Before users can fall in love with your app, you need to achieve the basics. That means a great, consistent experience without problems and bugs. To ensure that this is the case before launching an app or web product, we have a dedicated team who conduct thorough testing to make sure the digital product is ready for release.
We met up with two members of our Quality Assurance Team, Dan White and Dan Reid, to understand what Quality Assurance really is, what it looks like in an App Development Agency and why it is such a vital part of building the right product for our clients.
What are the Quality Assurance team’s main responsibilities?
DW: As Quality Assurance testers, we need to ensure that the app meets high standards before it’s released onto the App Store or Google Play Store. We test websites and apps for functionality and quality.
DR: When an app or a website comes to us for testing in the early stages, we look at a basic structure with placeholders so we can see what the app will look like once it has been fully developed. Throughout the progression of the app’s development, it’s our job to make sure we have built the right product for the client and that it meets their standards and requirements. Before the app goes live, the QA team are responsible for catching any imperfections and giving the seal of approval.
What skills and qualities are important for a Quality Assurance Tester?
DW: An important skill for anyone in QA is attention to detail.
DR: Absolutely! If you sat with us for a day in our life outside of work, you would see that we notice things you probably wouldn’t.
DW: A smear on a window, a ding on a car…
DR: Communication is also key. QA is the final hurdle before the product goes to the client for their approval. We are the team who say the app is good to be sent off or the ones who say it isn’t ready.
If an app isn’t ready, we need to clearly communicate this to the Project Managers and highlight what needs to be fixed.
Alternatively, if there is a minor bug that can be fixed in the next release, we need to clearly communicate this as well. We need to be confident in our decision to release, or not, and make this decision whilst balancing deadlines and other factors.
DW: Critical thinking is another quality of a QA Tester. It’s also good to have a basic understanding of code. It isn’t essential though but it is beneficial for working in QA. It can help when looking at a block of code to recognise what it does and what you are checking for when testing.
What does your day-to-day role look like as a QA in an agency?
DR: Our week starts with a round up meeting with the Head of Operations, where we catch up on what we are doing that week. I then look at the QA sheet and review what is outstanding and list out what I need to do. Then I contact the relevant developer(s) to understand their timescales and work around them. It’s hard to have a set schedule for the week as it’s dependent on what stage the builds are in and the Quality Assurance needs at the time.
DW: Our team works across multiple projects so throughout each day we are collaborating with the development team to make sure we are on the same page. There’s never a dull day working in an agency as we have multiple projects at varying stages. The alternative is working in-house for a company where you are on the same project for the duration. Personally, I enjoy the variety in agencies. There is always so much to learn – every day is a school day!
What are you looking for when you test?
DW: First of all, we need to put ourselves into the shoes of the user. What are they trying to achieve whilst using the app? This is usually covered in the Discovery Workshops but if we come across a use case we don’t know, we will request the information from the client. For example, key functionality they need might be to upload an image 5 times within an hour. So, we will try to perform that using the app our development team have built. We will test to see whether we can also upload an image 5 times in one hour.
We need to investigate the functionality of the product and test what it is capable of to make sure it is up to users standards and expectations.
DR: There are many different types of bugs. As Dan said, we investigate the functionality, but we also pick up on some design elements (for example, if there is a spelling error or the wrong font).
If we are testing an app, such as logging in, it may work the 1st, 2nd and 3rd time, but not the 4th. Therefore, we need to understand where the bugs may be to reduce the major ones that impact the quality and usability of the application.
How did you get into QA?
DW: I was working in a hydraulics job, operating these massive machines but the software we used had lots of bugs. I contacted the relevant department and explained the situation. They sent me a build to test to try to fix the problem. We went back and forth a few times and I found I enjoyed testing for bugs more than the hydraulics job I was doing!
DR: I worked as a technician on leaving school, but I didn’t enjoy it. My sister and her fiancé are both in the software world, so I decided to look into it and found an apprenticeship at a company looking for a tester.
What really interested me about Quality Assurance is the doors it can open for a career. We work closely with Project Managers, Product Managers and Developers. Any of these avenues can be opened to us as well as delving further into Quality Assurance.
What do you enjoy about working in Quality Assurance?
DR: I’d compare it to being a teacher, watching how a student progresses and develops from the start of the school year to the end. We are there from the start of the product to the end, making sure it’s working, picking the holes that need to be picked and perfecting it. At the end, you have this brand-new product that people can use. And you have been a part of creating something for the world to use and can take pride in it.
Also, you get the opportunity to learn about the industries you are working with and the different roles within the agency, Project Managers, Developers, Designers. There is so much to learn in software development – the possibilities are endless!
Do you have any advice for people who are considering a career in QA?
DW: To follow on from what Dan mentioned earlier, there is so much you can learn! If you’re interested in QA, there are many courses you could go on, free guides on YouTube you can watch and test methodologies to learn.
I recommend staying up to date with industry trends – AI being one prominent example at the moment! Quality Assurance is a unique field of work. There are a lot of avenues with it. Not a day goes by that I don’t learn something new!