QA

The Importance of QA and UAT

We all have pride. Whether that pride comes from our career or what we create outside of work, we all have a sense of pride in something. In web development, it is critical to balance personal pride in your work with taking constructive criticism about your creations. After dedicating a great deal of time and energy into developing a website, it can be difficult to receive not-so-positive feedback from your peers. However, two essential parts of website development is quality assurance (QA) and user acceptance testing (UAT), which means you have to be prepared to manage and even incorporate constructive criticism and feedback.

QA and UAT are review processes that are done during a web development project to ensure design and functionality requirements are met prior to a production release.

When you spend weeks, or even months, on a project only to wind up with a handful of QA issues (that you should have caught the first time around), it is easy to feel discouraged. You can receive QA feedback for scenarios you did not even think about the first time around. The person performing QA isn’t intending to discourage the developers. QA and UAT are intended to find the obvious issues, and the most nit-picky annoying ones that no one thought to test.

The goal of QA and UAT is to break the site… the code.

Self-QA

A major part of the QA process during development is doing it yourself. Remember that you, as the developer, are responsible for being the first set of eyes reviewing your code. Unfortunately, you can code a feature for so long that you become blind to obvious issues.

Slow down. We do have deadlines to meet, but a quick break from your code can really help. Taking a lunch break, stepping away from the screen for a few minutes, or even working on another task for a bit can get you refreshed for self-QA. You’ll be able to see the little things you can clean up, fix, or completely change for clarity, because you’ve taken a quick break from your code.

Another method of self-QA is to take the feedback you received at the end of your last project and apply it to new code. Do you consistently receive the same feedback on issues when a formal QA is done? If so, keep track of that feedback and include it as part of your initial development.

Peer Review

When you need a second pair of eyes, use your peers. If you’re building a large feature, using a new skill set, or just want some additional feedback on a task before turning it in for final review, grab a peer to review your code. If you’re working with a team, lean on them to make your code better and expect them to do the same with you. We should all have the same goal, produce the best possible product by writing the best possible code. 

Here at WebDevStudios, we have a system in place for our peer reviews. A developer will work on a feature and pass it to a senior developer for the initial round of code review. If everything passes their checklist, they pass it onto the a lead developer for final review and scrutiny.

A senior or lead developer may not have all the skills to get your code up to par. This industry changes so rapidly that no single developer can truly know everything. If you see code that a senior or lead developer can improve upon, let them know; and hope that you work in an environment, like WebDevStudios, that encourages knowledge sharing.

Formal QA and UAT

Once self-QA and peer review has been completed on individual tasks within a project, it’s time to do a full project QA and UAT review. This process will most likely be unique to your company or team structure. The general process is that an individual, or team of developers, reviews the entire site to perform visual and functional QA.

Visual QA and functional UAT processes may be completely separate from one another. Comparing a page in the browser to the mock-up, and running through a specific set of functionality, like new user registration, are two entirely different things. It is critical to perform both QA visual review and functional UAT.

As a freelancer or company, you also need to define your own pass/fail scenarios on visual QA. Do you want to strive for absolute pixel perfection, or is it okay for the placement of something to be off by two pixels? Will it be important to the client to take the time to take screenshots, write up a task, have it assigned out, worked on, and finally reviewed?

What isn’t subjective, though, is whether or not a thing actually works. This is where a strong-handed UAT comes into play. Before you can have a solid UAT process, you need to have a solid process for documenting how something should work. This can be either with user stories defined by the client in the project plan itself, or documentation written as the project progresses. If user stories are in place from the beginning, that means each developer knows exactly what they need to do in order to complete their work. Providing user stories can be a major cornerstone along the QA and UAT process.

Client QA

Once an internal formal QA and UAT is completed, it’s time to hand off the completed project/site to the client so they can run through their review and testing process. Each client is unique and will have their own QA and UAT review processes to ensure their site is functioning as expected, per the proposal, prior to a production release.

Clients are typically able to find bugs when they run their QA. Clients have very specific ideas about how things should look, function, and how they should be able to interact with elements on the site. Certain features or functionality may not have been conveyed in static mock-ups. For example, the way images or links hover, or how unique sets of content resize for small screens. This is where user stories can help to eliminate some of that disconnect between static mock-ups, and a fully functioning website. When clients find bugs or issues based on expected functionality, we consider this a learning experience. We have the opportunity to improve our processes so that we can improve on assumptions for the next project.

Conclusion

There are so many methodologies around what we do and how to do it more efficiently – whether it’s making sure your code is as clean as possible, or that your functions do just one thing. These are hallmarks of being a solid developer. But, if you’re writing clean, smart code and testing it in different scenarios, you’ll wind up with fewer issues in the various stages of QA down the line.

QA is not a single process run at the end of a project. In reality, QA happens at several points along the way, starting with the developer working on the task and performing self-QA, peer reviews with senior and lead developers, onto the person running internal QA, and finally in the client’s hands. The earlier an issue is caught, the better it is for everyone along the path of review. It’s so important to be able to reflect on your previous projects and apply the knowledge you’ve learned at the earliest stage possible.

What are your methods for QA-ing your work on a site from start to finish? Do you have suggestions or tips on how others could possibly benefit from your own workflows? If so, share them in the comments and let us know!

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