With modern software becoming increasingly complex, no company is releasing high-quality products without adequate software testing. QA teams serve a vital role by ensuring that a final product meets the needs and expectations of users. Despite their importance, however, QA is often one of the first to be affected by mass layoffs and budget freezes due to economic uncertainty. With reduced resources, increasing the effectiveness and efficiency of QA processes is more important than ever. To help you out, here are six best practices for quality assurance that you can use to continue meeting the high standards of your team and your customers even as a team of one.
1. Define clear quality objectives
Generally, when planning for QA testing, it’s best to start by understanding the goals of your company or business unit, and align your quality objectives with those goals. It might seem like a no-brainer, but it’s easy to get off-course and focus on the wrong things. Once you know the goals of the business, you can then align the targets for your product quality metrics to those objectives, ensuring that your efforts are valuable to the business as a whole.
There are a variety of product quality metrics that are important to companies, and by extension, QA:
- Star rating is an almost universally recognized metric that will affect most products in both the B2C and B2B spaces.
- NPS is often a driving metric for software and B2B products, but is also common in the B2C space.
- Mean Time Before Failure might not sound flashy, but it’s very important to know and your returns team will be tracking this reliability metric closely.
- Click-through and bounce rates are not just for web and UX developers. If there are underlying quality issues, these rates can be very low, even with a great looking product.
By aligning your quality objectives with the overall goals of the business, you can focus on metrics that are valuable to the business and reduce the likelihood that QA resources get used inefficiently. This alignment also helps ensure the test results will be relevant and useful to the decision-makers.
2. Define success criteria for each test
There are many different types of tests, and the exact definition of each test can vary depending on the company and the QA team. Success criteria help you understand when a product has passed a specific test and whether it’s ready to move forward in the development cycle, thus removing the need for an educated guess. With success criteria clearly defined, there’s an explicit milestone and end point for the test itself, allowing for better planning and increased effectiveness.
Here’s an example of success criteria for a non-functional performance test:
- No major or critical issues
- On-target response times for interactions such as loading pages, scrolling, and submitting data
- Able to handle a minimum amount of traffic without slowing down or erroring
- Able to handle a minimum number of concurrent users without performance degradation
Here’s an example of success criteria for a functional test:
- All workflows are usable and visible
- Proper wait and loading messages appear correctly
- Animations are smooth and fluid
- Interactions with buttons and menus are precise and not difficult to navigate
3. Prioritize tests based on importance and risk
Proper prioritization is very important at the beginning of a test cycle, as well as just before release. Many products are complex and rely on interconnected features; a failure in one area might affect something else that seems completely unrelated. If you think of the product as a building, it’s best to make sure that the foundation and framing are sturdy before worrying about the doors and windows. In other words, early on, it’s crucial to find the biggest and most expensive problems first. Generally those are core functionality problems that can cause the product to completely fail.
Once the product is more stable and nearer to release, you generally don’t have enough time to do complete test passes. By prioritizing early on, QA can save valuable time when building out “smoke checks” to quickly validate that the majority of a product’s functions are working correctly. This is especially important when new builds are being released rapidly in the lead up to launch.
4. Use a combination of manual and automated tests
In a QA environment, manual and automated tests can complement each other by providing different perspectives on the quality of the software.
While automated testing (software tools automatically executing test cases) offers advantages such as speed, efficiency, consistency, scalability, reduced costs, and improved test coverage, manual testing (human testers executing test cases and verifying that the software behaves as expected) provides strengths in areas such as exploration, usability testing, creativity, contextual testing, and cost-effectiveness. Combining manual and automated testing can provide a more comprehensive view of the quality of software and help to ensure that it meets the needs of its users. By using both styles of testing in concert with one another, QA teams can have greater confidence in the quality of the software and be better equipped to identify and fix issues before they reach end-users.
5. Test software on a variety of platforms and devices
Products and software have become increasingly complex and interconnected over time - gone are the days of only one or two popular platforms for software teams to focus on. As a result, quality testing teams must evolve their practices to meet the demands of modern technology which includes expanding their testing environments to incorporate a diverse mix of common hardware and software systems, such as different browsers, mobile devices, operating systems, and network configurations.
Accommodating this never-ending expansion might be costly, and modern teams are finding creative ways to maintain coverage through virtual systems, outsourcing, and crowdsourcing. When QA teams test on different platforms and devices they can improve quality, customer satisfaction, and the user experience by identifying issues that may only occur with certain configurations. This ensures a greater share of the market will be able to use a well-built, issue-free product. Additionally, by testing on a variety of platforms and devices, QA teams can identify and address issues before they impact users which can help reduce the number of support requests and associated costs.
6. Continuously review and improve testing processes
Continuous improvement is a key aspect of not only modern software products, but modern software development and testing as well. In the case of development and testing, teams should regularly identify inefficiencies and bottlenecks that can be addressed to continue producing high-quality products.
Here are some ways in which a software QA testing team can incorporate continuous improvement into their processes and tools:
- Gap Analysis when bugs are found after release to identify and close test “gaps”
- Experimentation with new methods such as artificial intelligence, device farms, crowdsource QA, and user acceptance testing
- Implementing continuous integration and delivery (CI/CD) pipelines to automate testing and improve the speed and quality of software delivery
- Collecting and analyzing metrics such as test coverage, defect density, and lead time can help teams understand QA testing process performance and identify areas for improvement
- Encouraging experimentation and innovation by allowing individuals to try new testing techniques and tools in hopes of driving better results for quality assurance
Avoid the Chopping Block
A successful quality assurance team requires more than just running tests and checking off boxes, it takes careful planning, prioritization, and continuous improvement to ensure that a product meets the needs and expectations of its users. By adopting these six best practices for quality assurance, you can improve the efficiency and effectiveness of your testing processes, reduce the likelihood of costly mistakes, and ultimately help your team deliver high-quality software that meets the needs of your customers.
Remember, software testing is not a one-time event but a continuous process that requires constant evaluation and refinement. With companies searching for ways to cut costs, don’t give them a reason to target the QA team - ensure that you have a set of efficient and effective processes with the positive results to prove it.