Insights, thoughts and finds from the With Pulp team

Why automated testing is necessary for digital agencies

As a digital agency, one of the toughest services to sell to Clients is automated testing of their software. This is especially true when Clients are less technical, like those in Product, Project Management or Marketing.

As a User Experience design and development shop, Clients come to us with a wishlist of software projects or features they’d like to roll out. This usually looks like improving user experience or making operations more efficient. Rarely have Clients come to us with a wishlist where the items near the top included getting broader and more efficient test coverage of their software. (How nice would that be?)

We have seen that, more and more, Clients are bringing on people with DevOps knowledge onto their teams. In these cases, it’s easy to vibe on the value of writing tests. But this is still the exception, and no matter how tough the conversation might be, it’s important to raise to Clients why writing tests should be weaved into their core backlog.

Why is selling automated testing hard?

Companies prioritize work that has an immediate impact on revenue. In the software world, this usually looks like product or marketing funnel activities that improve the user or customer experience. And since everything else gets second priority to this, Developer Operations (DevOps) becomes a luxury.

Selling automated testing is hard because as a digital agency, we empathize with this. We nod when Clients tell us to push off writing tests to the next sprint, for yet another time. See, we’re caught between a rock and a hard place. We’re working towards the short-term wins because that’s what leads to long-term partnerships, where we generate most of our revenue.

And so to win in the short-term, in the past we’ve prioritized recommendations related to product and funnel improvements. We understand how valuable this is to our Clients as this makes their customers happier.

Recommendations like these help us prove to our Clients that we get it. We understand what’s important for their business. And since automated testing doesn’t have the immediate short-term benefits, it has generally taken a backseat in our recommendations. But over the years, we’ve learned the hard way that leaving automated testing out of our early recommendations can hurt us down the line.

Automated testing mitigates risk in the long-term

Recently, we identified a major bug on one of the Client websites we’ve been maintaining for a year and a half. We inherited this website from a previous digital agency. We won’t get into the details of the bug due to NDA restrictions, but what’s surprising is that the bug has existed even before our involvement!

The bug stemmed from both, an error in the logic and missing logic altogether. For more than 2 years, it was never caught. And unfortunately, the issue had significant downstream consequences as multiple stakeholders were working with imprecise data. Naturally, our immediate reaction was, “how was this missed?”

Turns out that it was missed simply because the scenario was left out of all test plans. Even in when the test plans included scenarios scoped to the same domain as the bug.

You might be thinking, “What’s the big deal? Bugs happen all the time.” And yes, that’s true.

It’s the nature of software to be never-done and increasingly-complex. But every bug, large or small, chips away at the trust between us, as a Digital Partner and our Client.

This is the case whether the bug was done by the previous Digital Agency, due to missing business rules, or because the Client missed it in their own QA.

Of course, I’m not talking about low severity issues like cosmetic things or edge cases. When it comes to these types of bugs, Clients are very understanding.

But issues related to core product can quickly erode trust with Clients. Digital agencies should take the necessary steps early on to mitigate against these potential issues.

Automated testing is a worthwhile step toward this.

How does automated testing help?

Encourages precise development

Automated testing requires an extreme attention to detail.

Tests depend on specific and precise scenarios. This requires close collaboration between Digital Agency and Client. Test cases stress-test business rules and code.

In the example here, had we recommended writing tests early on, there’s a really good chance that both the wrong logic, and the missing logic would have been identified. And we would have looked like heroes from day one. A nice win in the short-term.

Provides thorough documentation

Automated testing gives Digital Agency and Client thorough documentation that details the business rules that have been ironed out.

A struggles that faced was efficiently figuring out what was done vs what was missing. Since documentation was lacking, we had to extrapolate business rules from code that was written by the previous dev team.

Makes testing QA efficient

Automated testing makes Quality Assurance testing more efficient. It can start from the automatic configuration of test nodes and classes, and can end with a detailed log of what passed and failed, and the severity of every case.

