Tuesday, April 1, 2014

A Letter to the Designers of PDF land, ref: testing



Disclaimer:  I promise it's not an April Fool's joke!

This post has been in the draft stages for a while, because I’ve written it, re-written it, deleted it, and started again… and I think this one hits on everything I want to get out there.  If I’ve missed something, please let me know and I’ll happily update!

Sunset Infinity Scarf from Rabbit Rabbit Creations

First of all, thank you.  It is always an honor and a privilege to be selected to test, and we know there are TONS of people out there who are applying, so when I get picked I get a little giddy.

If you remember, a few weeks ago I wrote a letter to all the testers out there – attempting to explain better what the testing process entails, and what our responsibilities are as testers.  You can see that post here.  

This post is directed at the designers.  In order for a pattern to be awesome, we both have roles in the designer-tester relationship.  For the most part, I have had really great interactions with designers.  But testers chat, because we get to know each other during these tests, and it may surprise you to know, that there are designers who we choose not to apply for tests with, because of feedback from each other on the experience.  Are these great designers with beautiful patterns? Yes.  But testing is an important part of design, and hopefully this will help designers who are struggling with the testing aspect establish their routine.  
Frilly Filly from Pickle Pudding
 
Tester calls:  Post a size chart for testers who are applying, or do a tester form asking for measurements and RTW size, so you can assign sizes based on that.   Otherwise, there is a little bit of guesswork involved on the applicant’s part.  For example, if you only do even sizes, my daughter will wear a 4 in some designers and a 6 in others.   This helps us know what size to pick, or what measurements you need, and helps you get the best fit for each size.  

Tester Group:  These are really are helpful, if for no other reason than that it gives us a place to bounce confusion off each other.  It also helps keep the “oops” moments out of the eye of the rest of the world, or if you test via email – keeps everyone in the loop when there is an issue.  I’ve been part of tests done multiple ways, and I really think that the group seems to be the best way to ­keep everyone notified and get the best results.  

Candy Castle Patterns Princess Dress


Feedback:  When testers work on the test pattern, there are often questions. Things one person may find confusing, feedback as we go, etc.  Make it clear, when you commission testers, how you want to handle this stuff – tag you in the posts with questions?  Put all feedback into files in the file section?  An on-going feedback form?  Emailed directly you?  Whichever method you choose, just make sure the testers know how to bring up issues and questions.

If testing is done via email, let us know that you’ve received our feedback or pictures.  Once sent, we do this nervous dance around, check email every two minutes thing, hoping you’ll let us know everything is good to go.  Sounds silly, I know, but I do it EVERY test.  

Interaction:  It is totally reasonable to not be in front of your computer all the time, this is what makes tester groups so useful.  If you’re not around or not going to be around for a day, just post a quick message, and we’ll step in and attempt to help each other out – sewing makes for great social time (and for some of us we get minimal interaction with adults otherwise!)  If you have an admin who can step in and answer questions for you while you’re away, that’s awesome too – let us know who it is so we can tag them and yell HELP! 

 
If you aren't using a tester group, being readily accessible via email is a must.  Tester windows (for completion of sewing and photos) are often small, and we are fitting this sewing into our work/family time, so it helps so much if we don't have to wait *too* long to keep working when we have a progress-halting question.  

Designers and testers come from all over the world, so make sure when you put a due date, you put down a time zone.  And, it will help testers know when they can expect to hear back if you let them know “hey, some of you are new to testing for me.  As you know I’m in ____, so if you’re not local, check out the time difference! And I’ll get back with you as soon as I’m awake.”  

