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How much testing is enough?

How much testing do you need to do?

The “do you expect me to test every single application?” reply is a natural reaction when someone blames you after you work on their computer. Explaining to them that you can’t test all the permutations in a reasonable amount of time isn’t really what they want or need to hear. You’re not clairvoyant, you don’t know exactly how they are going to use the computer and the software. Most IT folks do one of these four steps:

Bad: finish and leave, no testing

Average: finish and open the one application you installed

Good: try out the applications that you THINK the person will need. Better: try out several applications and leave them a note with what you tested

Best: try out a FEW applications, but tell them you need THEM to test it before you consider the work complete.

If they’re there, it’s even better. You physically GET UP and ask them to SIT down. Don’t say “would you mind sitting down” – don’t say “can I ask you to do me a favor?” – say “I need you to do one last thing and then I’ll be all done, I’ll move out of the way so you can sit down” and show them the chair.

Say “I need to see how you use the _____ application." "Can you launch it for me and open a document that you normally use (note: seeing the default document open blank isn’t enough of a test, it doesn’t verify things like connection with the operating system, font usage, etc.)

Then after they test it, ask them “do you want to do a test print” (connection, etc., depending on whichever item is appropriate) and add “so we can make sure this is working as you expect it to?”

There is a world of difference between you testing it and the end user testing it personally. If there is a problem in the future, you can say “remember when we sat down together and you saw it working? So we know it was working, we now need to figure out what might have changed.”

If you don’t have them test it for themselves, they will be able to say “ever since you were on this computer, it hasn’t been working right” – people say this all the time, because they want to have a simple cause & effect explanation on a subject which is outside their understanding. Therefore, you touched it before, you broke it. The “you saw it working with me” response eliminates that opportunity for blame and you’ll find it helps your

credibility immensely.


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