In 2018, we signed up for MoviePass, a monthly membership that allows you to see unlimited movies in theaters. But when a lack of API testing in the mobile app caused us to almost miss the showing, the first impression left much to be desired.
We started “The Good, the Bad, and the Buggy” podcast soon after. The purpose was to take a closer look at how your experiences with technology inform your perception of different companies, as well as the role testing, development, and design play in that.
We’ve covered quite a lot since our first episode examining the MoviePass mobile app -- in fact, we just finished Episode 20 of the series. For those who want to know more about what we talk about on the podcast or could just benefit from our biggest takeaways, we created a roundup of Season Two.
- Be careful putting your trust in Alexa - An estimated 57 million US adults use a smart speaker every month, but how trusting should we be with IoT devices? When Alexa eavesdropped into one couple’s conversation and secretly sent the recording to their contacts, or when the Nest thermostat malfunctioned in the middle of Winter, it made us question some smart home technology. Our takeaway? Most smart home devices are harmless and are convenient for checking up on your home or taking care of certain chores when you’re not around. However, before making our homes completely connected, we might want to be more wary of privacy concerns, bugs, and other issues that could have a major negative impact to our lifestyle.
- Testing Mario Kart isn’t all fun and games - Did you know video game testing is a real career? One of the biggest takeaways from this episode was the importance of both functional and visual testing, which was made evident when one of the players in the Madden NFL 15 video game was rendered only one foot tall but still had the hitting power of a full-sized player. Visual testing requires the tester to consider how the application looks in addition to how it works. Often times, something can pass a functional test, while something that doesn’t make sense visually will go under the radar. It’s apparent why this matters in a video game, but it also is important for creating positive user experiences in the other applications we test as well.
- Food tastes better when it’s delivered - Technology is so ingrained in our everyday lives, it even affects what and how we eat. Just ask Domino’s -- their biggest department is IT and they’re referred to as “a technology company that just happens to sell pizzas.” Meanwhile, apps like UberEats, Seamless, and GrubHub have popped up to cure cravings, and restaurant delivery traffic outside of pizza has risen 33% since 2012. This episode taught us that there are always innovative ways we can use technology to make the experience of our users better, whether it’s making ordering easier, getting a meal to a customer faster, or just giving them a look at the status of their delivery.
- Robots aren’t taking over the world - It seems like everyone is talking about machine learning and artificial intelligence, but how relevant is it to us today? While it’s no surprise that tech giants are using AI and ML, we also found that the products and services we use every day are, too. We discussed the ways the Netflix, Spotify, and Stitch Fix are leveraging user data to personalize the experience and make recommendations based on patterns of behavior. We also talked to Angie Jones about the current state and future technology of AI and ML. So what did we learn? You don’t need to worry about your job in testing being replaced by robots -- in fact, embracing these technologies will just create more opportunities.
- Airlines might want to consider code review - When Cathay Pacific accidentally slashed prices to a 95% discount, we had to ask how this could have happened. What we found was that these mistake fares are actually quite common, and while they are due to software mishaps, the root cause is usually human error -- messing up currency conversions, forgetting a 0, etc. This made us think about the importance of code review for teams to identify issues before code is passed over to testing. We don't know if airlines have a code review process, but it’s easy to see how implementing one could help them identify errors sooner in the software lifecycle. This becomes more important for companies that head critical functionals, like travel, where there might not be as much leeway for bugs to slip through.
- PokemonGO sparked the movement towards AR - When you think of Augmented Reality, you might think of Google Glass or Oculus Go. But when PokemonGO was released as a mobile app in 2016, it made people reconsider AR. Now we’re seeing Warby Parker, Ikea, and other ecommerce and retail business taking advantage of augmented reality through Apple’s ARKIt. This has allowed retailers to provide users with an in-home shopping experience without having to leave their homes. As we leave behind notions of headsets and hololenses, the idea that AR experiences can be created right from your mobile phone has given companies the chance to leverage the technology and bring virtual experiences to our world through our handheld devices.
- Tinder is on the right track with their UI - Dating apps are known for swiping right and left, but now the swiping motions have been adopted by others companies who are asking users to like or dislike everything from jobs to dogs. Not only does swiping give developers more data on their users, it also helps make large amounts of information digestible in an effort to risk choice paralysis for users. In fact, swiping has become a UI pattern, or a reusable solution to commonly occurring problems. Since people naturally look for patterns, reusing them creates a more natural experience for new users. When you incorporate design patterns, it’s easier for your users to figure out how your software works, which means they’re also more likely to continue using it.
- Security and usability are both important behind bars - While there are more than 2 million incarcerated people in the United States, historically there have not been many ways for them to stay in touch with the outside world. Calling, in-person visits, and handwritten letters were all expensive and inconvenient. However, with new “social media” apps for inmates created by ex-inmates, prisoners have a more affordable way to stay in contact with their loved ones, which also helps reduce recidivism rates. Developers of these apps must continue to focus on usability for those that are not as technically savvy, as well as safety to make sure they’re not being misused -- like when a group of inmates hacked a JPay tablet to steal nearly $225,000 worth of digital credits.
- Don’t mess with people’s brackets - Every March, college basketball fans create their brackets and hope for the best for the NCAA Championship games. But with such high viewership and a only a month of playtime, the madness often goes beyond the basketball court. Last year, UMBC’s site crashed when the 16-seed upset UVA in a game that made history, which means the college missed the mark in its first impression on newly earned fans. The year prior, the CBS app went down an hour before brackets were due, causing an uproar among participants who didn’t get to make last-minute changes. We can’t stress the importance of performance testing and monitoring enough to ensure your application is prepared for higher-than-normal traffic.
These are some of the highlights from Season Two, but check out the full episodes on iTunes, Spotify, Google Play, and Stitcher for more.
To hear the full Season Two recap, listen to Episode 21 below. And remember: a lot of the time, quality is in the details.