By Jason Taylor, Chief Innovation Strategist and Special Advisor to the CEO
Jakob Nielsen, always ahead in his field, outlined in 2013 how user experience (UX) and Quality assurance (QA) need to have a two-way relationship and need to be applied throughout a development process to achieve maximum ROI.
Companies that put testing at the end of a build process are only applying Quality Control (does the site / app work to the satisfaction of the developer), not Quality Assurance (does the site/app work to the satisfaction of the user). The primary reasons most companies fail to integrate QA as part of the design and build process result from two challenges:
1. Lack of in-house UX and QA expertise/resources to fulfill expanding omni-channel landscape;
2. Lack of time to establish and run test cases within an Agile development process.
Lack of in-house UX and QA expertise/resources
Throughout the years leading up to the expansion of smartphones, companies aggressively outsourced the QA of the desktop site to offshore companies. QA was reduced to just testing at the end of a waterfall process to confirm that the developers had built a web site that worked. It became a measure of performance, a set of statistic on availability and speed. It lost its importance and place at the table of influence on user satisfaction. Then UX and QA started to be separated and now each form the bookends of a process. Now, very often, UX and QA never communicate.
At the same time, mobile exploded and the number of screens, devices, browsers and capabilities multiplied. Not just for testing web content but also for new native apps. Companies have tried to leverage their UX and QA resources by requiring these resources to become experts in 4 or 5 different screens.
Without QA as part of a natural in-house learning and testing process, companies struggle to create mobile apps and sites that engage beyond regular desktop use cases. Making QA an integrated part of development (not just in Agile, although this doubles or triples the need) is one key factor in companies’ seeing significant ROI from mobile and omni-channel investment.
This brings us to the Second challenge.
Lack of time to establish and run test cases within more Agile and RWD development processes.
Agile development along with RWD create significantly more QA than the traditional waterfall approach. QA at a minimum has two steps: what to test (test cases) and testing. RWD can triple that requirement. Companies have looked to use automated testing to help speed up testing. However, it adds a couple more steps: writing test scripts and monitoring results. So automated testing can help in some cases but not in others.
The QA of the future needs to change and become more flexible. Manual QA for testing new features and on real mobile devices (in the case of RWD), combined with automated testing that can regression test the remaining existing site should be a foundation that can be built on. Automated testing for continued quality control also has significant scope.
Companies need to have QA teams or QA partners that can bring broad skills, capabilities and have experience with your development process. Working knowledge in your industry to handle systems, features and use cases will always be important.
Automated testing tools need to make it easy for any person, regardless of skill, to create a test, capture key data, and make the result universally accessible to all stakeholders. UX needs access to the results of automated testing as part of an Agile development process for UX reviews. Four core stakeholder groups, which include Project manager, Developer, UX designer and QA Analyst, should be working as a team to increase the total quality of the experience.
In summary: Companies that combine manual and automated testing as part of a continued optimization process throughout the lifecycle will establish the maximum ROI.
View our extensive background and capabilities in QA and UX here.