What is Quality Assurance and why does Your Website Need It (Now More than Ever)

As humans, we make mistakes. But we expect our technology to be flawless. And that’s not the case with many brand websites. But one mistake there could be more costly than you think. A broken link or an error message may just lose the patience or trust of a potential customer. With consumer expectations higher than ever before, you don’t want to give people a reason to turn to your competitors to get what they originally wanted from you. 

That’s exactly why Quality Assurance (QA) audits exist — and why they’re so important. If your site hasn’t had one or you’re wondering if you need one, here’s everything you need to know about QA Audits and an example of one Assemble is currently doing for a client. 

What is Quality Assurance? 

Let’s break it down by word. Quality refers to compliance. If something is high-quality, it fulfills our wishes and expectations.

Assurance is a confirmation or confidence; being certain of something. 

So quality assurance in regard to a web experience is the guarantee of a site’s quality. This isn’t part of the development or design process, however. QA is performed separately as an audit. 

A QA audit is a process of ensuring the desired level of quality in a website, so that the finished website meets the expectations of both the business that owns it and its target audience.

When should you do a QA Audit? 

There are a couple of different reasons a business would choose to perform a QA audit. 

  • You’ve just developed a brand new website that has no quality control 
  • You have an older site that has not been updated to reflect new guidelines and requirements 
  • You recently migrated your site from HTML to CMS, so you want to ensure all elements and metrics were translated properly 

“Performing a QA audit will give you the peace of mind that your site is not only working as expected, but also following updated guidelines to better maximize its efficiency and performance,” Jose Montealegre, QA Lead, explained. “It will ensure that all your site’s interactive elements offer a positive user experience and make the navigation simple and seamless.”

How Does it Work? 

The QA specialists at Assemble will start with a trusted software testing tool called Lighthouse. This technology will monitor a site in its entirety, performing a general parameter check to detect anything that could hurt a site’s performance. It will provide notes on functionality, ADA, SEO, and overall best practices that will become an actionable list  in which our QA team does a manual deep dive into each one, addressing the issues and making updates to meet compliance and performance standards.

“We can then automate a lot of processes based on the site’s specific user interactions,” Jose added. “For example, if you have a subscriber form, we can set up an automation to track all the user actions required for that form to catch any issues as things change over time — e.g. a browser update or script change. By continuously having a pulse on this, we can modify the framework quickly to always keep the site’s performance at the highest level.” 

5 Things to Look for in a QA Site Audit 

The list of what to look for in a QA Audit is constantly changing based on the ever-advancing digital landscape. But there are certain categories that overall highlight the process. 

  • Performance in Different Browsers
    If you are building a new website or you want to make sure you’re maximizing the investment in your current site, you need to know how it performs in multiple browsers. Website testing across today’s most highly-used browsers can help make sure your company makes a good impression on potential customers and existing customers no matter where they come from. This process focuses more so on how the site looks, considering how elements and interactive components behave across each browser your audience could be using.
  • ADA Compliance
    Accessibility refers to how usable a site is for individuals with disabilities, such as hearing or vision impairments. And the ADA guidelines in this category are constantly changing.  As a result, it’s too easy for brands who don’t perform QA audits to overlook the latest updates they need to make in order to maximize site performance.

    These audits ensure that everyone is able to access and interact with your site. They focus on alternate texts for each website element, color contrast within the different HTML components/ images, the order of elements in regard to headings and HTML structure, etc. Not only does working in ADA compliance for accessibility expand your audience reach and inclusion, but it also allows you to ensure your web design, usability, and SEO are at their best.
  • Load Times
    With attention spans getting shorter and shorter, checking the speed of the first-time page load is a must in a QA audit. In other words, how long does it take for the user to access the site?  This can look at a number of elements, such as images, CSS, and sources, to see which could be slowing down the first load and get it to a pace that users expect. For Google, that means less than two seconds.
  • Unnecessary / Outdated Elements
    When a website is being migrated over from HTML to a CMS, there will always be differences in the backend elements required. A lot of the time that means there will be unused scripts or resources that were once valuable to the site, but are now actually harmful. These unnecessarily lines of code simply just waste energy, taking up time that affects load speeds. A QA audit can catch these unused components and optimize all of them to improve site performance.

    For the same reason, a QA audit will check all internal and external links. Problem areas could include old links that no longer lead anywhere, urls that have accidental spaces due to a bad copy and paste job, or a link that was simply incorrectly placed, leading a user to an irrelevant page. Broken or incorrect links are shown to decrease user confidence in a site by 50%, so addressing them is important — to say the least.
  • Forms & Data Entry
    Contact forms and data entry fields are probably the most important interactive elements of a site because they’re the most vital step in obtaining a new lead or a loyal brand advocate. But if someone spends the time giving you their personal information and they get an error message, you can rarely expect them to try again.QA will check the quality of the data that is being submitted and the response times in which each of the elements takes to give the user an answer. “We can implement validations directly in the forms component, which will allow us to stay one step ahead on what will be submitted,” Jose shared. “It will alert the user if a field is mandatory or needs to accomplish some specific format, such as an email with no domain or a zip code that’s one number short.”

Example of an Assemble QA Audit 

Assemble is currently working on an extensive QA project for a healthcare client. The scope involves over 80 brand sites, built a number of years ago, each including patient and provider portals. Through an extensive audit of each, our QA team will ensure that the functionality for both sides communicates properly with the latest CMS updates and browser versions, and accommodates all the new guidelines for optimal performance. 

So far, this is some of the most common issues we’ve found:

  • Error messages aren’t standardized. Whether a user typed in “John.smith@” or “John.smith@Hotmail,” the mistake is the same, but the user received different error messages
  • Some website elements have the same ID or Name, which makes it difficult for readers or optimization tools to locate them, resulting in an “error” message
  • Incorrect header structure. Here’s what it should look like (Header 1, Header 2, Header 3 — with various elements in between): 
    • Header 1
      • Content block
      • Images
    • Header 2
      • Content
      • Content
    • Header 2
      • Content
      • Header 3
        • List
        • Gallery
  • No data validation on submissions in the forms. So if a user submitted any email without a TLD (ie. “jmontealegre@assemblestudio”), the page redirects to an unformatted white page, disrupting the user experience
  • Conflicts with sites that were modified over time, some of which left outdated and unused CSS styles, affecting the first page load times

Still have some questions? Assemble is here to help. Let our QA specialists take you through the benefits of Quality Assurance in regard to your specific site needs and details to help you make sure your digital presence is outperforming your competitors and bringing you raving fans and customers. Contact us today.