Podcast | Women in Tech: The Importance of Testing with Anne McCarthy

If you’re a developer, you know what it’s like having to test your code. Usually you verify, if the code works, run a couple of tests, maybe you do some automated testing, and hope for the best.

Perhaps that approach might be sufficient for pet projects and early-stage projects, but what about for a platform that runs over 40% of the web? For Anne McCarthy, WordPress Product Liaison at Automattic, testing software of this magnitude is one of her primary responsibilities. And she does it well.

Women in Tech: The Importance of Testing with Anne McCarthy

In this Episode: How to Test Software and Engage in Testers Outside of the Contributing Community

Anne provides a ton of great insight into the current state of web development and full site editing, how it affects her approach as a tester, and what we, as developers, should be thinking about. 

One of the most important points Anne makes is to not be attached to your work. Encourage critiquing and don’t take it personally. Remember, you want to make the best thing possible, so constructive criticism should always be welcomed. 

Then the conversation pivots to getting more people to test for you by doing by doing intentional outreach to untapped communities, clearly documenting the process, running group sessions, creating different types of testing opportunities to involve different folks, offering rewards, recognition, and scaling the efforts by working with others to do some of the above.

Key Takeaways

  • Anne started out as a Happiness Engineer at Automattic, which gives her a unique look at problems users were having and how people were using WordPress.
  • At the root level, web development has gotten harder. There’s a bigger learning curve to getting started. But theme development, and creating without code, has gotten a lot easier as a result. 
  • Part of Anne’s approach to testing Full Site Editing is thinking of “all the people I can’t see” and how it’s going to affect them. This keeps her grounded and driven to make sure the software is as good as possible before it gets merged into Core.
  • Keeping an open mind definitely helps with this. Don’t get too attached to the work, and don’t take criticism personally. 
  • As for testing with a wider audience, people in the WordPress space are going out into their communities and doing group testing. This gets people who may not be checking the WordPress Slack (and might not even know it exists!)
  • Engaging and listening to users is so important. “We need to listen to the core audience, the biggest supporters if we want the edge users to believe we’re listening,” says Anne. In other words: why would lesser-known users want to help when they think the biggest voices in the space are being ignored?
  • As for how you can test better: work with Designers. They think about users and interactions different and can provide a different perspective. 
  • Break things into smaller chunks, and as you see patterns, document them!
  • Having several ways to test at varying degrees helps. 
  • When it comes to getting feedback, have a structure to get good feedback, but don’t create too much friction. Having a way to get “bad” feedback makes way for a fruitful conversation. 
  • You want people to feel heard, but guiding them towards the right channels is something you should actively pursue. 

The Official Plesk Podcast: Next Level Ops Featuring


Joe Casabona
Joe is a college-accredited course developer and podcast coach. You can find him at Casabona.org.

Anne McCarthy

Anne is the WordPress Product Liaison at Automattic.

Did you know we’re also on Spotify and Apple Podcasts? In fact, you can find us pretty much anywhere you get your daily dose of podcasts. As always, remember to update your daily podcast playlist with Next Level Ops. And stay on the lookout for our next episode!

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