QA is one of the last steps in a website development project, and it is also one of the most critical. QA reflects both design and development since day one of the project. By thoroughly checking over a site one last time, you are making sure that you are providing site visitors with the best possible user experience. It’s important to verify that you’ve done what your client is expecting, as well as what they’ve already signed off on. Many meetings have discussed things like who the target market is, what content is important to them and how the site is best laid out. It is through QA that you can verify that all users' needs are met.
Why should a project manager take the lead on QA and how should it be done to be effective and efficient? Below are some guidelines on how to approach QA as a project manager, and how to ensure that every aspect of a project turns out as planned.
Applying QA to Every Project Role
The project manager is the link between your client and everyone else working on the project. As project managers, we are at the forefront for managing client expectations and reactions. Our role requires thinking of both the big picture and the small details. While QA is a task for a project manager, it is a job that everyone works on throughout the entire development process. An effective QA process is absolutely critical in making sure everyone is on the same page in terms of structure, design aesthetics and overall functionality.
My first QA project was for a marketing website for a real estate development in Denver. What I learned from the process was how important details are when creating a great user experience on a site. Going through workflows on every browser on every page with every link is what separates great websites from the simply mediocre. Being detail-oriented and knowing how to pick out tiny elements that need to be changed can vastly improve a site from both a user’s and client’s perspective.
Development Sites, Browser Testing and Project Management Tools
A dev site is an important aspect of a website development project. The dev site is essentially a copy of your website that is for the agency and clients’ use only (not public facing), and allows you to test any changes you’ve made before you push it live. For some projects, you compare the dev sites to the live sites, while in others you compare requirements or wireframes and site designs to the live and/or dev sites. Sometimes, you compare all three. Going through all of the page, you want to make sure that nothing is visually out of place or incorrect. I make sure to click on all the links to make sure that they all lead to the correct place and there are no unintentional 404 pages. It is important to do this in all primary browser types (Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and IE (7, 8, 9)) to make sure that updates and changes are compatible with current and older versions.
As I catch errors, I put them as tasks in Asana, a task management system which I highly recommend. A task management system like Asana helps the project manager stay organized and help everyone from developers to designers to track any changes that can enhance the website experience for you and your user.
Thinking of QA like a Game of Spot the Differences
I think of QA a lot like those Spot the Differences games from magazines. Your client has certain requirements and expectations which you base designs and wireframes off of. With QA, you put the two right next to each other and see what’s the same and what isn’t exactly right. Like QA, Spot the Differences games look at the big picture first and then get into the details to figure out what is different. The QA process requires a big-picture vision of what the website should accomplish, and then you must have a trained eye to spot any changes that make the difference between a good and a great site. Here is a general process to use to make sure that every detail is accounted for:
Check your client’s requirements
Compare overall layouts
Verify the content matches up on every page
Check all of the links
- Task developers and/or designers to confirm any mismatches are changed
The project manager should be the lead on the QA process because they are the one involved in every step of a project, from discovery to the final site delivery. As a project manager, your role is to make sure that your team is delivering the best possible product to your client. Beyond your client, you want the user to have the best experience possible. If a link doesn’t work or something is off visually, most people will leave the site immediately— something that neither you nor your client is trying to achieve in the overall digital strategy of the project.
Banner image courtesy of Flickr user Sheila Sund