QA or quality assurance is critical to be able to deliver a solid product no matter what the product is. It is even more critical when it comes to web development because of the number of devices and browsers that all may render differently. Establishing who is the person responsible for the final sign off on a task or project upfront is critical to the project’s success.
Who is Best Suited for the Responsibility of Final Sign Off?
The person best able to take responsibility if something is done right, is the one that understands both the client’s needs and the website. In any professional model where the developer is not in communication with the end client there would always be a “third party” that takes up this responsibility. This person is the one in direct contact with the client.
Benefits of Third-Party QA.
- You Don’t Alienate Your Developer.
No matter what company or part of the world a site is being worked on, stuff will always get missed. This is true in Mountain View, California (Google) as well a Redmond, Washington (Microsoft). Putting another person or entity between the person who is going to be “mad” when they see an error / bug and the developer, takes a lot of stress off the developer. However, if work is being send back with “obvious” bugs, this will sour the relationship between development and QA.
- It’s Better to Have a Second Set of Eyes.
Another reason to have a 3rd party or person doing the QA and sign off, is that sometimes being too close (the developer), does not give as good of a perspective. The 2nd set of eyes on a project or task is extremely beneficial to deliver a quality project. Even in smaller or one person “firms” the only cases that it would make sense for the developer to being doing his / her own QA, would be if there will no other 3rd parties available or they were the ones in direct communication with the “end client”.
- The Developer Does Not Always Have All the Information.
In many cases and in almost every case for myself, I am not the one in direct communication with the “end client”. No matter how well a scope of work for a project or task is defined there will always be functionality and design quirks that are better understood by the person talking to the “end client”. The person in communication will be able to understand the full nature of the request to determine if this was what his / her client really wanted.
- Familiarity of the Website.
A good argument for “third party QA” is the developer may not be seeing the site on a day to day basis. As time passes, even on the sites I have built myself, I become less familiar with the original functionality and design. Clear instruction along with screenshots goes a long way to be able to re-familiarize with the issues, but at the end of the day the person managing the client / website is more qualified to decide that it is good than the developer.
QA is Not for Free.
The time it takes to review and QA a task or a site should be considered in addition to the actual development time. The larger the project, the truer this becomes. My default model for “freelance” work models my life as a Phoenix developer in the past. I do the development, and responsibly send it over for review to the person tasked with that duty. In cases where it is a “retail” client or no QA is provided, I try to be as clear as possible with expectations. When I do a quote, I quote for project development and fixes based on the feedback I get from the entity responsible for QA. Meaning, on a 40-hour website build, that has been properly QA’d by an agency, another 20 hours should not come back after they have shown their client the link for review. When an agency sends back a website link for review, I expect / account for 10% remaining of the time quoted. If the agency is not aware of these incline changes, I won’t know either.
Tools For QA:
- Annotated Screenshots to a URL
I believe annotated screenshots and video are the key for clear communication. With as dynamic as the web has become, I have added “annotated video” to a list of important tools needed to deliver quality work. I use Snagit by TechSmith for all my Screenshots and video casts. This is very easy to use and reasonably priced ($49.95 as of 09/20/2017). Another good tool made by the same company is Jing, which is the free version of Snagit with a few less features. Both Jing and Snagit are easy to use and will make both video and screenshots.
- Browser / Device Testing
Another essential tool is a browser and device testing platform. I have looked around and I have not found anything as reliable as BrowserStack. It is a paid tool at $300 per year for a single user. While this might seem a bit pricey, you get what you pay for. Without BrowserStack, I am very limited to the browsers or devices that I can use to see any anomalies / bugs.