How a QA Team Helps Build Better Websites
by Kyra Dorsey | March 3rd, 2016
Solving web challenges and innovating website solutions can be stressful. Production teams often face scope changes and unexpected technology updates. But, there are some unifying factors that can keep the team focused, working together, moving forward. Enter: the quality assurance team (QA team).
The QA team at PINT understands the challenging facets of web development. To help address these challenges, we are adopting a team-oriented approach to our part in each project’s development. This means we are all on the web development ride together. But the hope is that it will result in a more complete and sound product.
The QA Team
The QA team’s responsibility is to conduct product testing based on a deep understanding of the site. This covers everything from the presentation layer to the inner workings of backend systems.
QA’s responsibilities also include facilitating communication within the team. This means asking questions throughout the entire development process. This benefits QA when it comes to formulating tests. However, itt also serves as a mechanism for highlighting potential issues along the way. Ideally, any issues can be dealt with early on in the development of a website or piece of software.
QA feedback should be clear when it comes to error reporting, including demos and use case presentations. QA is not an independent contributor: the team plays an integrated support role. The QA team helps along the way to fine tune the masterpiece. If you think about it, every member of a production team should share:
- A commitment to quality
- Pride in the project’s craftsmanship
- A collaborative interest in the technologies used
- The satisfaction that comes from the synergy of working towards the same goal as part of a solid group effort
So, in a way, every developer in production is part of QA. But there are some specific QA roles, as well.
QA Team Roles
When it comes to the QA team’s role specifically, it’s key to keep that team perspective in mind. The team perspective means QA can’t approach the project blind. Having the QA team involved in the project’s development from beginning to end is key to keeping everyone on track.
Input from the team as a whole is necessary in formulating tests and systems for:
- Presentation layer checks
- Functional tests
- End-to-end tests
- Monitoring systems
The QA team is also uniquely positioned to incorporate the different talents and perspectives of other production team members in the test process. Including the right people will not only help keep everyone on track, but it will also yield a more sound test plan, too.
Quality Assurance Challenges
Common challenges that can pose hurdles for QA teams during the development process include:
Okay, we’re not using hammers and axes. But often there are differences between the technologies and tools used by the QA and development teams. For example, developers may build an application using one language while the QA team is writing their integration tests in another.
Sometimes the members of the team may be working across time zones. This can make scheduled functional tests tricky to organize and execute between rounds of development.
The emergence and evolution of new devices is tough. New platforms can both increase testing time and cause the QA team to continuously re-evaluate testing routines. Sometimes this has to happen in the middle of a project.
Communication in error reporting and bug tracking can devolve and become disjointed. This is most liable to happen as the project nears its release deadline.
All in all, it can be a lot to manage.
QA teams can lead an effort to standardize internal communication. For example, the QA manager can set parameters for how issues should be relayed to the developers. This may include agreeing upon a singular bug tracking system or homogenizing how issues are to be illustrated. Such agreement can help to relieve some of the stress associated with general discovery and logging of errors.
It is vital to maintain a consistent dialogue with the rest of the team throughout the entire process. This can mean participating in regular scrums or status update meetings. It could also involve incorporating technology that allows for continuous conversation, such as Slack or Hipchat.
Either way, a dialogue with the team as the project is being developed keeps QA up-to-date on both project expectation and performance details.
The QA team can leverage their bird’s eye view of both the project and PINT as an organization. They can engage the entire team in the creation of user stories. These function as a roadmap for future actual tests. We need input and perspectives from all team members for a complete set of user stories. A single individual could never think of all the possible scenarios for a product’s use. Therefore, a team approach highlights the value of each team member’s unique talents and project contributions. We’ve been trying to fill out our user stories more ever since PINT’s CEO encouraged us to read 50 Quick Ideas to Improve Your User Stories.
Total Team Value to User Stories
The QA team is not the only ones who can contribute to user stories. Everyone involved in the web development process can enhance this aspect of quality assurance. And they contribute different types of user stories.
PINT Project Managers are an incredibly valuable for creating user stories. They manage a direct line of communication with project stakeholders and provide a more comprehensive perspective. This helps us understand the expected performance. Product Owners and Project Managers are highly instrumental in the creation of epics. These are the larger, more complex user stories. And PM’s can create them because of their unabridged understanding of the project.
Visual Designers and UX Specialists have a keen sensibility for user behaviors and impulses. As such, they have a special vantage point for developing hypothetical routines of user action. They have already been tasked with providing the vision for clear paths of user navigation while using the product, so they can compose many user stories during the project’s design phase.
As the physical architects of the product, Developers can offer specialized guidance to QA teams. This guidance is based on their firsthand experience composing and testing the code during the project’s development. They should be able to alert QA to any environmental limitations or other technical parts of the product to which QA should pay special attention. Their familiarity with technical limitations means developers are also the best people to provide feedback on risk.
The entire team contributes to the theme, or complete body of user stories. They are the combined effort of the team’s collaboration, and can then be translated by the QA team into a suite of actual tests.
Better QA = Better End-Products
Team ownership and involvement in a website’s or web application’s life cycle fosters its own momentum. Team contributions to the testing process reinforce each member’s understanding of the end-product’s performance expectations. It also allows each team member to analyze their own contribution within the context of how it will serve the project.
In a way, QA reflects PINT’s team-oriented workplace. When everyone helps to create user stories, we are not only helping our QA team. We are also sharpening our own skill sets by developing new perspectives towards our coworkers’ individual contributions.