The mental activity of testers is a complex activity. In order to identify the risks and opportunities for innovation in the design of functional test automation tools, it is important to implement collaborative approaches. This is why at Agilitest we integrate UX research, Artificial Intelligence and gamification methods to be as close as possible to the testers in their professional activity.
The purpose of this article is to present the artificial intelligence approach applied to user experience.
Functional testing: from cognitive ergonomics to UX
Cognitive ergonomics is a discipline that focuses on human cognitive processes and on the interaction between humans and machines. The objective is to take into account human cognitive functioning (memory, attention, perception, thinking, decision making...), in this case the users of a system, to improve the quality of Human-Computer Interfaces (HCI), by implementing a user-centered design approach.
The term UX (User eXperience) refers to the quality of the user's experience in any interaction situation. Cognitive ergonomics is the main discipline for understanding UX. The UX approach is the overall experience felt by the user when using an interface, a digital device or more broadly when interacting with any device or service (for more information on UX, see the Nielsen Norman Group website). User research therefore aims to improve the user experience by understanding the relationship between actual usage behavior and design properties.
Functional testing: from UX to AI
In the B2B world, learning tools can be a great help to users in their daily lives. The use of artificial intelligence and more specifically Machine Learning in the testing world is still in its early stage. Machine Learning produces models from data in order to automate and support the cognitive processes that underlie a user's daily activities. The UX Research method allows the study of user behavior while taking into account human complexity.
Machine Learning and UX are compatible because they share similar objectives. However, their implementation is a real challenge. This collaboration between UX and AI requires the development of new methods to support the complex cognitive activity of users.
In other words, AI must first be at the service of improving the user experience. Because understanding AI is a major challenge to make good use of it. That's why it's essential that the product team takes into account these different skills for the coordination to be efficient. To do this, the product team must break down the silos and accept that the human being is at the heart of the process. In other words, the first thing to do is to analyze the cognitive activity of users in order to retrieve qualitative data from the real context of users. This will then allow us to understand the AI data in relation to the human activity data.
Current professional tools therefore need to evolve in order to anticipate the cognitive activity of users and offer the functionalities they need more directly. This is how we can considerably facilitate the use of professional testing tools.
Gamification applied to tests
In a 2015 conference, Eric Brangier, Professor of Ergonomic Cognitive Psychology at the University of Lorraine discusses in an article entitled 'Gamification of HMIs: how and why to make workers play?' the fact that today, "we face the emergence of professional technical systems that have the characteristics of games. Inspired by video games, these systems propose new human-technology interfaces that mix playful graphical presentations with new kinds of professional constraints. It's about taking inspiration from gaming and extracting principles and techniques from it, which could result in improved digital systems and greater appeal among the professional audience."
This idea of Gamification has spread to several areas of digital notably thanks to the work of Celia Hodent, PhD in cognitive psychology. Celia Hodent was Director of user experience at Epic Game (find out more information on Celia Hodent's activities).
To offer the best user experience on a tool, the product must meet the needs of users and be adapted to their constraints. But also, through the integration of gamification, to allow them to access a more enjoyable experience.
At Agilitest, our users are testers. In this context, Agilitest's objective is to support the development of a test scenario or test maintenance. To do this, we study user behavior to bring new functionalities and feed data into every decision we make. We know that many functional tests are still performed manually at the end of the development cycle, with negative effects on software quality and delivery times. The UX mission at Agilitest is to help create a culture driven by insights from our customers' real-world business. The goal is to turn customer experiences and data into recommendations to impact our product strategy and direction. We believe that automated testing, accessible to all and robust, is a prerequisite for the emergence of Agile development teams that are committed to continuous delivery and have constant visibility into the quality of their applications. In order to improve our test automation tool, we are committed to integrating UX, AI and gamification methodologies to facilitate the daily activity of testers.