To some companies, website and software quality assurance (QA) seems like an area that can be cut when budgets are tight. The problem is, without QA, you are sending your customers headfirst into an untested product. Would you sell a car before ever test driving it? Probably not. Why? Because it’s not worth taking the chance that the product is faulty. A faulty car would reflect poorly on your entire brand, not to mention be potentially dangerous. If a first-time customer is the one who discovers the faults, you’ve probably lost them forever. Repeat customers may give you the benefit of the doubt, but not forever. Patience is finite.
Whether you do QA testing or hire it out, make sure it happens. Utilizing external testers offers you the advantage of getting the perspective of someone who may be more like your customers—those who will actually be using your website or software program. They won’t know everything about your business like you do, and will question how things should work to ensure the application is as user-friendly as possible. Oh, yea, and they’re trained in how to break things, which is exactly what you want from a tester.
Developers, although generally amazingly smart and talented, are human—geekier, yes, but still human—and they sometimes make mistakes. Testing is the front line of defense in finding and fixing these mistakes and is a critical part of the whole software development process.
Most clients don’t have the time (or patience) to thoroughly evaluate every aspect of a new application or website. It’s a lot of work! It helps, though, to have experience and processes to make sure testing is thorough and efficient. We use a set of comprehensive checklists to make sure websites and applications are compliant with standards and that we verify a common set of scenarios every time.
Testers evaluate content, flow, functionality, and overall usability as they run a wide variety of scenarios that will imitate actual customer usage, allowing them to uncover issues customers are likely to find. Better to have a tester, whose job it is to uncover problems, find issues than a customer! Testers like to find issues. Customers? Not so much. If customers encounter too many problems with your app or website, they’ll pretty quickly move on to your competitors.
Here is an actual example that happened to me:
Recently, I placed an order online with a large retailer. I had ordered from the retailer before and did not have any issues, but this time was different. My kids would call it an “epic fail.”
The website had 2 places to set an address as my “default shipping address.” Unfortunately, one place worked and the other did not—and it took me 3 hours to figure this out.
During checkout, when I entered and selected my shipping address, the site couldn’t verify it—but it allowed me an option to “Verify it anyway,” which did not work. What it did was throw me into an endless loop of enter address, failed verification, verify it, and returning to the enter address screen. I used the chat option to work with a sales rep, who I hoped would solve my problem. I just wanted the experience to be over. He took my order and shipped it to another town with the same street address. Nice.
A week later, when I discovered my shipment went elsewhere, I returned to the website and discovered that the second place to set my default shipping address is the one that actually works. I clicked it and it was set. Easy peasy. Of course, it took almost 3 weeks to get my items—and multiple calls to the retailer to explain that my order shipped to the wrong address and I didn’t get it.
As a tester, I thought I would do the retailer a favor and submit a website feedback note. The note limited the number of characters that I could submit, which only made my impression of the whole experience even worse.
Sadly for this retailer, someone else is now getting my business because their ordering process is simpler. Situations like this don’t have to happen.
Doing your own testing, and supplementing it with external testing, can prevent your company from having to deal with a similar issue. Testers get paid to pay attention to the details. They will not only make sure everything works properly, but that it looks great, too.
Even with all that, you may think testing is too expensive. When you weigh costs vs. benefits, though, we think you’ll realize that’s not the case. You may also think your customers will test for you. That’s great if you don’t care about losing customers to frustration and irreparably tarnishing your brand. That approach will cost you much more in the end than investing in proper testing up front will.
QA testing is a valuable and necessary step in delivering a great product your customers will want to use. Let a qualified tester find errors in your product. They won’t judge you. Your customers will.