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If You Want a Great Website, Then Test, Test, Test

By The HTC Team

With websites becoming ever more complex and technical, there is an ongoing need to ensure that they work properly. The best way to prevent website issues is with a commitment to an effective quality assurance program. The better the testing, the less chance for errors and user abandonment. As testing is one of the most important aspects of running a website, here are some of the best practices to follow:

Crystal-Clear End-Goal

Before testing begins, the concept and end-goal of what is going to be tested needs to be made crystal-clear to the testers. Effective testing stems from knowing what the end-goal is, what to look out for, how to get there, and then trying different approaches to get to the end-goal. Essentially, a good tester will be actively trying to break whatever is being testing while trying to reach the end-goal. Be sure to thoroughly brief your testers on the changes and updates that may ‘break’ your website.

First Impressions

Start by taking first impression notes for each potential issue. This should be done immediately because as time passes, you will become more accepting and forgiving of what’s in front of you, making you less likely to report something that might still be a problem.

Common Items to Test

When testing a website, it can be broken down into two categories: functional and usability testing. Functional testing confirms whether something works, while usability testing confirms whether it works well for users. Here are some common tips on what to look out for when perform both types of tests:

Functional Testing Tips:

  • Have all forms, shopping carts, search fields and log-in areas been tested?
  • When a search is performed, are the results as expected?
  • When an action is performed, is the end result the expected result?
  • Do submissions generate an automated action?
  • Are emails being produced and sent to the right destination?
  • Have character limits been put in place in you forms?
  • Is there a file size limit in place in areas where a user can upload items?

Usability Testing Tips:

  • Is the correct landing page assigned to each call-to-action and/or link?
  • When links are clicked on, do they open in a new tab where and when necessary?
  • Do all anchor links work?
  • Have tests been made across all browsers?
  • Have tests been made on mobile devices?
  • Have tests been made on different screen sizes?
  • Are there any spelling, grammar and/or punctuation errors?
  • Is the formatting and styling consistent?
  • Is the content clear and easy to understand?
  • Are there any layout issues?
  • Are users able to complete their task(s) easily?

Be Consistent with Inconsistency

When testing the same item multiple times, which will happen when testing on multiple browsers, it is actually beneficial to be as inconsistent as possible. Being consistent when testing and going through the same process repeatedly will only result in tunnel vision which will make it less likely to find anything wrong. Essentially, an attempt should be made to try something different each time a test is performed. One way to do this would be to test one way on one browser and then try something different on another, all the while trying to achieve the same end-goal.

Reporting Findings

If a problem is found during testing, document the process so the error can be reproduced. This includes reporting the browser-type, the environment, time of day, user status (i.e. logged in or not), and every click and step that was made that resulted in finding the problem. All issues should be reported as clearly as possible. Reporting issues ineffectively might mean that the wrong item gets tweaked, which might result in more problems. Even the most minor of items should be reported.

Effective website testing and reporting is imperative if a website is to function properly. Without properly testing, the door is left open for visitors to find existing bugs and issues, something that no website owner or business would ever want. While there is no wrong way to go about testing a website, to do it effectively can easily be done by following the practices outlined in this article. This being said, even the most effective testing process will not uncover all issues, but it will at least minimize that amount of damage that hidden issues might cause.

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