The License Plate Conundrum

The other day I was driving home from work, and at a stoplight, I noticed that the license plate in front of me looked a little different than I remembered others looking. I stared at it for a bit, analyzing it like I do all things around me, and realized that it was not in the normal format that I recalled others. Then I glanced at every other car around me and found that this car’s plate was in fact, different than all the other plates.

Before you continue, here’s a challenge:

WI recently released a new license plate format with their letters and numbers. Can you think of what it is? There are thousands of them already out there now, so you have definitely seen one.

Analyzing the World

All around us there are inconsistencies between similar objects and being in QA teaches us to find those differences. For some, this is a learned ability. It requires time and practice, and the desire to find the problems. For myself, this ability has always come naturally. I’ve always enjoyed the Spot the Difference books, or Hidden Objects in Highlights, or even What’s Wrong with this Image found in similar magazines.

The idea of consistency is actually a simple concept. Either the two pictures, sentences, or layouts are the same or they are not. It’s very black and white. But sometimes it takes an extra moment or a trained eye to find those things. The next time you are driving down the street or viewing the world, try to find an inconsistency between two objects that appear the same, but actually have a difference.

Game Time

I was recently working with some friends on building a fence for a community center, and their sign read like this:

Hours of Operation:
Mon – Fri: 8:00am – 5:00pm
Sat: 9:00am – 3:00 pm
Sun. 8:00am-3:00pm

How many differences or inconsistencies do you see in this sign? Believe it or not, there are three things that I would report as an inconsistency bug. If you found more than three, then either you’re wrong, or I will have to look harder!

For fun, let’s spot the difference. Find the single difference between these two photos.


Last one.


Would you believe me if I told you I found both of these in under 30 seconds? There is actually a secret to this, and has nothing to do with being in QA.

If you cross your eyes, so that each eye is looking at the opposite photo, the photos become blurry, but it’ll make one clear image in between them, that you can actually then look at and move around on. The difference will appear green and flashing.

Inconsistency Bugs

Sometimes these types of bugs seem trivial to log, or maybe even fix. So what if one page says “Log in” and the other page says “Login”? Or, should we care that the buttons are sentence cased in most of the site, but there is one page way over here that has a title cased button? What about when there is a pixel difference from the item next to it?

All these things can deter users from desiring to use your product. Think about the last time you were on a website, and noticed something slightly off. Perhaps you couldn’t quite place what it was, but it may have bothered you, or you spent time thinking of it, or if you’re like me, you went back to the previous pages to see if you are crazy, or to confirm that you saw the difference. Whatever it is, it wastes time for the user, and causes them to think twice about their workflow.

Even the tiniest of bugs can cause harm to the system. They might not be critical or severe bugs or cause data issues, but they could cause a hiccup in the user’s workflow, and therefore should at least be mentioned.

If you read my thoughts on Collaborative Testing, you’d find that a lot of these things can be caught during that process, and fixed very quickly, so that no bug even needs to be logged. This is the ideal scenario. However, if it’s missed then, but caught during testing, it is always something that should be reported and allowed a decision to be made, because you never know if your user will catch it, and what the result of that could be.

The License Plate

By now you’ve had plenty of time to think about what format the new WI license plates are in. But in case you can’t figure it out, here is one more clue:


Think about your license plate and if there are any plates from your past you can remember.

Just so you have the answer before you go, the new plates are in AAA-1234 format. This was because they hit the max on letters/numbers, and it was time to start over again.

What are your thoughts on those minor inconsistency bugs? Log them or don’t? Or, do you even see them most of the time?

Bonus points if you can identify the TV show that this post’s title is based around.

4 thoughts on “The License Plate Conundrum

Add yours

  1. Hi! This is my first comment here so I just wanted to give a quick shout out and tell you I genuinely enjoy reading your posts.
    Can you recommend any other blogs/websites/forums that deal with the same subjects?
    Thanks a ton!


  2. As an end user of many websites, inconsistencies drive me crazy. The big ones are the worst, and I’m sure I miss a lot of things, but I find myself noticing and focusing on little ones as well, and they certainly interrupt my workflow. So, for all users like me, please continue to log the bugs, both big and small!
    Also, The Big Bang Theory.


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