If this case was written as a test, we’d know very quickly when there were issues.

Gives confidence

Automated testing gives Digital Agency and Client confidence to deploy to production.

This bug would have been caught in development and fixed before ever reaching the live site.

A necessary conversation

Asking Clients to weave automated tests into their backlog is not an easy conversation in the short-term. But it’s a necessary one. And if your goal is to become a Digital partner, it will hedge against risk towards that goal in the long-term.

In a future post, we may dig into how to best articulate the value of automated testing to your Clients.

Let us know if you found this helpful, or have any questions. We’re happy to connect.

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How to know when a company's design culture is right for you

Whether you’re a freelance designer or working full-time, you give a lot of valuable time to the companies that you work with. So before embarking on a new design job or career, it’s important to be as certain as possible that you’ll enjoy the work environment. And that means going beyond the salary and benefits of a gig.

You want to know that you’d get along with the people there. You want to evolve as a designer. You want to be able to do the kind of design work you love. This is what design culture is about.

In this video, we give you a set of tools that help you determine whether a company’s culture and particularly design culture is right for you. The goal is to help you be more confident about the jobs or opportunities that you embark upon.

Show-notes

Timestamps

  • What is company culture [00:45]
  • What is design culture [01:35]
  • Learning about a company’s design culture [01:49]
  • Defining your ideal work environment [3:30]
  • Your design philosophy [4:20]
  • Self-reflection exercise and tips [5:54]
  • Questions you can ask to learn about a company’s design culture [6:38]

Shout-outs

Thank you Julia Jong for the fantastic question!

This video was inspired by a question by Julia Jong, a UX designer based in NYC. She asks:

As a new designer entering the job search, I am hoping to find a role in a company with strong design culture and mentorship. What kinds of questions do you think are helpful to ask to learn about a company’s design culture?

You can find Julia on Instagram at @here.for.the.journey and check out her work at juliajong.com/work.

Self-reflection exercise

You can get the free self-reflection exercise here: How to know if a company’s culture is right for you

Share this with a fellow designer. The goal is to help designers connect with their ideal companies!

Was this helpful?

Let us know in the comments. We’re happy to connect and answer your questions about user experience, product design or development.

Best of luck!

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The only branding advice you need

Recently, for his 68th birthday, Kevin Kelly published a goldmine of an article that rounds-up 68 bits of life advice.

In it he articulates the most important (and arguably, only) branding advice that any business needs:

Don’t be the best. Be the only.

Kevin Kelly, Chief-Editor of Wired.com

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Covid-19 small business support

We understand how challening things are now. To do our part, we’re offering complementary design and development guidance for small businesses that have been severely affected by Covid-19.

If you’re considering starting an e-commerce business or a publishing website, or want to improve your current online presence, let us help you.

Learn more here: With Pulp Covid-19 Small Business Support.

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Finding color inspiration from one of our favorite movies

When it comes to color, we like to turn to nature, our favorite artists or movies for inspiration.

Recently, we did an exploration of the latter by looking at 2001: A Space Odyssey by Stanley Kubric. Here’s how we approached this exercise:

  1. Pick a scene from the movie that we absolutely love for it’s visual aesthetic, and we’ve never seen on an interface before. The second criteria is especially important as it presents a more challenging design opportunity
  2. Extract the key colors and creat a color palette that includes the relative dominance of each color in the palette
  3. Apply the palette to a practical user interface concept. We like to test palettes with interfaces that we see in the real world as this makes it more apparant whether they work

Here’s how it turned out (pulled the images from the carousel post on Instagram):

A favorite still from 2001: A Stanley Kubric

This color palette emerged from that scene

An application of the color palette into a real-world user interface

You can see the full post and others like it on our Instagram: @_withpulp.

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Resources for small businesses during COVID-19

This post aims to compile resources that are helpful for small businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic.

It’s categorized into a few sections: Financial resources, working from home, design and development, education and other.

This post will be regularly updated as we discover more.

