Quality Assurance (QA) is more than a project phase. Elements of Quality Assurance and Quality Control (QC) are peppered throughout the lifecycle of any project or initiative including Sales and Discovery.
Quality Assurance ensures that the web development process from sales—through discovery, design, and development—to launch will produce a site or a site product that meets quality requirements. QA mechanisms are built into the web development process and assuming those procedures are followed, the process itself should yield a quality product. Quality Control is subsequently the methods that are applied as a check after the fact, to ensure that the QA process has yielded a product that is more adherent to defined specifications.
During discovery and design, a brief, Information Architecture (IA), wireframes, and design comps are produced with the intent of documenting the specifications of how a site will be built. QA in this planning phase focuses on making sure each of those artifacts speak with a unifying voice so that during implementation, the build will go smoothly. Typically, the wireframes are one of the first artifacts to be seen as it provides a visual reference point for project teams to jump off of. From there, the IA and the brief can be revised and the design comps can be created.
During this step, it’s important that both the IA and the brief are not overreached by any of the visual artifacts (wireframes or design comps). As discovery progresses, the IA will serve as canon for the build as a quantitative document and the brief will serve as the more descriptive, qualitative version of the build blueprint, also canon.
As discovery and design progress further, revisions may be made to the wireframes and then to the design comps. During the revisions of the wireframes, the IA and the brief should be updated in parallel, as at any point in the lifecycle of the project. Both of these artifacts should reflect the most up to date plan for the build.
The same goes for when the design comps go through their revision process. If at any time the IA and the brief fall out of currency with the visual artifacts, the build is put at risk because the QA process has failed as disparities have been created.
The key component for QA here comes in the form of internal artifact reviews. These internal reviews audit the project artifacts individually and as a group to ensure they are all speaking with one voice. Just as the design comps are the final artifacts produced before implementation, internal reviews occur both before the first design comps are presented to the client and then after final design comp feedback from the client has been implemented. Once that final review is completed, the final step in discovery is the approval of discovery artifacts from the client in preparation of rate build. At this point, the IA, and the brief should reflect accurately what is set forth in the visual artifacts. It is necessary to have these documents speak together.
QA during discovery is the foundation of ensuring that quality will be systematically built into the product. Making sure that key discovery and design artifacts speak together reduces the likelihood that specifications and requirements are misinterpreted during the build. This, in turn, diminishes the possibility of critical issues being found during the QC of the product once it’s been built and leads to a leaner and tighter build.