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What is User Interface Testing? - Tools & Definition

Instructor: David Gloag
Testing is a big component of product development these days as manufacturers attempt to prove the viability of their product offerings. In this lesson, we'll take a look at one part of that process, user interface testing.

Delivering On a Promise

We're impatient; we want everything now. We want the new car we ordered yesterday, delivered today. We want our custom computer system ready when we get to the checkout. And we want the software package we meticulously specified built as quickly as possible. But more than that, we want it to work as promised. And we don't mean almost, or close, we mean exactly.

As a result, software companies are turning to formalized testing methods to deliver on these promises. One of the key areas of focus in that effort, user interface testing.

What Is Testing?

Testing is the generic term used to describe the formal activities of verification and validation (V&V).

  • Verification deals with process. Have you built the item correctly? For example, if there are 10 steps needed to create the item in question, have you executed all 10 steps? Was the order correct? Did each step use the proper parts? Each of these questions helps you determine the validity of your build process.
  • Validation deals with outputs. Is what you built actually the item you intended? For example, is it the right color, size, and shape? Does it operate as it should? These questions help you determine the validity of the item itself.

What Is User Interface?

User interface is the means, provided by the manufacturer of an item, that allows you to interact with the item. On your vehicle, this would be the key, the pedals under your feet, the steering wheel and column controls, and the dashboard controls.

On a software package like Microsoft Outlook, this would be the keyboard, mouse, microphone, speakers, and screens on your monitor. Any items that we use on computers have some sort of user interface, although they can be very basic. These interfaces accept input, and provide feedback.

Most programs have a graphical user interface, or GUI, which include graphical elements that a person can manipulate using their mouse or keyboard. This can include menu bars, buttons, toolbars, etc. Think of switching from a Mac to a PC. When you switch you have to remember how to perform the same sorts of functions on a slightly different user interface. The buttons are in different places, the menus are accessed in different ways, etc.

User Interface Testing

So, it will come as no surprise that user interface testing is the process of applying the formal verification and validation processes to a user interface. This is often the most difficult part of a product to test because user input can be very erratic. We are human, and we make mistakes. Also, we interpret things differently as individuals. As a result, we often provide unique approaches and responses. All of this is hard to anticipate, and formally reproduce, in test form.

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