Have you hired a vendor or agency to build your website? If you did, they probably talked with you about how they design the website and perhaps about how they develop the website. Did they talk to you about testing, though?
This is one of the ways to separate a good vendor from a not so good one. If your agency or vendor doesn’t or can’t provide information about how and when they will test your website, you should question your choice of website developer.
Why test your website?
Your website represents your company to the online world. If you launch a website filled with broken links or that displays poorly in the user’s browser, you look bad. You don’t get the opportunity to tell the user, “Gee, it was our website development agency that was the problem.” As far as your customers are concerned, you have a bad website. It’s your business that loses customers because of the vendor’s poor testing.
What needs to be tested on our website?
Even the simplest, brochure website requires some testing. You want to make sure that the navigation all works and goes to the proper pages, that the website shows up properly on each of the major browsers, and so on.
The more complicated your website, the more testing is required. If you have forms the user can fill out, you need to make sure they work, that they report errors in a friendly way to the user, and that you receive the proper email notifications or updates to your CRM. If you have an ecommerce site, a web app, or if your website reads information from or stores information in a backend system, it will need more extensive testing.
What should I ask my website design agency?
Here are some concepts you should know and questions you should ask your agency to make sure they include thorough testing as part of their process:
Do you have a test plan? What is it? A test plan is exactly what it sounds like: a plan for testing your website. The vendor may develop a custom test plan for every site or may just test against the wireframes/specification for the website. Ask how your agency develops a test plan and whether you will be able to see the plan.
What parts of my website will you test? Make sure that your agency will be testing all of the basics:
- Page display
- Form interactions, including entry errors—have the agency list the types of errors they will check for on forms. Ideally, your vendor has written a specification that lists each type of error and how it will be handled.
- Display and operation in each major browser—have the agency list the browsers and versions they will test the website on.
If your website has a web application or integrates with a database or other systems, make sure the agency provides details about what it will test in those areas.
Who will do the testing? Good programmers always test their own code. That’s not enough, though. Just as it is easy to miss mistakes when reviewing your own writing for the third or fourth time, it’s too easy for a developer to miss items when testing. If your website is at all complex, the agency should assign someone other than the developer to test it, even if it’s just the project manager.
Will you do test cases, ad-hoc testing, or both? Usually, the test plan defines test cases, which are a written list of items to test. Your vendor may not build actual test cases, but the site functionality or specification will dictate that the agency systematically test all the operations that users are likely to take. In addition, the vendor may do ad-hoc testing, which is simply randomly testing parts of the website, without a set plan.
Ad-hoc testing is helpful and often reveals issues. If your vendor can do this kind of testing, that’s great. If not, ask if you can do ad-hoc testing. However, ad-hoc testing should not replace thorough testing of the site against test cases. Make sure your agency has a plan for systematically testing each part of the website for all the major functionality.
How will you report bugs and how can I be involved? Ideally, your vendor uses a bug-reporting system to which you have access, and you have the chance to test the site yourself before launch and report bugs.
How will you handle bugs post-launch? No matter how much you test, some bugs will be discovered post-launch. Your agency should continue to fix bugs on your website for a reasonable period of time after the site launches. To be fair to the vendor, it’s important to make a distinction between bugs and feature requests or changes to the agreed-upon functionality of the site. Make certain, though, that your contract with the website developer includes making timely bug-fixes for a reasonable period after the site has been launched.
If you ask these kinds of questions and only work with vendors that can answer them adequately, you stand a better chance of picking a good website design agency and ending up with a successful website.
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