Quality assurance testing is not only essential to assess the quality of a company’s products and services, but it is also necessary to maintain quality relationships between a developer and consumer. This consumer-developer relationship means achieving a balance between technical quality – that a product does what it is designed to do both quickly and efficiently for the company – and consumer usability. Oftentimes, this bridge is formed by having a clearly-stated value proposition and feedback loop between the product’s designers and the product’s users.
The first step in achieving quality for both developers and users means clearly designing quality assurance testing guidelines for a company’s product. These guidelines should be written and assessed at the beginning of the project, and they should address everything from editorial and graphics to coding conventions. There should be critical testing processes for automation, performance, and integration. When designing QA tests, there are three questions for all parties to consider:
- Why: Why are you building the software? Is there a need for it, and is there space for it within the marketplace? Why is this better than other competitors’ products?
- What: What set of individual software features are most pressing to test, and which features are less urgent?
- How: How can the software apply in different scenarios? This relates to engineers’ practical application of the testing, which should take into account test data, hardware specifications, and network connection type.
Moreover, these guidelines should be based upon a combination of feedback from the company itself, QA/software engineers, and end users. This three-way communication model enables a business to evaluate their quality assurance beta tests in terms of both risk and potential impact.
A rule of thumb for product design is that the ideal software tester is an advocate for the end user. In order to be successful, a software tester must understand and anticipate the consumers’ problems and incorporate these into the testing guidelines and cycle. According to Forbes, new software must maintain the right gain/pain ratio: offering consistent customer gain while offsetting the pain and cost for the customer to adopt new technology. Oftentimes, it is best if the end user can be the actual software tester in order for a company to observe their interactions with the product during the testing phase.
Once the initial software has been designed, it is essential to continually assess the product. Generally, this is most successfully done when businesses and engineers evaluate support center input, read discussion boards, and assess other categories of usability intelligence. Obtaining real-time feedback allows businesses and engineers to understand gaps in the intent of the application.
The design and assessment of quality software means nothing; however, without the ability to effectively communicate the product to consumers. A value proposition, or a positioning statement that succinctly describes your product and its benefits, is the essential last “test” for software quality assurance. When designing a value proposition, it is important to remember the following framework:
- Audience: Clearly define who your product is for, particularly if the consumer is dissatisfied with a current alternative.
- Product: Briefly define the new product (in layman’s terms, not as if you were speaking to a fellow quality assurance engineer) and what problem-solving capability the product provides.
- Benefit: Broadly speaking, businesses deliver value in one to three of the following categories: cost, technology, and service. Identifying which of these categories your products’ benefits fall into (which could include mechanisms such as warranty, accessibility, and performance) will help differentiate your product.
A clear value proposition for a high-quality product at both the technical (via guidelines and beta testing) and the consumer (via consumer feedback loops) level is essential for a product’s – and therefore a software engineer’s – success.