If you’re an organization offering resources or if you know of any resources, let us know in the comments below or @ us on social, and we’ll be more than happy to feature it here.

Last edited: 5/20/20

Financial resources

Working from home

For some resources, the descriptions are pasted directly from the respective company’s website.

Slack

“Nonprofit organizations of any size are eligible to receive three months of our Standard plan or Plus for their workspace free of charge.” Full article: https://slack.com/help/articles/360045240813-Slack-for-Nonprofits-during-COVID-19

Trello

“If you are a teacher or instructor working in K-12 or higher education, we want to help support your digital classroom. Fill out this form to get a full year of Trello Business Class—for free!”

Application: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSfo6BpK5hG-miEnMVxdScgxwxKZPnExwqWX0LNhSmWtq_kU9Q/viewform

JIRA

“To make remote work as easy as possible for you and your teams, we launched our Remote Work Hub to make our products and best practices easily accessible. We also made our core cloud software products available for free so everyone can communicate and collaborate seamlessly, without needing to be in the same room.”

Full article: https://www.atlassian.com/blog/teamwork/atlassians-commitment-to-our-customers-during-the-covid-19-pandemic

Box

“For any small and medium businesses that need Box right now, we’ve made our Box business edition free for 90 days here:”

More info: https://twitter.com/levie/status/1238171171889098753

Intermedia

“In Response to COVID-19 Pandemic, Intermedia Offers Free Video Conferencing and Webinar Solutions Through End of 2020”

Full article: https://www.intermedia.net/press-release/intermedia-free-video-conferencing-webinar-solution-through-2020

Salesforce

“Salesforce Care for Small Business: Salesforce Essentials, our out-of-the-box CRM for small businesses, will be available to support our small business customers’ sales and customer service efforts.

Tableau for Salesforce Care: Tableau will enable small businesses to make data-driven decisions with speed regarding their unique business challenges.”

Full article: https://www.salesforce.com/company/news-press/stories/2020/3/salesforce-care/

Okta

Okta, the Single Sign On (SSO) provider rolled out Okta for Emergency Remote Work, which offers core Okta services for free to all new customers for six months (with possible extensions based on the situation). This includes Okta Single Sign-On (SSO) and Okta Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) to 5 apps for all users.

More info: https://www.okta.com/okta-for-emergency-remote-work/#trials

1Password

“We’re removing the 30-day trial period on 1Password Business so companies can start keeping their teams secure without getting finance involved.”

Full article: https://blog.1password.com/covid-19-response/

Design and Development

GitKraken

“If you’re contributing to a COVID-19 related project, you are eligible to request a free GitKraken Pro license for yourself and up to 25 team members.” More info: https://www.gitkraken.com/pro-for-a-cure

Pantheon

“Access free support for health, government, educational, and non-profit organizations fighting COVID-19 for at least 90 days.” Full article: https://pantheon.io/blog/supporting-orgs-on-covid-19-front-line

Adobe Creative Cloud

“Adobe is making temporary at-home access to Creative Cloud available until May 31, 2020 for schools and colleges who currently have only lab access for students, at no additional cost.” More info: https://helpx.adobe.com/enterprise/kb/covid-19-education-labs.html

Education

Skillshare

“A limited number of free two-month memberships will be made available daily through March 2020. Applicants will be selected based on user need.”

https://skillshareresearch.typeform.com/to/rjfj4s

Other

YCombinator

YCombinator put out a list of YC companies that are helping with the crisis: https://www.ycombinator.com/covid

Resources from the community

We’ve been receiving additional Covid-19 resources from others in the community (thank you everyone!). Listing those here:


If you’re an organization offering resources or if you know of any resources, let us know in the comments below or @ us on social, and we’ll be more than happy to feature it here.

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COVID-19 and on a few thoughts on working from home

The COVID-19 storm has come so suddenly. In just a few weeks, it seems the world as we know it has changed completely.

In the US, travel has been shut down. Social distancing is in order. And now cities are seeing shelter-in-place coming into effect.

