What do you want from me?

You’ve surely been in the same situation? You’re sat using an app or site that requires some form of data entry from you, the problem is, you have no idea what it wants. There is no advanced information, communication or guidelines on what rules are going to be applied to your data. There’s sometimes an ambiguous or tricky to find error message. Sometimes there’s nothing.


As a software tester these types of bugs in our apps are low hanging fruit. They are quick wins, easy gains and an incredible booster of usability. I refer to them as “clarity bugs“. Features, functions or capabilities that just need a little bit of extra “clarity” to understand them or make them work. This may come in the form of on-screen prompts or help files or documentation or maybe through training, but sometimes there just needs to be that little bit of something extra.




Help text that isn’t helpful is pointless and confusing. None existent help is assuming a level of knowledge by the end user that might not be right. Errors that aren’t descriptive are frustrating and time wasting.

To only explain what the user did wrong after they’ve actually got something wrong is wasteful and irritating. Communication is key.

When there is no explanation about what criteria the data and subsequent validation must meet it’s is an easy usability defect to grab. (think about max and min lengths on fields, or password validations or date formats etc) Don’t become blind by your pre-existing knowledge and sail straight past the fact it’s not explained anywhere. Are we sure our end users know about our specific data validation?


It can end up with the user sat there screaming “what do you want from me?” whilst hammering on the keyboard hoping they submit the perfect data.


These usability bugs are bugs. Plain and simple. Even if the application works, if it’s not usable then the chances are your customers will simply stop using it 🙁


Want to know some more about good form design and general usability?

Check out :


2 thoughts on “What do you want from me?

  1. I think it’s great that software testers are starting to take an interest in usability. Too often in the past we just accepted that usability problems were “cosmetic”, rather than fundamental flaws.We need to be involved early to help detect crass errors before they’re built into the application.In addition to the links you’ve pointed to I’d like to mention Nielsen’s Discount Usability Engineering.http://www.useit.com/papers/guerrilla_hci.htmlAnd Steve Krug’s cheapo usability testing, see his site.http://www.sensible.com/

  2. Hi James,Thanks for commenting. Those two sites are excellent thanks. I’ve added them to my reading list. I need more time….Rob..

Comments are closed.