This post aims to provide you with an overview of quality assurance within software development: what does it mean, how is it achieved, and when should you include it in your project?
What Does Quality Assurance Mean?
So, what does quality assurance (QA) really mean? Well, if we break these words down to their core definitions then we have “quality” which, according to the Oxford Dictionary means: “The standard of something as measured against other things of a similar kind; the degree of excellence of something.” Then we have “assurance”: “A positive declaration intended to give confidence; a promise.”
Combining these definitions gives the role of a QA Specialist a broad meaning. They ensure that the product in development has a competitive standard of excellence, and affirms that the product works as intended with confidence. However, whilst this is the responsibility of the QA Specialist and/or department, it’s also the responsibility of every person involved in the software development lifecycle, as they ensure that the task in-hand is carried out with quality in mind.
How to Achieve Quality Assurance
Now that we understand more of what quality assurance means, we can think about achieving this level of confidence with our digital products. A QA Specialist – also known as a tester – is brought into a development team and begins to explore the nature of the development lifecycle. How are things currently done? How many products are being built? Who is responsible for what? And what are the current trends in the market that need to be kept up-to-date with? This is achieved through a process of engagement with the creators of the product, and consistent communication with everyone responsible for quality. This starts with planning, design, development, deployment and research into the latest trends in technology. Notice here the use of the word “process”. This is because quality isn’t something you can just apply and then expect results from instantly. Like with most things in life, it takes time and understanding of what is going to work for your team, business and audience.
After the QA has gathered a satisfactory amount of knowledge, a series of tests and reviews are carried out to provide feedback to the team of how the product is currently working, what is going wrong and what is going well. The tests are usually carried out with a growing variety including browsers on desktop and mobile devices, extensions and installed software to find errors and ensure the user experience is simple and accessible.
Sometimes quality assurance can be as simple as testing that all the links on a website lead to their assigned pages, or checking that the speed of the page load is complete within three seconds. At other times it can be much more complex such as writing a database trigger to record any updates, deletes or inserts to your database, in case of a mistake or malicious attack.
When to Apply Quality Assurance to Your Project
As the most appropriate QA strategy is not always clear and it’s not a case of one size fits all, the more familiar the development team are with what your business goals are, the easier it will be to determine the best test strategy. This is why communication is so important.
Ideally, your development team will be focusing on testing early and often to identify bugs as soon as they arise. When I say bugs, I don’t mean the creepy crawlies you find in your garden or kitchen. A bug is defined within this blog post as an error within your system that causes the product to behave unexpectedly in a negative manner. To read a little more about how the term bug was founded, just click this link here.
It should also be noted that bugs found early on in the development process only require a fix for that single problem, which makes quality control simpler, and enables quality assurance to grow. However, when left until the last minute – or for your end-users to report bugs back to you – more time is spent carrying out an investigation and analysis, before isolating the problem. This is before a fix can be made, which means there is a higher cost for your business – both financially and reputationally. It’s like finding a moth in a matrix of code, and for every wrong turn, you’ve just cost yourself more money and increased the number of users who will be disappointed with your service.
This post should have illustrated the importance of quality assurance, and given you an idea of when to include this process in your future projects. If you have any more questions about QA, then please get in touch with us.