the test.
Testbirds: What do you personally find essential about testing?
Max: In my opinion, there’s no way around testing if you want your product to be successful. But it’s not enough if your product’s only being tested once or twice and just shortly before release. I recommend iterative testing in smaller chunks during the entire development cycle, instead of just one or two larger tests when the product’s almost finished and there’s no longer any room for changes.
That’s how you achieve a really great product and UX.
Testbirds: Thank you very much for this insightful interview, Max!
Max: Thanks, it was my pleasure!