Bella's Bolero from Little Kiwi's Closet

Mistakes happen:  When getting ready for a test, we expect that you have some sort of draft pattern pieces or measurements for us, and some sort of instructions.  If you’re really iffy on the sizes, do a pre-test (and tell us that is what we are signing up for), then we know for sure that we’re in for multiple iterations, and will be prepared to make more than one muslin before we get to the final product.   We also don’t expect everything to be perfect.  Tweaks need to be made, and that is exactly what testing is for.  Don’t be afraid to ask your testers to make more than one of the item if you’ve made changes.  It helps if we know ahead of time that we may need to do this, but really, when we sign on to test, it’s for the long-haul!  Sometimes things made sense when they were drafted, or off your charts that once tried on real bodices, just don’t work – and that is totally okay!  Let us know what to adjust, and we’ll try it again!  

Pictures:  This one is kind of a weird one – if you’ve tested multiple times, you learn what kind of pictures a designer needs for a test  -- “the fit shots” or whatever you’d like to call them.  But a lot of us haven’t tested for YOU in particular, or even done a lot of testing – so you will get the “pretty” cover shots (or our best attempt at them), but may not get the fit shots you need – if you make it clear at the beginning what shots you need, then we can get them all at once for you, and make the process more streamlined.

 
Old Tyme Baseball Shirt from Dandelions n' Dungarees

The Feelz:  I’m not sure what to call this topic, but I’ve had this discussion with multiple friends that test, and felt it myself.  When I test a pattern, I put my all into it (and I completely believe that every tester should), so when I post my outfit, on my goofball child, doing her very best poses, know that I have put a lot of love and work into it.  So take a moment to comment – “lovely,” “she’s darling,” “looks great on him,”  “love the colors,” “that pattern combo is great.”  Something, anything – even if the next line is “I think we need to change <fill in the blank>, it makes us feel appreciated when you take that 10 seconds to comment.  If I’ve spent hours sewing something up, and time putting together extensive feedback, it really does hurt my feelings when a designer doesn’t even acknowledge it.  

Promoting: There is NOTHING wrong with asking your testers to promote your pattern if they are happy with the end result.   That being said, if you are uninvolved as a designer during testing, don’t expect testers to jump all over promoting you.  

Implementing Feedback:  When I submit feedback, I try to be clear about what kind of issue I am addressing.  Grammatical issues/spelling mistakes/typos, I sort of expect designers to correct.   Confusing or awkward wording I address, but I know that can be a personal thing, so I don’t expect to see those changes when I get the final copy.  When there are steps that aren’t clear or information that would be helpful for someone making the pattern, I also try to include that.  When I get a final pattern, and none of that has been addressed, it does make me less inclined to recommend it to my friends.  You’re getting testers to help check fit and construction – if at the end of the day, you don’t use any of the feedback we give, it will definitely leave a sour taste.  It doesn’t mean that it isn’t a great pattern, but we’re here to help make it even better, so don’t be offended if we have suggestions.  For the most part, that’s all they are.  Think of it this way, if I didn’t like the look of the pattern to begin with, I wouldn’t have signed up to test – so I’m only there to help make the instructions match the finished look.  

Final Pattern:  This may sound silly, but testers really should get the final pattern from you.  We’ve put in a lot of work too, and it is kind of a slap in the face if we get to the end and are left with nothing but the “tester” version.  Additionally, I’ve been in a couple of more stressful tests where the designer went above and beyond with the thank you (a coupon code for their shop or a small free pattern).  These extras are never expected or required, but are a really nice way to say thank you.

Sweet Pea Coat from Ellie Inspired


I am in no way a designer, nor do I have any aspirations to be.  I have no idea how you get these visions onto paper and into so many sizes, with so many options.  I tell one designer I test for that she’s the artist and I just paint by numbers, and though choosing fabrics can be an art, without the amazing patterns you design, I would be lost.  So know that we are here to help you make your vision into a perfect pattern.  Take a step back, read our advice, and know we mean no disrespect.  When we are confused, it may just be us, or it may be that instructions that seem so clear to you, aren’t so clear to someone who hasn’t made the pattern.  Don’t be offended or insulted if we have suggestions, we just want to make your pattern better!  And above all, keep designing! And we’ll be here to help. 


