Recently, I was chatting in our company’s kitchen with my friend, a fellow tester, while we were preparing some afternoon hot beverages. Our conversation touched upon how difficult it can be to find the testing off switch and to live life normally, rather than testing everything we come across, be that critiquing, analysing or actually going to town on something to see if it falls apart.
As we were standing in the kitchen, I gestured towards a new kettle placed almost between us, as a prime example of how I find testing seeping into so many of my interactions with the world. I’ve spent cumulatively many minutes forming an opinion about this kettle and I truly dislike it. I have a number of reasons for my feelings towards it:
- The lid is not only a tight fit but is located directly beneath the handle, that loops over the top. While it’s not easy to get back on, it’s even harder to take it out with the handle in the way.
- Additionally, if you’ve not quite fitted the lid correctly (a common event), when the water boils and you go to pour, you’ll find your fingers immersed in steam.
- I find that having the handle looping on top makes it awkward to tilt and pour when heavy, having to rely on an odd wrist rotation and friction to tilt it over rather than it being nicely balanced.
- For a device with the purpose of containing hot things, it has a ridiculous number of metal bits of trim, all of which seem to get hot (what a surprise) and many of which are located where I’m likely to touch, such as on the lid’s little ring-pull and on the handle.
Modern kettles: designed by folk who have apparently never used a kettle.
However – as I pointed out during the discussion about missing an off switch in life – the one failing in the design that was the worst was the kettle’s on/off switch. The kettle, if recently boiled and still containing hot water, will not allow the user to click the switch in place to turn it on to bring the water back to the boil. It automatically switches straight back off again. On it’s own, just a design flaw and annoyance. The first time I encountered this, I simply chose to hold down the on switch, thereby allowing it to boil as I desired rather than how it wanted, expecting to release the switch when it was bubbling away nicely. Only for me to find out a short time later that one of the exit points for the steam was the user interface point of said switch, thereby causing a rather nasty burn to my thumb.
I have a road sign around halfway on my commute home that I use as a reminder that the working day has finished and, if I’m still mulling over untraced bugs or testing blockers, to turn my mind to other things in order to have a chance to unwind in an evening. I’ve found that with a little commitment to the approach this works brilliantly for work topics, but it’s the tester traits that persist. If I find the slightest crack or sniff of an issue in something, whether a website, flyer in the post, design of a car or anything else, I can’t seem to stop myself. I think that sometimes it can be fine and relatively harmless, but I would like to live slightly more positively, maybe be more accepting that not everything is created, written or designed particularly well.
So I ask you, testing community: how do you switch off the tester in you (if you do even manage it at all)? Are you able to function in the “Real World” without slipping into your profession or do you find yourself testing things you shouldn’t or don’t need to test? Do you even see it as a bad thing?
After that post, I could really do with a coffee… and a happy user experience with my well-designed, plastic, controllable Hinari kettle.