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Thinking About the Content Author During QA

Kendall Smith QA Team Lead
#Design, #Code
Published on February 23, 2015

Learn why Quality Assurance (QA) should be about not just finding errors on a website, but ensuring that content authors can get the most out of it.

A website redesign can be a huge, complicated project, encompassing input from dozens of people, hours and hours of design and development work, hundreds of pages of content, and carefully planned implementation of a company’s business goals. One aspect of the project that is essential is Quality Assurance (QA) testing, since all of the hard work that everyone has put into the project will be for naught if the website isn’t functioning correctly.

However, while we have many methods for ensuring that the website functions correctly for users across as wide a variety of devices and browsers as possible, one thing that we want to make sure we don’t forget is the site’s content authors. Much of the effort of the design and development process goes into creating methods for authors to publish content to the website. If they are unable to do so, either because the site does not function correctly or because they do not understand how to use it, even the best-looking site will either become stagnant due to lack of updates or will be updated incorrectly, resulting in a poor user experience.

What Content Authors Need

For sites that are implementing a content management system (CMS) for the first time or upgrading to a new version of their platform, the experience of creating content is going to be new to the content authors, so we want to make sure they understand how to use the content creation tools we’ve built for them. When performing QA testing, we look at how they will create content and try to replicate the actions they take. We test to make sure everything works, including structured content, widgets, calls-to-action (CTAs), etc. and we make sure it is easy to understand how to use all of these tools.

Some of the things we look for include making sure the fields and labels in the editing interface are clear and indicative of what the content will look like when it is published to the site. For structured content, in which content editors can enter the content into different fields (such as Title, Date, Author, Article Body, etc.) which are then automatically formatted in a consistent manner, we want to make sure the fields are clearly labeled in a way that makes sense and ordered so that they match how they will appear on the published page.

Creating Examples

Another way in which the QA phase can help content editors to understand how to use the site is by setting up sample content. These examples of how actual content will appear on the site can demonstrate what the different components of the editing interface do and how to create content that will match their company’s branding.

When setting up these examples, we try to use actual content from the company rather than plugging in generic text, since this will make more sense to the content authors. Ideally, we try to migrate a few pages (blogs, articles, landing pages, etc.) from the older version of the website, which will help them understand how everything is formatted. If we’re setting up a calendar page, we create several types of events with actual information (instead of calling them “Test Event #1,” “Test Event #2,” and so on) across a variety of date ranges to provide an idea of what the calendar will look like on the finished site.

While we’re creating these examples, we want to make sure any of this test content matches the design comps (hi-fi prototypes) that the design team has created. This will ensure that the site maintains the branding and style that was created during the redesign, and it will help the content authors to follow these style guidelines as they create content in the future.

Getting Ready for User Acceptance Testing (UAT)

Once QA has been completed, the site’s users will perform UAT to make sure everything functions like they expect it to. Keeping the content author in mind during QA testing and setting up example content can help UAT go smoothly, but we like to go a step further and try to prepare for any future issues they might have. Looking at the content on their existing website helps us understand what they will want to do when migrating this content to the new site.

During UAT, the site owners will often check to make sure the basic functionality they want to use exists, but they might not be able to test everything they plan to do in the future. If we can try to meet their needs for content creation as they continue to work with their new site, it will not only give them the tools they need, it will save the development team future work trying to resolve any issues the content authors might find later on.

We also emphasize the importance of training for the site’s users, making sure everyone who will be creating content understands how to use the tools that have been provided for them. Considering how the content authors will be using these tools helps us prepare for any questions they might have during this training and make sure we can give them the knowledge they need to use their new site to its fullest.

Understanding the User’s Perspective

As the final step of the website redesign process before the new website is presented to the customer, QA not only provides us with the assurance that everything is working correctly, it gives us a chance to make sure the site’s users (on both the front end and the back end) understand how to use it effectively. We always strive to provide our customers with the tools they need to meet their business goals, and looking at things from their perspective helps us do so.

Do you have any questions about our QA methods or how to prepare for UAT and user training? Do you want to know more about our website design and development processes? Please contact us to speak to a Solutions Engineer, or leave any other questions you might have in the comments below.