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QA & You: The Importance of Quality Control to Your Website

Kevin Apgar
#Design, #Design Advice, #Digital Strategy
Published on March 20, 2018

We share the importance of having a dedicated quality control and quality assurance support during your website project.

Have you ever visited a website and noticed rampant issues? Not just typographical ones or broken links that, while they still make you cringe, can be easily remedied by anyone with editorial access to your CMS. I'm talking bigger issues. Pages not rendering because they use code that is incompatible with a certain browser or operating system. Design and functionality that does not work on mobile devices or attempts at accessibility compliance that fall flat due to, well, inaccessibility.

This is where Quality Control/Quality Assurance comes into play. 

Many industries have QC/QA in place and have done so for decades. They test the machinery used to create goods or test the goods themselves as they are produced. They review processes and procedures to see what revisions need to be made to improve them for the benefit of both the company and the customer.

You've experienced quality control efforts when you've reached in the pocket of a new pair of pants and your hand suddenly has a little round sticker affixed to it reading something along the lines of "Tested by No. 4."

Why should a website be any different?

With reliance on websites and apps and other online resources seemingly always increasing, why shouldn't we be giving our every effort to put our best foot forward, whether it be on our own site or one that we're designing for a client?

I've worked in many environments where the developer/designer of a webpage is also responsible for QC/QA. I mean, who better to understand the ins and outs of code than the person who wrote it, right?

While that may be true, sometimes the person closest to it can be the worst one to apply quality control checks. They tend to be "too close" to the code and may not have the right mindset to be objectively analytical about how it looks and works. Authors are the most knowledgeable about their books, but they still have professional editors to perform what amounts to quality control of their text and story, don't they?

Here at Diagram, we have two people who have "QA" or "QC" in their job title: our Lead QA Engineer, Kendall Smith, and me, the Quality Control/Content Concierge (say that five times fast).

Kendall and I are brought into projects at the earliest stages of planning just so we have as much knowledge of a project as humanly possible. We learn about what is being planned for a design project at the same time as our developers versus just being brought in when QC/QA are traditionally needed and needing to play catch up in order to get up to speed on what's going on. Additionally, by being included from the beginning, we can offer insight on what may or may not work based on what we have learned during previous projects. 

We thoroughly test all elements of a website to ensure the highest level of quality and we compare the product to what was originally envisioned and approved by the client on spec designs. This means we can account for any changes that were made during actual programming and relay those changes and justification for them to the client.

We also do everything in our power to make sure the end result of what our agency produces adheres to the latest in Web Content Accessibility Guideline (WCAG) compliance. From alt text on images to heading structure to color contrast, and beyond, we make sure your web project works for as broad and inclusive an audience as possible. Even if our client is in an industry that may not have the same level of compliance expectation, we make every effort to have their project comply all the same and then convey to our client exactly why it is important so we're all on the same page. 

Another benefit of our from-the-foundation-up knowledge of a design project is that we become so familiar (this is where you chime in with, "How familiar are you, Kevin?")... so familiar that we are relied upon to present to clients during UAT (User Acceptance Testing) handoff calls. We even prepare customer-specific instruction manuals and conduct web-based or on-site training to users in how to maintain their website once all is said and done.

This is your website (or app, etc.) and it can be the first, and sometimes only interaction that you have with your clients, both current and prospective. So the last thing you want to do is alienate them with a subpar experience.

How does that old adage go? "You only get one chance to make a first impression." Make it a great one and demand that your web (re)design team has a dedicated quality control specialist. 

Thank me later.