For today’s website developers, quality assurance testing is an essential part of site construction. Despite our best efforts, mistakes and bugs can creep into any website. Quality assurance (or QA) helps developers to realise their vision, and delivers a site users love to visit.
Our guide to QA breaks down what it looks like, its relationship to other testing types, and why it’s so important for today’s developers.
What is quality assurance?
Quality assurance ensures a site works properly before it launches. Professionals in QA will go through a website and look for bugs, glitches, broken links, and other things that compromise it. Their overall goal is to create a site that aligns with both the developer’s intentions and the client’s requirements.
We can connect QA with other business concerns such as customer onboarding. The purpose of customer onboarding is to provide a frictionless entry point into a service you provide. This is something that has obvious overlap with your website, which is your first point of contact with many customers.
Quality assurance is distinct from other testing processes such as user experience (UX) testing. User experience testing looks at how users interact with website elements (like your checkout) rather than how the website itself functions. It works to understand who the site’s audience is, and designs experiences that meet that audience’s needs. It also sees if anything on the website is unclear or vague, and checks if a user experience differs from what the developer intended.
That said, quality assurance and user experience are obviously connected. A good user experience depends (at least in part) on the site’s functions working as they’re supposed to. QA and UX teams work best when they work together, and when they understand that their jobs are two facets of the same goal—creating a site that meets the requirements of all its users.
Is quality assurance important?
Absolutely. A good way to think about QA is that your site will be tested one way or another—by you, or your users. If your site malfunctions for the end user, it breeds frustration in the people using it. This leads them to make assumptions about you and your workforce (e.g. that you’re incompetent, that you don’t care about your work) and you lose credibility—as well as user engagement.
In extreme situations, a glitchy site can lead to disastrous events like data breaches. This will have a more tangible impact on your customers and can land your business in very hot water.
For businesses dependent on customer site traffic (like software as a service), an unreliable website is a dealbreaker, no matter how good your SaaS marketing strategy is. Good QA solves this problem before it becomes a problem at all.
What does quality assurance look like?
It helps to break your QA process into stages, and to have a sense of the entire QA process before testing begins. The duration of each stage will be shaped by the circumstances of your business, but good QA touches upon each of these stages at one point or another.
In this stage, we check that the site’s basic functions work properly. This includes the site’s buttons, checkboxes, and links (both internal and external). It takes a close look at the site’s forms; we need to make sure that mandatory forms get filled out, that they have relevant placeholder text, and that we securely store any information entered.
Functional testing also looks at behind-the-scenes functions. For instance, we need to make sure that cookies are deleted upon expiry or cache clearing. We also need to make sure there’s no problems with the site’s HTML or CSS (so search engines can crawl it).
Moreover, good functional testing considers what happens when things go wrong. If a user makes a mistake when filling out a form, for example, does an appropriate error message show up? What help do we offer to correct the mistake? Just as successful customer onboarding depends on easy access to information, functional testing helps customers understand what they’re doing wrong.
This looks at how well the site performs under pressure. We see if the site can handle traffic spikes, unusual workloads or multiple users logged in at once. It looks at the page load speed, and how the site works for users with slow internet connections. It also considers site crashes; in the event of a site crashing, how does it recover?
Here, we look at how secure our website is—a vital consideration for ecommerce. We check that the site asks for passwords when it’s supposed to, and that users are sent to SSL pages at appropriate times. If we use CAPTCHAs on our forms, we need to make sure they work properly. If we have areas of a site we’d prefer to keep users out of, we need to ensure only authorised users can access them.
Like functional testing, good security testing accounts for worst-case scenarios. What happens if a payment takes an unusually long time to complete? How does our site respond to a simulated security breach? Answering these questions ensures a site is ready for anything.
Compatibility testing checks how our site works across multiple browsers, operating systems, and combinations of the two. Elements on websites need to display properly, and key information (such as names and contact details) needs to be readily available.
Crucially, the website must work properly across both desktop and mobile. Make sure that users can easily click links or buttons on mobile, and that smaller screens can handle multiple items well.
In broad terms, this considers the quality of content on your site. It considers the site’s aesthetics (e.g. whether colours match, whether fonts are too small) and SEO concerns (like thin content and the presence of keywords or alt tags). It also makes sure that written content doesn’t contain any spelling or grammatical errors.
Since images and videos are both important parts of a website, these need to be high-quality and work properly on both desktop and mobile. Moreover, make sure any images you use don’t infringe copyright; public-domain images are always a safe choice.
Content testing can overlap with an SaaS marketing strategy. This is because these strategies incorporate SEO, which considers content quality and keyword density. It’s another reminder that website QA is vital for your business’ success.
Breaking QA into chunks—and connecting it with broader business goals like CI—helps you make a website as strong as possible. Connecting with other aspects of site design like UX also helps each of us work more effectively.