Earlier this year, Belinda Summers wrote about the steps you could take to utterly drive your business into the ground. She had a bit of fun with that post, exploring how not to go about marketing your business. In the process, she touched on the importance of quality checks. Today, we’re going to take a more in-depth look at quality assurance checks and how they can revolutionist the product you’re selling—be it a service, software or anything in between.
Before we get started, it’s worth mentioning that the field of quality assurance is riddled with jargon. It’s easy to get bogged down in the technical aspects, which can actually derail the entire quality assurance initiative. We’ll keep it as simple as possible in this post. While purists may take offence at the oversimplification, there’s at least something to be said for keeping laypersons in the loop. After all, the quality of your products affects everyone who uses them!
So with no further delay, here are the overarching steps involved in quality assurance testing:
• Set out Criteria for the Finished Product
Before you get started with quality checks, it’s essential that you have a set of criteria by which to evaluate the product. Marketing consultant, Johanna Roth man, calls these the ‘product ship criteria’. In other words, this is a list of objectives that your product must achieve before it is shipped off to end users.
Don’t confuse this with a list of everything that you wish the product could achieve by the time it is finished. Plenty of products are released in beta version, which in turn provides feedback back into the research and development phases. Take Google Glass as an example. It was first released in very limited supply to testers (by invitation) who could generate buzz about the product while simultaneously encountering the inevitable glitches. After this phase, it was made available for one day only to anyone who wanted to pay for it. More recently, Google has now announced that their product is now being made available to anyone and everyone who wants it—regardless of invitation.
No doubt, Google had different product ship criteria for each stage of release. Their expectations for the product in its earliest testing phase were probably much lighter than they are now. That’s how quality develops.
• Develop Strategies for Testing
So you have criteria (or expectations) for your product. How do you test them? This is a broad category, and the strategy certainly depends on the product you’re developing. If you’re developing an eCommerce website that you would like to be compatible with desktops, tablets and mobile devices, then of course you’ll need to spend plenty of time with the website on each relevant device. Testing strategies should be relatively straightforward once you’ve developed criteria.
• Train the Test Group
Your product testers may not even be employees. Again, take Google as an example. The initial set of people invited to test Glass may have been tech savvy, but they didn’t all work for Google.
However, you will need to educate your test group on how to use the product, as well as how to spot problems with it. Generally speaking, the higher-ups at a particular corporation are going to develop the testing strategy, but those implementing it are likely to be well down the ladder. Make sure that you understand what your testers already know about the product, and then fill in the blanks from there. Just remember, you won’t be able to mentor your end users on a one-on-one basis, so strive to make the product as self-explanatory as possibly. Ideally, all of the coaching that you give your testers can appear in a user manual.
• Collect Product Information
This is, perhaps, the most tedious—not to mention, most important—phase in quality assurance. You’ll have reams of data to collect, which will ideally be run through a desktop application such as the QA Book test management tool. This will allow you to check and track a host of incidents, including the following:
• Test pass rates
• Number of testers on the project
• Scheduling issues
• Product changes
The list goes on, to be sure. The idea here is to let no detail pass undetected. This ensures a higher-quality product upon wide release.