It’s not an easy time for anyone. Some countries have been hit really hard. Thinking of you Italy, China, Iran. Wishing you the best.

And everyone everywhere is feeling some level of anxiety. Sending you love.

If there’s an upside to this at all – and that’s not to take away from the crisis by any means – it would be that this may be a broad trial run of working remotely.

Of course, not the kind of trial run we’d hope for. In echo’ing the words of Matt Mullenweg, WordPress & Automattic founder, this is not how we envisioned the distributed work revolution to take hold.

With Pulp has been remote since day one. To be able to work from where we’d like is one of the main reasons we formed the studio.

Having learned a few things over the years, we thought we’d share what’s worked well for us:

  1. Over communicate. Because we operate in different timezones, most of our work is done asynchronously. We try our best to communicate mindfully. This means putting communications in a place where it’s easily retrievable by teammates and going above and beyond when we deliver updates.
  2. Set aside a few hours for synchorizing every day. We do this on Slack mostly. When it gets particularly busy and written communication gets in the way of the work, we organize brief audio or video calls. It’s rare that we meet for more than 30 minutes.
  3. Set aside a few tools that we use regularly. We use Slack for communication, Google Meet or Skype for audio/video meetings, Google Suite for planning, long-form notes and collaboration, and just recently rolled out this Gatsby blog for blogging/team updates. We’re flexible and happy to try new tools, and encourage folks on the team to propose their own. But having some tools handy helps reduce decision making fatigue.
  4. Take weekend work very seriously. All of us work on our own schedules. Our focus is on getting the work done as promised. At the same time, we take time off very seriously and do our best to limit new requests to the next business day.

Again, we wish you and your loved ones safety during this storm. And we’re happy to be of assistance in anyway we can.

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Happy Birthday Isam!

Though you’re not with us, we celebrate your birthday and remember the good times we had.

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Learn UX design thinking with these 5 books

If you’re new to UX design, it helps to get a broad understanding of the field. This will allow you to speak the language across the UX design process and see which aspects of UX design you enjoy the most

Show Notes

  • What the user experience design process encompasses (00:42)
  • A practical book on design thinking: Jobs To Be Done by Tony Ulwick (01:00)
  • Information architecture described in plain english: How to Make Sense of Any Mess by Abby Covert. (01:49)
  • What is usability and where do some design conventions come from: Don’t Make Me Think by Steve Krug (02:40)
  • Beyond designing for mobile, this book gets you thinking about the importance of device and context: Mobile-First Design by Luke (03:47)
  • This brief book gives you a broad understanding of visual design to make your user interfaces more delightful: Designing for Emotion by Aaron Walter (04:24)
  • If you replace all mentions of “marketing” in this book with “user experience”, you’ll have a really good understanding of UX is: This is Marketing by Seth Godin (04:26)
  • An inspiring book that puts the focus on practice, practice, practice: The War of Art by Steven Pressfield (05:02)

Links from the episode

These books are free to read online:

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All you need to go from graphic design to UX design

UX design is a growing field that combines user research, technology and design.

Estimates show that by 2050 there will be 100 million design jobs. And as of 2018, UX designers make 50% more than graphic designers.

As a graphic designer, you bring a lot of experience that can make your transition into UX design efficient.

In this video, we describe what to prepare as you make your career move.

Want to hear more on UX design? Leave a comment with a topic suggestion or question.

Show Notes

  • UX is made up of multiple stakeholders and activities, and is dependent on a breadth of technologies [00:32]
  • The amount of learning might be intimidating but you can manage your learning to make your process more efficient [02:48]
  • You should be encouraged because your graphic design experience equips you with a lot of skills that are applicable and can even strengthen UX design [05:11]
  • What you should prepare to make your transition including how to plan your UX design portfolio, resume and positioning [06:38]
  • How to find UX design projects [08:30]
  • What to study immediately and the frame to have as you embark on your journey [11:15]

Links from the episode

Study material

UX portfolio examples

References

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