Tag Archives: Karen N. Johnson

Benefits of Public Speaking

In the beginning, I wasn’t sure what would come of speaking at software testing conferences. Mostly, the thought of speaking at a conference evoked anxiety for weeks if not months beforehand. Now, a year later as I think about speaking at conferences my reactions and thoughts are quite different. Nowadays, I encourage other people to speak and I am happy to give tips on speaking when asked. But the most important question – or perhaps even more important is the answer to why speak at a conference? Here are a few of the benefits I’ve discovered from speaking at conferences.

Speaking helps solidify your thoughts

There is nothing like having a keynote scheduled on your calendar to make you realize that you need to collect your thoughts on a topic. By standing up in front of people, you might feel as if you need to do your “homework” which may entail reading related books and blogs, talking with others viewed as experts, research and finding influential quotes on a subject, Speaking at a conference really makes you and also to pull  your own thoughts together in a cohesive fashion. You might find you have conflicting opinions on a subject but realize that in your presentation unless you want to clearly identify more than one viewpoint, you need to find your viewpoint, your opinion and you want to be able to share those thoughts say it well.

Speaking gives you an opportunity to clearly share your ideas

Presenting, especially at a keynote level, where your talk might be recorded especially drives the feeling and desire to be able to say what you want and to say it well. You might feel you will be quoted or tweeted and you want your words to “come out right.” In the case of having people tweet about your talk, your thoughts will be reduced to a quip so it helps to have “quotable statements” so that you do not feel inaccurately quoted. When your talk is recorded, you feel your talk will last, be listened to possibly years after the recording is made. (Not to add to your speaking anxiety but recordings on YouTube due tend to last a long while.)

Speaking opens the door to meet other people

One (of several) unexpected bonuses of speaking is having the opportunity to meet people. Even though I am ultimately an introvert, there is a large (and growing) component of myself that is an extrovert – I enjoy meeting people and as I travel to speak, I find people want to come and talk to me after a presentation. It is a wonderful feeling to think that sharing my thoughts builds a connection to other people such that they want to talk with me and share their stories. On many occasions, I end up staying in touch and talking with people for – in some cases – years after meeting. I’ve had people help me find positions, I’ve hired people I’ve met and I’ve built solid professional relationships.

Speaking builds confidence

Interestingly, presenting originally was a source of anxiety and self-doubt but now years later, I find presenting a familiar setting.  Just like how some people may have a familiar office (as a consultant my workplace setting fluctuates continually), instead I find the speakers’ stand a familiar place. Getting to a place where I enjoy presenting even during presenting has been a pleasant surprise – I had thought I would always be so anxious I would never enjoy presenting. Don’t misunderstand – speaking is like playing golf or talking taking a photo – you might have great luck one day only to find the very next day that your performance does not go so smoothly. And just because I say I enjoying speaking does not mean I don’t get nervous beforehand or even during speaking – it’s ok though; I think all the energy – nervous or otherwise helps keep me on my toes. There is a balance between being ready and over-rehearsing. For a long while, I did not rehearse – to be honest – it had not occurred to me to rehearse until another speaker mentioned that he always rehearsed. So for a number of years, I would typically rehearse but I have to confess that I no longer rehearse. I’m comfortable “ad hoc” and sharing a story based on time available and not worrying too much about it. This more relaxed approach does not mean that I don’t know what I want to say, haven’t thought through my slides or gained some idea about the timing of my talk. (I’m oddly quite proud that I tend to finish without rushing and without going “short” on time but that I have timing figured out well.)

Speaking adds to a career

Presenting at conferences has also helped to show my passion and commitment to my career. Some of my clients watch my videos or listen to a webinar before hiring me. In the case of working as a solo consultant – it is difficult to distinguish what aspects of my “extracurricular” activities clients find interesting and helpful, instead, I believe they see my collective involvement and dedication to the field and to the professional community.  Another unexpected benefit of speaking at conferences is that when I need to speak onsite for a client, I’m less anxious, more familiar with speaking and as a result, I’m more comfortable speaking even under what could be more anxiety-provoking short notice situations (or groupings of people).