 

23 comments:

  1. Awesome! As a designer it is always great to know how to make the process easier for everyone. Such great tips and advice. :)

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    1. Testing for you is always such a great experience Chelsea! You're a great designer to work with!

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  2. Yay! Awesome list - and agree 100% with all of it. Great job, Alyssa! :)

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    1. Thanks Kim!! And thank you for your help with it!

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  3. When people compliment the clothes my kids wear, the world of pdf patterns and the process they go through before being released. I think I would be lost without the pattern too, but there is something about being a part of the process that is amazing. I love pattern designers and what they do... I am so happy to be a part of it! I've been lucky to not be in a test with a less than responsive designer.

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  4. Another great post! :) You've put in words many things that I've thought myself.

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  5. Wonderful post!! As a designer, it's always good to be reminded of these tips. BTW - you are an amazing tester :) I have so appreciated your input in the past. An attentive, honest and tactful tester is a beautiful thing! :) - Michelle @ My Little Plumcake

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    1. Thank you so much Michelle. Testing for you was a completely positive experience!

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  6. This is excellent! I do tons of testing - fortunately I haven't had a bad experience - but there are definitely designers I prefer to test for. Maybe if everyone read this article (and the one on being a tester) I would enjoy it as much for everyone!! I don't have the skills/time to learn them right now to design and draft a pattern in multiple sizes, so I love feeling like I get to be in on something like this. I especially love the FB groups for testing - it makes it even more fun!

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  7. This a another great blog! I haven't tested long but have experienced both good and not as good designers and think they need something to go by as well. A lot of them are new as well and may not even think of what might be needed from a tester perspective and this is spot on, as usual. glad to see several designers already posting such positive comments as well! :D

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  8. Alyssa, you are so wonderful, I love to work with you! Testers are so important to me, it's the part of my work that I love the most. You give great inputs for designers, thank you!

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  9. Alyssa,
    Well said. I really appreciate your comments and posts! I am impressed. :) I feel like I have a team with me when we test and I am proud you were with me for the last one.

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  10. Great post, I agree with lots of what you said!

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  12. Great post!! I loved both posts you did about testing. If only all testers were as thorough and dedicated as you are!! I have definitely appreciated working with you!

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  13. Awesome post and oh so timely! I just put out my first call for testers. I will be making note of each and every one of these points to be sure I keep them in mind while I'm testing.

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  14. I agree with what you said! I've tested for several designers and I love being part of the process! I agree with what your said about us wanting feedback on our results too. .. recently I tested for someone, sent thorough feedback, and I thought the article of clothing i made and pics were adorable. All I got back from the designer was "thanks" as a response. I was so disheartened and it left me second guessing myself. thankfully, every other designer I've tested for has been more than kind in their acknowledgement of my work. It really is a fun opportunity and it's really cool to be a part of the process of pdf pattern sales. :)

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  15. I agree with what you said! I've tested for several designers and I love being part of the process! I agree with what your said about us wanting feedback on our results too. .. recently I tested for someone, sent thorough feedback, and I thought the article of clothing i made and pics were adorable. All I got back from the designer was "thanks" as a response. I was so disheartened and it left me second guessing myself. thankfully, every other designer I've tested for has been more than kind in their acknowledgement of my work. It really is a fun opportunity and it's really cool to be a part of the process of pdf pattern sales. :)

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  16. another great post... thank you!

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  17. Thank you for this post Alyssa. I read your other about testers, and I kind of got hot under the collar due to a poor experience. But you're a mind reader, and it was all right here. It's nice to know I'm not the only one who has felt under appreciated after hours upon hours of hard work, careful consideration of a pattern, and extensive thought out feedback, only to feel that none of it was taken in to consideration. I don't know if I'll ever test again, even though I'd love to, but it sounds like there are some designers out there who make a tester feel like they're really appreciated. Thanks for this!

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