E-commerce is almost ubiquitous nowadays. With that being said, the demand for UI automation will rapidly increase. UI-licious is a local startup that specialises in fast and robust UI testing solution for the modern web. CoAssets had a talk with the duo behind UI-licious, Eugene Cheah and Shi Ling Tai and understand a bit more about the brainwork of this budding startup.
Share with us a little bit about yourself?
Shi Ling: Computer science is my final choice in Junior College as I realize that it can unlock more doors into the world. I furthered my studies in School of Information Systems Management at Singapore Management University. After then, I worked 3 years as a full stack developer. At that time, I found an issue in testing and therefore, I have joined Eugene to build UI-licious to make website testing.
Eugene: I went to open my own start-up after the cancellation of my university acceptance. However, it didn’t work as planned for the previous 2 start-ups. Fortunately, my third startup, the web and mobile application development company, is still alive and kicking right now. I came across building hundreds of mobile apps or web applications and they have one thing in common – testing nightmare. This is due to regular software updates and change in regulations. Hence, there is a sad guy who is forced to test the iPhone, android, the IE and all the various combination. At Ui-licious, we are here to automate testing to make things simpler and easier.
So that being said, so how’s UI-licious different from other UI test automation services?
While I was working in my previous few companies, I did try to automate testing. Before we started automating testing, we actually do not have any automation and we were getting burnt by the customers and managers that why your bugs getting released and it’s affecting my work. So we hired manual QA testers to start testing and things are going well for a while but soon as time passes, when we release small features, they got slower and slower and we couldn’t take it anymore. So it’s time to automate. Unfortunately, when we try to suggest automation to our testers and they found it too hard to use. When I did try to look for an easier tool for them to use, for example, macro recording, so macro recording works by you can just press the record button, go through your usual steps in filling up forms and clicking buttons on the website and press the stop button. And it will just really play that and help you test your website, now the problem with that is, as time passes, your test suites get bigger and bigger and your UI changes. It becomes your nightmare to maintain all these tests. Because at the end of the day, a lot of test scripts are generated by automation tools. Some of them, they are hard coded to your underlying code of your user interface. So what we are trying to do at UI-licious is to change all that and at UI-licious, you can write scripts from your user perspectives instead without needing so that manual tester or just anyone does not have to know what the code of your UI actually looks like in order to test your website. To add more emphasis to that is, take a classic example of trying to click a button, in tradition automation tool is, a clicking button, hashtag, button id 123 or whatever the program chooses to name it, and that is something that the manual QA tester do not see on the screen and would have absolutely no idea. So instead, we look at how their own test script, their own steps, you click on this button with this name, of what you see on the screen. And that’s how we built our systems to be based on what they are able to see on the screen.
From left, Eugene Cheah and Shi Ling Tai of UI-licious
Your article “I Am a Techie and I Hate Startup Customer Research” starred the realities of being a tech startup. Could you elaborate a bit more about that?
Eugene: Well, one of the funniest ironies of my life was that when I created my own tech startups and did a backend technology that is similar to node JS, it is popular now but wasn’t heard of at that time. I did it in part because I didn’t like corporate life, I didn’t like interacting people as much, I just want to build some cool and awesome and sell it and make money. That’s the main problem that I would say at the () of it as engineers because building a company requests you to speak to way more people than let say I work in a large company. It forces you to interact more, move more and basically get to know more people. And broadly speaking, I may be a bit stereotyping here, engineers who are very focused and passionate about their craft, would rather stay focus in your comfort environment and perfect their product without actually to meet customers and selling the product. I learned the hard way. So despite putting all my effort into building a product that could changes a lot of things in the server backend, at the end of the day, I didn’t manage to sell it. And what happens was that the company eventually stop functioning and selling the product while more like selling website as a service. I created the website, and it just so happen they use my technology, but I realize that the customers did not care what the technology they are using, as long as their website was up. That led to the downfall of the company. So that brings me fast forward to here, and this is my 4th startup, things have gotten better since started. And what I experience here (start-up acceleration program), it is rather unique as compared to other programs, in the sense that everyone is engineers, they come from the technical background. Most of them are Ph.D. holders, and none of them went through business training, so a lot of them are struggling the exact same struggles that I went through at the start of few startups. And that led to me talking about it, and me writing the article about it on how to effectively trick yourself as an engineer to actually sell your product. You have the tendency of being too realistic, too pessimistic, this may not work in this situation, we tend to undersell ourselves in that aspect, it’s all about how you shift your mindset from actually being able to interact with your customer instead of avoiding them. It’s all about the mentality and how we can adjust it.
Shi Ling: I think I can add on to that. The unique thing is, EF forces us to do during the first few weeks of ideation. When he came out with an idea, EF specifically told us “don’t build it, don’t build it. Identify your potential customer and ask them” what is the problem you can solve, whether they are interested in buying a solution.”
Just propose to them the solution, you don’t have to build a demo for them yet.
Any piece of advice to budding entrepreneurs?
Do not be blinded by the rosy view of start-ups especially portrayed by the media at times. The hard truth is that more than half of all startups failed but don’t run away from it, accept it. Because running a start up, it forces you into a situation that you probably never wish or not expected. Both good and bad. In particular, you get to see yourself in a different light or learn more of yourself on how you react or respond better in such situation. For me personally, if I do a quick summary of the things that I went through, it was on the negative side such as making a mistake that cost the company thousands of dollars, then watching the company run out of money. Fortunately, things got better for my 3rd and 4th start up.
Recently, there are many government initiatives or start-up acceleration programs to support early-stage companies, unlike 8 years ago whereby many startups will need to be self-funded.
My advice is to take the gamble for one year to go through that startup. Learn from it, even if it fails, you grow and learn so much from the experience that you had and eventually, you will become a much better person.
Shi Ling Tai
In Your Opinion: What is the future of the UI UX in the digital landscape?
Shi Ling: I think the UI/UX is being abused these days as people are generally confused about what UI/UX means. When they are hiring UX engineer, they are trying to hire a graphic designer or front-end engineer. What I want people to do in the future is to stop thinking about UX in terms of the visual and the physical interactions that the users have with your system. The user experience has to be the centre of every single decision in the product development including the things that the users do not see such as the artificial intelligence behind something. With some of the key technologies that will play a bigger role to the user experience in the future such as AI, NLP, VR, AR, this will make the user experience feel less you are interacting with the system.
Interact with people in a more seamless and natural way.
Where will UI-licious be in 5 years?
In 5 years, UI-licious will be the de fecto testing resource for all websites
UI-licious team at EF’s demo day at Google APAC. Photo Credits: UI-licious
Tell us about an inventor/company/anyone that you look up to.
Shi Ling: I admire Neil Degrasse Tyson as I truly like people who do their best to educate others and leave a legacy. I always admire teachers and aspire to become a teacher in my later part of my life.
Eugene: If hardworking is a necessity, and fighting against all odds is a person, then that would be who he/she is. Going through struggles, focusing on your goals and beliefs for others or even your kids, it’s something that I truly admire and look up to. Don’t just look at it from historical or famous figures, it may be even a relative or someone close to you that you know who is struggling greatly in life, but still trying to do their best for those close to them that they know.
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