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Our Thinking

Building a Great Website: 11 Tests before Go-Live

Testing is central to the process of website creation, but many marketers rarely examine this critically important step. When done properly, testing is time-consuming. Thus, when the schedule (or budgets) are tight, unfortunately, testing is the first thing to go. And when this happens, errors creep in that can destroy user trust, and damage long-earned brand equity.

All testing is not the same: each type of testing has a specific purpose. If it is omitted from the web process, risk increases; when it is done, the budget increases, as does the project timeline. The challenge on every project is to choose the right balance.

Here is a list of the types of testing that are possible:

  • Information Architecture Validation Testing: To ensure that the navigational schema actually makes sense – and is scalable.
  • Design Testing: To ensure the emotional connection connects the user to the brand (and to the goals of the business).
  • Unit Testing: To ensure that each module of code delivers on the technical requirements.
  • Integration Testing: To ensure that the whole system works together as expected.
  • Usability Testing: To ensure that real users can intuitively perform typical tasks using the system.
  • Stress Testing: To establish the point at which the system can no longer handle the volume of transactions without failure or excessive slowdowns.
  • Speed Testing:  To identify the components of the system (or page) that are causing slow page loads.
  • Security Testing: To prove that known security issues have been addressed.
  • User Acceptance Testing: This is the “official” sign-off testing process that is done by clients to identify any remaining errors.
  • Regression Testing: To ensure that any fixes did not introduce additional errors.
  • A-B Testing: To ensure that the pages are optimized to achieve the business objective.

An excellent test program rests on three key principles:

1) Process: Behind every test, there must be a process to ensure that tests are as positive as possible. This would include a robust design and development methodology, code reviews, test cases, and more.  It’s far easier to build quality in, than to apply it afterwards.

2) Testing technology: Just about every test can benefit from the use of technology to automate the testing process, improve the efficiency when manual processes are required, and track/report testing results.

3) Separation of responsibilities: While it does make sense for a developer to perform unit testing on their own work, all other tests benefit from having a separate (and independent) testing team. Developers spend their time developing “in the trees”, and often can’t see (or don’t want to see) a buggy forest.

Marketing Insight #1: A key goal of a holistic testing program is to identify mid-course corrections that can help the website better achieve its business objectives.

Marketing Insight #2: “Testing” is not just a website development activity – it applies to everything. In the context of writing, for example, it’s called “editing“.

This week’s action plan: Find out if these tests are on the to-do list of your website or web landing pages.  If they are not, educate your colleagues on the importance of testing and integrate these tests into the development process.