Visual Test Strategy – A Short Film

In Agile projects we use visualisation to communicate and engage with our teams and stakeholders. This is effective for high-level information, but detail is often left to written documentation which many people (especially visual learners) would prefer to avoid.

To share the detail behind Fairfax Product Technology’s Visual Test Strategy, we’ve experimented with a micro-learning approach and produced a video version of the strategy.

Early feedback on the video has been very positive, especially from people outside of Fairfax. The video has been particularly effective with my Assurity colleagues who have viewed it so far. Viewings of the video have lead to in-depth discussions on both the messages and the medium of delivery. We’re now looking at experimenting with a similar approach for sharing a range of learning and ideas across Assurity.

The Visual Test Strategy

The Fairfax Product Technology’s Visual Test Strategy

The Visual Test Strategy captured our guiding principles for testing in a one-page illustration. This approach was used as an experiment to communicate the strategy and principles in an easy-to-understand and engaging way.  The idea being for the test strategy to be displayed on team walls and other shared team spaces, to be used as a reference in stand-ups and team discussions during development.

The visual test strategy was well received by the team and it has helped them understand how to approach Testing throughout development. In particular, the central concept of “Testing as a Team” has been adopted by the teams, with everyone getting actively involved in Testing to some degree. This involvement ranges from crowd-sourced help with mobile device testing to non-Testers leading Test delivery for stories (with Tester support).

The Visual Test Strategy Video

The illustration helps to communicate the test strategy in an engaging way, but it doesn’t capture everything. My article introducing the strategy covered much of the background and this information is also on the team’s wiki. While many team members are now familiar with the strategy and its background via this documentation, it isn’t going to be the best form of communication for everyone.

Many of us are visual learners, which was what made our original test strategy approach so effective. To communicate the background to the strategy to a wider audience, we experimented with the illustration in another visual medium and produced a short video version of it.

Jaume Durany (the strategy’s illustrator) and I were inspired to take this approach by the concept of “micro-learning”, which focuses on delivering education in small, accessible and easy-to-digest chunks. In micro-learning, the focus is on delivering learning in mediums that your audience readily uses. With video we could keep the test strategy visual and communicate detail in a format that was more engaging than a wiki document.

We wanted the video to be visually engaging for viewers and hit upon the idea of recording the illustration of the strategy and have the illustration emerging as the background of the strategy was being discussed. The end product is this 6 minute video introducing the strategy

The Visual Test Strategy video – illustrated by Jaume Durany, narrated and edited by Jamie McIndoe

The Early Reviews …

Our strategy video has been shared with the Fairfax team and some of my Assurity colleagues.

The video has been well-received by those who’ve viewed it so far, but perhaps the most enthusiastic reactions have been from my Assurity colleagues. Many of these colleagues work outside of Testing, but after they’ve watched the video we’ve been able to discuss the strategy in some depth. This has demonstrated to me that the key messages are getting communicated in a way that genuinely engages people. By introducing the strategy in this way, we’ve reached and engaged people both inside and outside of Fairfax who were never likely to willingly read a Testing article or document.

There’s also been real excitement about the micro-learning approach we took with the video and we’re looking at sharing other ideas and learning across Assurity using this type of approach. This ranges from technical training to company communications.

The Making of …

The uncropped video view prior to editing

An advantage of working with video for us was that we could work with free and readily available tools. The video editing tools did take some learning, but there were plenty of useful learning resources available which helped me understand how to do what I wanted quickly. The tools we used were:

  • Our team’s stationery supplies!
  • Video was captured on my phone, positioned on a tripod, recording at 1080p
    • We couldn’t get a close-up view on the illustration that looked good enough during recording. We instead recorded at a wider angle that included a good view of the illustration and cropped the video in editing
  • My narration was recorded on my phone’s voice memo recorder
    • I narrated to a roughly even timeline for each part of the strategy to help the video flow better.
    • The video was edited to fit the narration
  • The video was formatted and edited using open-source software, particularly
    • VirtualDub, used for cropping the video to focus solely on the illustration
    • Blender, for all video editing and rendering. There is a detailed video tutorial series which helped me understand the tool quickly

The illustration and narration took some time to refine and record but, including learning the tools and doing the editing, the video was produced in around 6 hours effort.

Hopefully I’ll have further experiments in micro-learning to report on soon!



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