Developers make software for a variety of purposes. But whether they're for work, play or something else, the goal is to get people to actually use their application. Taken a step further, developers don't want to just stop having people use their applications; they want to ensure that they keep using it, rather than bouncing over to a competitors' solution. Strong customer engagement is a hugely important component in making this happen.
From an application construction standpoint, developers must attempt to anticipate the needs of customers from the outset. Once a general course is charted, however, they will also need to ensure that the software actually fulfills these needs, and does so in a way that engages the end user. This is the territory of software quality assurance, and when the time comes to navigate this terrain, a strong test management system can be a godsend.
Start by automating what you can
Customer management is somewhat difficult to measure, and will require a lot of hands-on work from developers and testers alike. That said, critical functionality is still the foundation for any software. Teams must first answer this extremely important question: Does the solution perform all the functions that our end users need it to?
When answering this question, it behooves QA to rely on test automation tools for unit tests, regression tests and other more black-and-white, input-output type test cases. Generally, these are fairly redundant, and must occur at each and every phase of development. In addition to saving testing teams a significant amount of time, automation integration ensures the continued accuracy of these automated tests throughout development.
Testing automation is ideal for ensuring basic functionality, but it can also be used to vet user interface to a certain degree. It's a bit tricky, but according to TechTarget contributor Chris McMahon, the key is to focus on the user interface elements that are most valuable to the user.
"The idea behind this sort of automated UI test design is to analyze both the application and the needs of the users of the application, and to create automated tests that exercise paths through the application that would have some sort of value to a user."
In other words, talk to the end user, find out what types of user capabilities matter to them, and automate these tests. In doing, McMahon says that UI tests can begin to inform user experience tests. Well-tested UI and UX are pivotal to maximizing customer engagement.
Foster flexibility with agile testing methodologies
Part of the reason DevOps culture has taken off in such a big way is because the removal of traditional silos is conducive to a more collaborative, holistic approach to software development. Rather than being bogged down by processes, application creation is becoming more about objectives. This is at the heart of what agile software development aims to accomplish.
In an agile model, QA teams can more accurately gauge customer engagement at any point in a project, and rapidly incorporate feedback as needed. As this feedback occurs, new test cases may be needed. Older test cases will have to be run again to ensure that nothing is broken down the line as a result of the changes. Some tests may have to be altered. Needless to say, traditional waterfall testing won't do the trick here. There simply wouldn't be enough room for revision.
Agile teams that rely heavily on customer feedback to achieve optimal customer engagement could therefore benefit substantially from agile testing methodologies. Having more flexibility for test cases at each point in development, regardless of where changes are being made, allows QA to respond quickly and appropriately to any alterations that might affect how they vet the next iteration of a project.
What agile testers really need here is a test management tool that can keep up with these complex requirements. This helps ensure that test cases act as true metrics for customer engagement. The result is software that end users will want to keep using.