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Web site testing fundamentals

by Randall Craig on May 29, 2015

Filed in: Blog, Make It Happen Tipsheet, Web development

Tagged as: , ,

Most marketers understand the basics of putting up a website, but rarely get a glimpse into what is likely the most important part of the process: testing. Done properly, testing is time-consuming. When the schedule (or budgets) are tight, unfortunately, it is the first thing to go. And when this happens, errors creep in that can destroy user trust, and sap long-earned brand equity.

All testing is not the same: each type of testing has a specific purpose. If it is omitted from the web process, risk increases; when it is done, the budget increases, as does the project timeline. The challenge on every project is to choose the right balance.

Here is a list of the types of testing that are possible:

  • Information Architecture Validation Testing: To ensure that the navigational schema actually makes sense – and is scalable.
  • Design Testing: To ensure the emotional connection connects the user to the brand (and to the goals of the business).
  • Unit Testing: To ensure that each module of code delivers on the technical requirements.
  • Integration Testing: To ensure that the whole system works together as expected.
  • Usability Testing: To ensure that real users can intuitively perform typical tasks using the system.
  • Stress Testing: To establish the point at which the system can no longer handle the volume of transactions without failure or excessive slowdowns.
  • Speed Testing:  To identify the components of the system (or page) that are causing slow page loads.
  • Security Testing: To prove that known security issues have been addressed.
  • User Acceptance Testing: This is the “official” sign-off testing process that is done by clients to identify any remaining errors.
  • Regression Testing: To ensure that any fixes did not introduce additional errors.
  • A-B Testing: To ensure that the pages are optimized to achieve the business objective.

An excellent test program rests on three key principles:

1) Process: Behind every test, there must be a process to ensure that tests are as positive as possible. This would include a robust design and development methodology, code reviews, test cases, and more.  It’s far easier to build quality in, than to apply it afterwards.

2) Testing technology: Just about every test can benefit from the use of technology to automate the testing process, improve the efficiency when manual processes are required, and track/report testing results.

3) Separation of responsibilities: While it does make sense for a developer to perform unit testing on their own work, all other tests benefit from having a separate (and independent) testing team. Developers spend their time developing “in the trees”, and often can’t see (or don’t want to see) a buggy forest.

This week’s action plan: Are all of these tests on the to-do list as your site is being developed?  This week, find out.  Bonus points if you you share this note with any of your colleagues who might also be interested.

Marketing Insight #1: Testing is not just about squashing bugs. A key goal of a holistic testing program is to identify mid-course corrections that can help the website better achieve its business objectives.

Marketing Insight #2: “Testing” is not just a website development activity – it applies to everything. In the context of writing, for example, it’s called “editing“.

Note: The Make It Happen Tipsheet is also available by email. Go to www.RandallCraig.com to register.

Randall Craig

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About 

Randall has been advising on Web and Social Strategy since 1994 when he put the Toronto Star online, the Globe and Mail's GlobeInvestor/Globefund, several financial institutions, and about 100+ other major organizations. He is the author of seven books, including the recently released "Everything Guide to Starting an Online Business", and speaks across North America on Social Media and Web Strategy. More at randallcraig.com and 108ideaspace.com.

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