Creating a great website with an attractive design is not easy. You have to dedicate time defining the requirements for that website, and then you have to lay out a strategy, and finally implement the aesthetic and functional features.
But how, and when, can you be sure that the site is ready for the launching stage? How do you know that all features are working as expected, and nothing will go wrong when the moment of truth comes?
That's what quality assurance is for. Having a constant process of quality assurance during web development means there is a smaller chance that something will go wrong when your site finally goes online.
But what exactly is quality assurance? And how do you enforce it during the process of web development? That's what we'll discuss in this article.
What is Quality Assurance (QA)?
Quality assurance, and particularly quality assurance in web development, is a reviewing and testing process that is there to maintain certain standards of quality in a given service or project. Generally speaking, QA can be applied not only to development but also to the production and delivery stages of a project.
When Should QA Happen?
A common misconception with QA is that it only occurs when the development stage is finished. However, this is not a good practice and should be avoided at all costs for the risk of severely delaying the website (or project) delivery.
The reason is simple. If you have quality assurance during web development, instead of after, any major issues in functionality will likely be caught as soon as they are introduced. If there are disparate teams, the QA testing team may report the major bug to the web design team as soon as it is found.
Since the QA process is continuous, the development team can assume that the bug was only introduced with the latest changes, meaning they'll have fewer places in the code to look at.
Imagine, on the other hand, that QA only occurs at the end of the web development process. Any major bug will only be found at this stage, and the team will probably have no idea which set of changes caused it. They will then have to look at code chunks they don't remember well, taking a lot more time to find the error.
QA in Web Development
When we're talking about quality assurance in web development, it basically involves 3 types of testing. They are called requirements testing, design testing, and functionality testing.
As we've mentioned before, the creation of a website should begin with a requirements list. This list is created according to the needs of the client, or your own if that is the case.
Requirements testing is there to make sure that these needs are met. This process takes a certain version of the website during development and tests it against the requirements list. If anything is unexpectedly missing from that version, the message is passed on to the web development team so they may get on it.
As the name indicates, design testing is more dedicated to the User Interface (UI) and user experience (UX). It makes sure that everything is going as planned from an aesthetic point of view, as well as page loading times and navigation between pages.
This type of testing usually involves verifying a website is displayed correctly in several different browsers (Chrome, Firefox, Safari, etc.), as well as mobile platforms.
Functionality testing is a process that verifies if all the features of your website are perfectly tied together. This involves forms, clickable links, buttons, and any other features. It ensures that no errors will be found by potential visitors.
We've talked about some best practices of quality assurance in web development, as well as the 3 main types of testing. But now we'd like to give you some specifics.
Of course, the list of items to test can be endless, depending on the size and features of your website. But some topics are common to most websites. So, let's take a look at the top things you should look out for when building a website.
1. Broken/Missing Links
The occasional broken link may seem harmless at first glance, but trust us, it is not. If a visitor expects to be taken to another page and sees an error message instead, your credibility is instantly reduced.
Also, it isn't enough to check all links once and then forget them forever, especially external links. Sometimes external addresses may change, making your links unusable. This also affects your SEO, so make sure you check these often.
Finally, remember to verify that all your navigation links are usable and that all relevant pages are accessible through the menus.
2. Spelling Errors
Spelling errors are another mistake that makes you look like an amateur to your visitors. What's more, with all the proofreaders and spell checkers available nowadays, you simply have no excuse for this.
3. Responsive Design
Your website is going to be seen on all types of browsers and devices, so it is not enough to see if it's working in just one.
Remember to test on as many different browsers as you can (like we mentioned before, Chrome, Firefox, Safari, etc.), and also on screens of different sizes, including desktop screens, tablets, and smartphones.
4. Visual Consistency
Make sure that you did not deviate from the original course and that the website design matches the original plans. Also, verify that all the pages have a similar design, including themes, colors, and fonts. This gives your website a more solid look overall.
5. Online Forms
Make sure that all forms meant to be filled by your customers are working as expected. All fields should be properly validated and required fields that are empty should prompt the user to fill them as needed. Any email notifications should also be sent as expected.
SEO is one of the factors that can contribute the most to attracting visitors to your website, so you should give it the attention it deserves.
Look out for broken links (as we've said in tip #1), SEO-friendliness of your URLs, missing tags like Title, H1, or ALT image tags, and social media links, among other factors.
7. Page Load Times
Navigating through your website should be a pleasant experience overall, and this includes having pages that are quick to load. Look out for new elements that may be causing a certain page to load slower than expected.
Quality assurance in web development is a continuous process, and it is never truly finished. While every website has its own specific features, we've covered some general tips that should help you during your own development. Keep testing!