By Dom Tancredi // CEO // Dom & Tom
QA, or quality assurance, costs time and money. So, why do we build it into all of our projects?
The best answer we can think of is that it’s too expensive to neglect quality assurance. Look, if speed and a low price point were all that mattered, we certainly could rush an app to market in a dazzlingly short time. And you could probably make a tidy profit off of it . . . for a little while.
However, apps are complicated. It takes a team of people trying to put all the puzzle pieces together in a coordinated way. There are a lot of places where omissions, flaws, or oversights (however innocent) might get introduced.
If that happens, be assured that users will find them and quickly abandon your app or product, and you’ll have to pull your brand out of a tarpit before you can get back to the profitability you’re looking for.
You’re probably not going to think too highly of us, either. We don’t like drama, and that all sounds like drama. Thus, we’ve developed quality assurance protocols. A good QA program sets us all up for success and should be considered an integral and essential part of the development process.
What is Quality Assurance Testing?
Quality assurance is kind of like when you learned to check your answer to a subtraction problem. Remember that? You learned you can add backward to make sure you got the number you started with, and that tells you that you have the right answer.
In other words, QA is a peripheral process that gives you confidence in your results. Quality assurance testing, specifically, is simply any point at which you put the performance of your app up against some set of criteria and assess how well it satisfies them.
Let’s throw another analogy at you: Quality assurance testing is like getting a gift for someone you love. You pay attention to every detail and wrap it nicely with a pretty bow because you want them to have an amazing experience with it.
The Difference Between Quality Assurance and Quality Control
You may have heard the term “quality control” more often than “quality assurance.” Quality experts can really geek out on the finer points of “quality management” (everything can be managed!), including the difference between quality assurance and control.
They are related, of course. In fact, quality control is technically a part of a quality assurance testing program. For our purposes, we can boil the difference down to three things. First, we can think in terms of what each focuses on:
- Quality assurance concerns processes
- Quality control concerns the final product
Second, we can think in terms of the purpose of each:
- Quality assurance aims to eliminate mistakes
- Quality control aims to satisfy requirements
And third, we can look at when they come into play:
- Quality assurance starts earlier in the development process to ensure the build is going well
- Quality control happens at the end as an inspection of the final product
That said, we have to confess something, here: We basically use “quality assurance” to mean both things. So, while we have quality control testing and you’ll see it in some of our materials, you won’t necessarily hear us use that term. We’ll just say, “QA” or “QA testing,” and you’ll know what we mean.
Software Testing and Quality Assurance
One more definition, since you may have heard the term software testing thrown about. Like quality control, software testing falls beneath the larger umbrella of quality assurance. When you hear people talk about finding bugs in the code, they’re talking about software testing. Like quality control, software testing looks at the product and asks if it functions as it is meant to.
You can also think of software testing as an item on a quality control checklist. Does the app or site work without failing? Check. Next item.
The Quality Assurance Process
If you look at our design process, you’ll see QA testing listed in the development phase. That’s because we have to begin having intentionally QA-focused conversations during this phase. In contrast to the past, when QA teams were like in-house beta testers, in today’s agile environments QA happens in collaboration with the development team.
In the development phase, we begin to build the prototypes and involve beta testers, so it becomes very important to have quality assurance oversight.
QA at this stage doesn’t mean catching bugs in the code (see above). Instead, from a quality assurance perspective, we’re looking for subtler issues that affect the overall user experience. Do we have all the right pages, pop-ups, cross links, and so on? Do they flow together in a logical sequence? Can the user actually find their way around intuitively?
And, significantly, we’re asking if the product is in fact delivering the value and experience we established in the definition, discovery, and design phases. After all, a great product that doesn’t build your brand has no value to you.
The most common QA protocol is testing. Set up a site or an app prototype and go through a rigorous checklist of links, menus, animations, etc. to make sure everything works exactly as it’s meant to.
Beta testing also falls under this category because early users will inevitably find problems you missed. This is because you are making the app to solve a problem as you see it and users will be using it to solve the problem as they see it. You might assume they will understand your menus and icons, but they may expect something different.
This is actually the fun part about beta testing. You learn so much about your customers or audience when you let them use your product, and that in turn tells you loads about how people see your brand.
There’s another dimension to QA as we think about it. We hope it’s not too esoteric, but we believe that QA begins with good practices. That is, it’s not enough to have detailed checklists—you also want to have the right business culture and the right philosophy of digital product development.
As we wrote in our “7 Best Practices for Mobile App Development” insight, quality app development includes things like putting people in the right roles, building relationships among stakeholders, and thinking forward beyond launch day. Call them the soft skills of QA.
QA Services at Dom & Tom
As we’ve said, you get QA built into any digital product development project as part of our standard operating procedures. Even if you didn’t ask for it, we’d want to check our work to make sure we did everything right.
Dom & Tom can even help quality assurance teams develop apps to improve their efficiency and data tracking. Take a look at our work with the Good Housekeeping Institute, which provides quality assurance testing on consumer products. We overhauled the way businesses can apply for their Seal of Approval as well as how their teams evaluate each product.
-Dom & Tom