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New Systems Need A Test Between Alpha And Beta: I Call It The Dummy Test

By Art Gillis www.artgillis.com Every time I walk by the aisle in the book store where the books for dummies are stacked, I feel like I want to buy all of them. So please do not be offended when I use the term "dummy" in the context of technology. The reason for an Alpha Test is to assure the developers that the system works, in a controlled environment, as they had designed it. The reason for the Beta Test is to assure the users that the new system works in the real world as their business pro

By Art Gillis www.artgillis.com

Every time I walk by the aisle in the book store where the books for dummies are stacked, I feel like I want to buy all of them. So please do not be offended when I use the term "dummy" in the context of technology. The reason for an Alpha Test is to assure the developers that the system works, in a controlled environment, as they had designed it. The reason for the Beta Test is to assure the users that the new system works in the real world as their business processes dictate. What this cycle has not considered is this — Does the system work for us dummies? And that's why I'm suggesting one more test between Alpha and Beta — the Dummy Test.The term, "Dummy Test" is not an insult. It simply says that we don't know as much as the developers, and we don't have the experience of the users. But in the world of banking, there is a vast group of employees and customers who fit into the middle group. We know enough about the basics, but we don't have years of experience to understand the nuances. In my own case, that became very clear during the initial introduction of Internet-based systems.

Solution: System developers should take their new systems to real people and ask them to step through each phase of the system. The developer should pay them $10 for each glitch they encounter that caused some form of irritation. Ideal test sites might include college campuses, high schools, senior centers, rock concerts, baseball parks, bank lobbies, theaters, Starbucks, gyms, yoga centers, religious centers, etc. You get the idea — total inclusion.

I would have earned $100 if the deal had been offered to me ten years ago. I'd still earn a few bucks today because I run into problems almost every day. Here's how I would have earned my fee:

1. Your system does not recognize "M." as the first name in M. Arthur Gillis, and it doesn't say so until the entire application is completed, rather than when the "violation" occurred.

2. Your error messages must have been written by a Nazi. Chill out!

3. "[email protected]" is like the black hole of Calcutta. Does anyone ever answer these inquiries?

4. Web-based "contact us" provide a convenient way to send messages, with a sincere statement that they will be answered within 24 hours. Even supplying a registration number. 75% of the time, no one answers — ever.

5. Some error messages are contradictory. If a field is "N/A", why should I be expected to provide a name for that field in the next item?

6. When your system finds a response it doesn't like, it stalls. There's no recovery. You're dead in cyberspace.

7. Your system is too arbitrary. There's no option that will permit me to deviate from the form in order to protect my privacy.

8. You just introduced a new version of the system, but you eliminated some features of the old system that I liked. Why did you go backwards?

9. The use of sixth grade English would suit me better than nerd talk.

10. "Clean and simple" is apparently a term that you avoided. Have you passed this by your CEO for his/her opinion?

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