Target's Website Snafu Suggests More Exploratory Testing
For all the effort Target most likely puts into making sure its website is top-notch—functionally-speaking—it was probably a surprise to the company to find itself in the news over a bug. Only, the issue wasn’t really a bug. Or was it?
The dust started flying on April 2, 2013, when Twitter user Susan Clemens posted a tweet on her account about something she’d noticed while shopping on Target.com. Clemens found that the same style of dress in the same color was labeled differently depending on the size, and that difference didn’t appear to be exactly flattering.
Susan Clemens wrote:
What the. Plus sized women get “Manatee Grey” while standard sizes are “Dark Heather Grey.” @Target #notbuyingit
The dress in question was the Mossimo Women’s Kimono Maxi, available in standard sizes in a grey color called “Dark Heather Gray” and in plus-size sizes in a color called “Manatee Gray.” As the web lit up with comments about self-esteem and having a sense of humor, Target spokesman Joshua Thomas responded to the snafu, saying that “Manatee Gray” happens to be a color used in many products across the company’s website and no one intended to play a mean joke on anyone.
Thomas said there were two different teams of buyers responsible for the standard and plus-size lines, and the teams didn’t coordinate when they input the colors.
Target also tweeted:
We apologize for this unintentional oversight & never intend to offend our guests. We’ve heard you, and we’re working to fix it ASAP.
The fix on the webpage for the plus-sized version of the dress changed the color from “Manatee Gray” to “Gray.”
Target’s major PR blooper is a shining example of what really matters in software development and testing: the user experience. No amount of automation could have caught that a product description might be offensive to some, and even if only suggestive to others, the power of suggestion here would likely keep users from buying something meant to be feminine with “Manatee” in the name.
This is where arguments don’t even need to be made—this is a clear-cut case—for having a diverse exploratory test team that manually tests in a production environment—or at least an environment with real data on it. Being able to find and fix things users will have a problem with, whether they know it or not, may in fact be orders of magnitude more productive than scripted testing, especially if it means the difference between keeping and losing users.
A wonderfully functioning piece of software with no users is no more valuable than a digital paperweight.
Needless to say, someone at Target is probably now tasked with scrutinizing the website for other potentially negative oversights users might find first.