24 September, 2012

Interview with Santhosh Tuppad on Usability

 Do you like great interiors and ambience at hotels or restaurants you visit? One could correlate food to functional and interiors and ambience adding up to usability which adds value to the dining experience.

Here is an interview with Santhosh Tuppad who emphasizes on usability being crucial testing for any software that is designed and developed for people around the world or people of specific location or any living being or could be anything. Usability is a deeper study and testers who say, “Oh, usability is to see if application is user friendly”, they are mostly faking it. The hard truth on the contrary is, it's not easy and has never been easy.  I got Santhosh to answer a few questions. Take a look.

Why do you call usability as a crucial ingredient for software?

It is because, you want to;
a.      Win more customers
b.      Give the best to your customers
c.       Win over your competitors
d.      Entice your competitors customers as your customers
e.      Give better user experience for your customers
f.        Want to make more business and increase your revenues
g.      Make people spread a word about your software
h.      Ultimately, help do GREAT BUSINESS!

My management is not serious about it or developers just reject the usability bugs I report?

This is a classical problem that most of the testers find. Here are some tips that might make them serious about it. Even if you could change ones thinking, then you have made a better impact).

  • Build good rapport with your manager and make him / her understand about usability and its importance.
  • Conduct a meeting with your team members and speak to them about usability and how to report them (Bug Advocacy).
  • Even if developers reject your bugs, there should be a genuine reason and not just like that. Keep reporting even if they reject. All the testers in your team should report huge number of usability bugs and then I bet they will not reject them or higher management looks into them because so many bugs are being rejected. At least, you will not be pointed when customer reports the same usability bug which you wanted to report but were biased that the developer may reject it and hence did not report it.

What books do you read / how do you practice usability?

  • Psychology reference book
  • http://useit.com/ and http://boxesandarrows.com/ are good ones to refer (Be careful, you need not agree with everything these people are telling. There need to be your own thinking, that’s when you could make things better rather than following someone else’s ideas blindly. Here, you will see how I opposed the idea of Jakob Nielsen – http://useit.com/ however; I refer to it for some cool study).
  • I design websites (Well, buggy ones)
  • I interact with UI / UX designers
  • I attend conferences on UI / UX
  • I keep myself updated with new technologies which could add value to software when implemented or when enhanced
  • I co-related usability with the things in day to day life. I do exercises with the things around me about usability.

What are the important skills you think you posess for getting better at Usability testing

Analyzing “What could be good” for end-users. Most of the times, I have succeeded when I analysed things over time. However, there is bad side to it when you just start getting biased by your thoughts of usability rather than seeing it from customers’ point of view.  I have seen testers saying, “You got to put yourself in customers shoes” and then test for usability. Well, its easy to say; but too challenging to do it. Your customers might range from -- millions, billions, trillions of end-users with different brains, different thinking abilities and different ways of using software. Now, you see, “Wow, this is really challenging”. If you still do not feel it, then either you do not want to accept it or you do not understand it. Continue to do your functional testing. Most of the organizations are happy with it.

I have cultivated a practice of arguing with my own thoughts about usability. I have seen at times, when my colleagues just agreed whatever I said but, I go back and think on those lines. Finally, I get better approach than what I really said. So, that’s the thinking power. Do not stop just because people stopped arguing with you. You argue with your own thoughts or you say to yourself, there is something better I can do rather than sticking to my old ideas.

Do you conduct workshops or talks or would be interested in guiding aspiring testers?

I am not ready to conduct workshops on usability yet. In future, I will be.

With respect to talks, I am interested to explore opportunities in formats like half-day seminars or 2 hour talks on usability.

With respect to mentoring or guiding someone, I feel I am running out of my bandwidth as there are many people who are approaching me for security testing. However, I could support you people over e-mails but, do not expect quick replies. I would at least take 1 week however; you might receive responses at the earliest in few hours or minutes as well.

Related articles on Usability

About Santhosh Tuppad

Santhosh Tuppad is the Co-founder & Senior Tester of Moolya Software Testing Private Limited (www.moolya.com). He also recently won the uTest Top Tester of the Year 2010 apart from winning several testing competitions from uTest and Zappers. Santhosh specializes in the exploratory testing approach and his core interests are security, usability and accessibility amidst other quality criteria. Santhosh loves writing and he has a blog at: http://tuppad.com/blog/. He has also authored several articles and crash courses. He attends conferences and confers with testers he meets. Santhosh is known for testing skills and if you are passionate in testing, feel free to contact him at: Twitter: santhoshst | Skype: santhosh.s.tuppad | Santhosh.Tuppad@gmail.com


  1. My management is not serious about it or developers just reject the usability bugs I report?

    No, your management - is - serious about it :)

  2. @PS, *Grins*. I know that, we are very serious about it :)