Quality Assurance on the web, often referred to as QA, is a proof and review of a product or deliverable - in our case web applications and websites. QA is independent of the design and development processes in order to test a product’s many uses in the myriad of ways an enduser, especially those unfamiliar with the software, might. The QA process is expected to discover design issues and development errors while testing a product’s user interface (UI) and gauging the user experience (UX).
Web QA can never be 100% complete because of the numerous testing variables present in web development. These variables include non-desktop devices, internet connection speeds, and operating systems. It is QA’s job to ensure a product works for > 99% of use cases. The applications used to access web products can have their own aggravating blocks (as evidenced at this year’s Pwn2Own contest) and when backdated browsers are factored in it becomes understandable that QA can never realistically achieve 100% compatibility.
Interoperability is accomplished by combining various browsers, devices, and systems throughout the testing process to touch products through as many end user viewport lenses as possible. By testing these combinations thoroughly QA can be confident that the products are performing as expected for huge quantity of users.
QA, however, isn’t as cut-and-dry as checking a new application or website in modern browsers. Because of many end user’s internet preferences, browsers dating as far back as IE8 and Safari 5.1.7 are routinely used to access today’s products. A website that looks great in today’s current browsers may not look great in one of its backdated versions and it’s QA’s job to identify these rough spots and see the teams through to a fix.
Making use of every tool available to simulate various online interactions is the only way to confirm that a product is functioning as expected. One of the most handy tools we use are Virtual Machines (VMs) that can be booted up and used whenever they’re needed. These VMs hold backdated versions of many browsers, including Internet Explorer and Firefox releases, from more than five years ago.
The QA process is important in any industry that creates products. However, when the products are web applications and websites, your deliverables are thrust into heavy use by numerous people very quickly. Having test data to review can assure everyone involved that your product is ready to hit the ground running for the 99%.
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