If you have a chance to speak at a conference, try to look past the understandable anxiety and consider the benefits. Present only on topics you know, talk about your own work experiences and you might discover you enjoy public speaking.

Author Bio

Karen's photo

Karen N. Johnson is a software test consultant. She is a frequent speaker at conferences. Karen is a contributing author to the book, Beautiful Testing by O’Reilly publishers. She has published numerous articles and blogs about her experiences with software testing. She is the co-founder of the WREST workshop, more information on WREST can be found at http://www.wrestworkshop.com/Home.html

Visit her website at http://www.karennjohnson.com

From A to Z; 26 ways Testers can work with UX designers

The team needs to build a product. The team readily recognizes the testers need to work with the developers but the same team often doesn’t consider that the testers need to work with the UX staff. Often the UX staff is tucked away in a different part of the office, working with multiple teams and yet, rarely working directly with the testers. Why? How can testers review a product without a good understanding of the design? Testers need closer access to UX and UX designers would benefit from working directly with the testers. Following are 26 ways a tester can work more closely with UX designers – from A to Z. 

Accessibility Testing

Accessibility testing is a growing need as more websites and apps are becoming ADA compliant.  While ADA compliance can be included on the design, it is only through testing that compliance can be checked. In addition to “checklist” testing, the W3C has an accessibility guide mentions the concept of using a persona with disabilities which inspires a more holistic way to test for accessibility than testing solely with a checklist. Offer to work with your UX designer on the persona and execute testing through a different perspective.


As designers layout web pages, they might not be aware of the nuances of page rendering from browser to browser and this is an opportunity for testers to share their experience at the concept phase to ward off issues, as well as to offer access to testing during development.

Be fluent in browser settings and coach your UX designers when they introduce ideas that require specific browser settings or when they make browser assumptions. Browser assumptions – meaning the designer is assuming users are using Chrome with cookies enabled but you know from watching browser stats that your user audience is different – and may prefer Firefox with privacy settings turned on. In fact, you could be reviewing browser stats on an intermittent basis with your designer to make sure you are both aware of the production reality of your site usage.


The expression “content is king” may bring to mind the stark reality that many websites and mobile apps are free but the money is made in charging customers for access to content. While website and app designers are focused on the end user experience, it is in the testing of permission and user roles that we can ensure who can access what (and for that matter – when).

A second well used expression: “content is everywhere” refers to the separation of content and the form being used to display content.  Think mobile device versus tablet versus website; think about your site’s content and whether that content is ready to render as it should based on the viewing device and layout. Designers and writers can “tag” content but ultimately, it is in the testing to see how it all really comes together (or not.)


My data, your data, whose data? What can you see? What can you access? Like content, data is what makes a website or app really matter to the user. Screen mockups often show personal information but without test data or occasional production spot checks, how do you know what data is visible? Or how it looks?

Error Handling

While the “works as designed” scenarios may be more fun to design, UX designers (like developers) need to think about troubled situations that may arise and how those conditions will be handled. Have you ever used a graceful application only to face a hideous error message? Offer to preview error messages with your UX designer and to test software such that you see the error conditions evoked.


So many forms! From shopping carts whether on ecommerce or mcommerce payment is the most essential transaction on many websites and apps. The experience might be well designed but someone has to make sure the financial aspects and the forms of the site or app work and work well.


Websites and apps need to function well in addition to the look and feel. Learn what gestures are available and offer to test gestures in collaborations with a UX designer.


With security problems being displayed on the front of the news, everyone on a software development team needs to think like a hacker. Be aware of security flaws and help guide your UX designers to be mindful of potential security issues.


Installation testing is back in the forefront of concerns with mobile and tablet apps. Upgrading one app or many apps at the same time, as well as testing an upgrade to the operating system is needed. Work with UX designers to identify moments during installation for messages to users and like error messages, offer to preview messages.

