stress cases, pt. 2: peppy messaging

I wrote about stress cases a couple months ago (, and since then, I’ve thought a lot more about stress cases and given a keynote at Agile Testing Days USA about them. (It was a great conference, and I’ll write about it another time.) I thought I should flesh out some of the ideas here too. Today’s topic is peppy messaging.

When we talk about stress cases versus edge cases, we look at the impact on a person, rather than just the steps that got them there. We look at how a person under stress could be frustrated by our product, and how a product can cause additional stress to a person.

One way that our products can cause stress to a person are through peppy messaging. For instance:

This man had written a tribute to his recently-deceased friend on Medium, a blogging site, and he received an email with “fun fact: Shakespeare only got 2 recommends on his first Medium story.” This may be appropriate in some circumstances, like people talking about skateboarding or the antics of kittens, but there are many circumstances where peppy messaging is inappropriate.

We know, generally, the pain points people are trying to solve when they come to our products. We should not be causing unexpected pain in the form of peppy messages. Companies do not need to show off personality or quirkiness in their messaging.

So… how do we test for this?

Read all your copy out loud. All of it. Grab a colleague and have them frown at you. Have them imagine that their dog just died if they need to. If you can read all your copy to a frowning colleague, then it’s okay to put in your product. If it makes you uncomfortable to say it, or if your colleague looks taken aback, rethink the copy.

If you have bad copy, advocate for better copy. Be bold, tell a story about a person who could be affected by it, and make sure the extent of the hurt it can cause is understood. As testers, we are situated in a place where we see things at the beginning, the end, and all the middle places (hopefully), and we have a critical eye that notices things. We can, and should, advocate for better messaging.

So this was round 2 of stress cases. I’ll keep writing about them.

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