Digital product quality assurance – why is it important?
Digital projects are usually scoped out and planned with care from the very start to ensure that the best product possible outcomes out at the end.
Obviously, every digital product and website is subject to sign off by key stakeholders prior to go-live – but it’s vital that the end product is tested robustly against some agreed standards – whether industry-level, performance level or our own additional standards set by the project team – to ensure it’s performing at its best.
And that’s where quality assurance comes in.
What is quality assurance for digital products?
Quality assurance is a process of testing your website or digital product against expected functionality and user experience acceptance criteria prior to go-live. You and your digital project team will go through a process of stress-testing the product against user journeys and stories, and in different environments (different devices, browsers, screen sizes) looking for, noting and producing evidence of any bugs or opportunities for improvement. This is all carefully validated against the initial statement of work and technical specifications for your project, as well as a prepared specific QA checklist.
Essentially, quality assurance puts your website or digital product to the test against 4 key areas, ensuring a consistent experience reflective of your level of service and the integrity of your brand.
Let’s dig into those 4 key areas a bit more.
User acceptance testing is a common process in software development – but it applies to websites and digital products too. It’s essentially getting users to test the product in a real-time scenario to check it can handle necessary tasks. In an ideal user acceptance testing scenario, actual end users (i.e. customers, website visitors) will test the product against a few set scenarios – with a website or digital product, this may or may not be possible. In the event that it’s not possible to release the product to a select group of actual end users to have them test it, it should at least be tested thoroughly by a number of different stakeholders in the project against the outlined user journeys and stories. It’s also useful to include people not involved in the project in this process – a fresh pair of eyes is always useful. Tasks to be tested could include filling in a contact form, making a purchase, booking an appointment, raising a ticket, to name a few.
Ensuring your digital product is usable and accessible is vital. Not only is it best practice, in some industries you are held to stringent standards around accessibility. No matter the project, your digital project should be fully tested against accessibility standards. The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.1) are an internationally recognised set of standards and recommendations for improving web accessibility. Most modern websites and digital products will (or at least should be) tested against these standards to ensure compliance. As mentioned, in some industries (such as the public sector), it is a legal requirement to comply with WCAG 3 – but whether you need to or not by law, using these standards as a benchmark will help you to ensure your product can be accessed by everyone.
Quality and consistency
The aim of any digital product is to provide as consistent an experience as possible to users accessing from different devices, browsers and screen sizes. The digital QA process should try to replicate as many potential browsing experiences as possible and identify any inconsistencies in the experience. This could be something fairly simple and superficial, such as text not aligning or an image not resizing correctly on different screen sizes. Or it could be more a fundamental issue around a button or form element not working in a particular browser. Ensuring a consistent experience is vital in protecting the integrity of your product and by extension your brand, so it’s vital to catch as many of these issues prior to go-live as possible. Real devices and online simulators will be used during QA to test the website or digital product on different operating systems, devices and browsers.
A delay of just 2 seconds in loading a web page can increase bounce rate by 103%. Slow loading speeds and a poor browsing experience can not only discourage users from interacting with your website, but can also impact your performance on search engines, therefore diminishing the likelihood people will find and interact with your website in the first instance. Google’s Core Web Vitals are a set of standards for website performance and accessibility – not only do they provide recommendations for improving your site, they are also used as quality signals (and therefore ranking signals) by Google’s search engine. Falling short against these standards could seriously impact your search engine rankings, leading to less potential customers or users finding your site. A robust QA and testing process should use Core Web Vitals and other tools such as GTmetrix to test load speeds, loading performance, interactivity and stability to ensure your website or digital product is providing the best experience possible.
Why is quality assurance so important in digital projects?
During the digital product or website build, engineers are focused on fleshing out the functionality and the form of the product – there is some testing during this process, mainly validating that features are working as expected as they go against the agreed statement of work or specification – but trying to “break” the product and the user journey isn’t the main focus. Dedicating time to a proper QA process ensures that your digital product is performing at its best from go-live – minimising the need for the emergency fixes and preventing inconsistent user experiences.
Additionally, if testing was merely done by the development team “as they go along”, this provides a very narrow view of what quality and consistency looks like when it comes to your product. The people who built your digital product – the developers – are not the people who are going to be using the product for its intended function.
Although a robust digital QA process will help you and your product development team pick up the large majority of bugs and opportunities for performance optimisation and improvement prior to go-live, it’s unrealistic to expect that the quality and performance of your website or digital project will never need to be assessed again. Previously unseen user scenarios might occur, your infrastructure may change, or changes in the digital landscape may impact your product. It’s important to consider and factor in how you will go about embedding ongoing improvement into your digital product or website strategy, and build a roadmap and framework around this.
We have a robust and dedicated QA and testing period for every project we work on – ensuring everything that goes out of the studio not only lives up to our exacting standards but also exceeds the expectations of our clients.