Jail Broken Devices

Clean and pristine devices might be the ideal used during design but most users’ cell phones are jail broken or rooted and contain a multitude of apps. Testing on a more realistic device is helpful. Perhaps BYOD can help you achieve realistic testing? Help your UX designer by offering BYOD sessions for testing.


If you can navigate your site with just a keyboard – and not the use of a mouse, your site is ADA compliant (that is the only checkpoint). You can test for ADA compliance together.


Is your site or app suitable for international use? Do you need to test with international keyboards? Does content need to be adapted for global usage? Coordinate with your UX designer to address multi-lingual checks.

Multi-Device Experience

The multi-device experience promised by Apple computer ‘s TV ads shows a person moving from home to office, to the local coffee shop and back again but data synchronization, Wi-Fi access and retrieving information from the cloud is all just a magical promise without testing. A UX designer can dream and design but a tester can road test concepts best.


In design, the flow through a shopping e-commerce experience, an e-learning system or even the login process is often designed with the “happy path” in mind and while it is important to think of the “typical” path, it is the tester on the team that can highlight alternate or problem flows that also need to be designed.

Open Lab Time

As the team’s tester you might have access to multiple computers and devices, you can offer to your UX designer open lab times for them to come and view and use software for themselves.


It is easy to think about personalization through the mental lens of a single user but what happens to web pages like My Account and My Order History when the user is a longtime customer with pages and pages of history? A tester with access to the database can build account history and then review web pages with a UX designer to do a sanity check of how personalization pages look with deep order history and a variety of interesting past orders.

Quirky scenarios

UX designers may focus on more typical user scenarios but as the team’s tester, you may be able to envision more gnarly or quirky scenarios.  Sharing your ideas early on about twists in typical usage paths helps designers plan for the less expected scenarios.

Responsive Web Design

RWD – responsive web design – building in the ability to resize, pan, and scroll all while auto-detecting the way a device is being held or rotated and having that instant fluid presentation takes planning and testing. Work with your UX designer to test on an array of devices to ensure a smooth user experience.


Search engine optimization and the continual change in search order ranking is an ongoing “art” in the quest for companies and their websites and apps to be “findable.” From glass box testing of the HTML to black box testing of search results, testers can help UX designers.

Target Users

Marketing efforts often rely on A/B testing – providing two different looks of a website to see which is more successful. UX designers design those two layouts and while testing the success of the marketing efforts is a different form of testing, checkpoints workflows and shopping carts regardless of which entry point is used is something testers can coordinate with UX designers.


Offer to help host and attend UAT sessions your UX designer may host. Once you have a chance to see the software through the user’s perspective, your own testing approach may change.


Version control and compatibility especially when web services and APIs are in the background and being updated at a variety of times and not always updated and released at the same time. Coordinate with your UX designer to ensure compatibility.

Web Services

Testing what cannot be seen such as web services and APIs is a challenge for people who don’t know how to test what they cannot immediately and directly “see.” Testers can work more closely with developers to provoke or stimulate services that are down or disrupted to test challenge scenarios that designers are dependent on.


Extensible Markup Language defines precise formatting for information and while designers plan for data and information to be available, testers can test those dependencies on data.

Y2K and other dates

Y is a reminder to test with sensitive dates and date formatting that may otherwise “quietly” appear on web pages and confirmation emails.

Zip Files

Browse to file, upload file, drag and drop file and other ways to navigate to files to include, attach and upload files is not the most exciting part of a website but the end result is important to users. Zip files are not the only file types to test with but compressed hefty zip files do provide a reminder to consider boundary conditions.

About the Author


Karen N. Johnson is a software test consultant. She is frequent speaker at conferences. Karen is a contributing author to the book, Beautiful Testing by O’Reilly publishers. She has published numerous articles and blogs about her experiences with software testing. She is the co-founder of the WREST workshop, more information on WREST can be found at: http://www.wrestworkshop.com/Home.html Visit her website at: http://www.karennjohnson.com