Quality Assurance: How It Works and Why It’s Important

The National Institute of Standards and Technology reports that software bugs cost the US economy an estimated $59.5 billion annually.  No one wants defects in their software, but inevitably they always seem to come up, resulting in customer disappointment, negative reputation impact, and revenue risks. This makes quality assurance one of the most important pieces of any software development process.

Quality assurance (usually referred to as QA) is more than a single step of the process; it takes place at every level of the software development life cycle. Testing and quality control help ensure that the development team delivers a high-quality product. Rigorous and systematic testing identifies problems early on in the development process, isolating project risks and maximizing ROI for you and your company.

What Is Quality?

Any software product is created to help its users improve their life experience, satisfy needs, or solve problems, so quality is the ability of a product to meet those objectives. Stakeholders and product owners see quality in an application when it meets their expectations, is delivered on time and within budget, and is maintainable. A software team defines quality as the degree to which the product meets the business requirements.

What Is the Role of the Quality Assurance Team?

The cost of errors in software grows exponentially as they sneak into later phases of the life cycle. To be the most beneficial and identify problems early on throughout product development, QA activities should be part of the development process from the very beginning, even during the planning and analysis stages. This will help reduce risks of creating incomplete or ambiguous requirements, or acceptance criteria that may be unclear on unable to be tested.

Quality assurance focuses not only on finding bugs, but also on preventing software issues, conducting root cause analysis, and educating the team about quality. QA improves the whole software development process, making it more efficient. By evaluating measures and metrics, testing constantly provides very important information about the state of the product. Critical business decisions are made on the basis of that information.

In Agile, which is one of the most widely used and efficient software development methodologies, testing and quality control go hand in hand with code creation. Constant testing allows software teams to find and fix defects in the same phase of the life cycle in which they were introduced, which reduces the risk of producing new defects and shortens product delivery time.

Why Are There Bugs?

Software is created by humans, and human error is inevitable. Defects happen when code is rushed or too complex, but even without these factors, bugs can still appear. While it’s easy to blame the developers, 20% of bugs are created at the requirements level and another 25% at the design level. No one can reduce risks to zero, but quality assurance eliminates critical defects, improves the system, and certifies that the product meets business and industry standards. Along with exit criteria, budget, and timeline, QA testing results factor greatly in any business decisions about a product’s readiness to go live.

Even when a product is released to the public, the job of the quality assurance team is not over. To stay competitive in the market, software should be a constantly changing product that stays highly adaptive to users’ feedback and quickly evolves to keep up with industry standards. Any adjustments or interference with code could potentially bring new issues, and it is always better if they are found by testers than by users.

Our Thoughts…

Building software is a human project, so there will be mistakes along the way, but the quality assurance team gives any project a safety net. The goal of developers is to make sure the product works. The quality assurance team is there to make sure the product works as well as it possibly can.

A high-quality product takes blood, sweat, and tears from every member of the team. A measured approach and a detailed test strategy will ensure a clear understanding of the final result by the customer. QA helps achieve these keys to any product’s success.

PeakActivity has a huge knowledge base in software building, including quality assurance. The right strategy is key to a successful product, and we can help at every step of the way.

WordPress vs. Headless Content Management

WordPress vs. Headless Content Management: Choosing Simplicity or Functionality

Reader Takeaways:

  • A content management system (CMS) is a system that stores and displays your company’s content onto a website, mobile app, or another platform.
  • WordPress is great if you’re looking for a simple marketing website you can build without a development team.
  • Headless CMS might be for you if you’re a larger corporation with a team to build custom applications for multiple platforms.

Managing content correctly can make or break your company’s website functionality. With so many new types of content management systems (CMS), it can be hard to decide. In this article, we’ll break down two popular types of content management systems so you can make the right decision.

What Is a Content Management System?

All of the content you’ve created for your website has to be stored somewhere so you can add, remove, and edit when needed. The system can contain a front end, where the content is displayed on a website (or app, game, kiosk, etc.), and a back end, where the data is stored and edited.

WordPress

WordPress is the simplest, most popular way to create your own website. WordPress is a content management system that is free to use, encompassing both the front end and the back end of your website. That is to say, you add the words and images, pick a theme, and choose some features, and boom… you have a website.

WordPress sites are great all-in-one solutions you can build yourself with preloaded themes and plugins. So WordPress is nice if you have a small website, but it was meant for blogging, so it works best on a site with only information or marketing content.

WordPress has its downsides when it comes to scalability and performance. As soon as you try to add more functionality, like maybe an eCommerce site or a forum for your customers to chat with each other, you’re going to have to create a lot of custom code that could slow down the site.

WordPress might be for you if:

  • You’re looking for an enterprise-level website you can build without a development team.  
  • You need a simple marketing website.
  • You don’t require a lot of functionality or availability on digital devices and platforms.

Headless CMS

While WordPress is your all-in-one solution, a headless CMS has only one focus: the back end. In short, a headless CMS stores your content and leaves the front end display up to you. While that might sound counterproductive, the headless approach can put your content into any technology you can think of, from iOS apps to kiosks to smartwatches and even inside virtual reality headsets.

Using a headless CMS is a powerful option for companies with mobile and web developers. With the right vision, a headless CMS can use any front end tool they want to present content in meaningful and interactive ways.

While a headless CMS can be free to use, just like WordPress, it requires a development team to plan, create, and maintain. And since you’re not working from a template, the user experience can also sometimes suffer. Many growing companies looking for more functionality are choosing headless CMS.

Headless CMS might be for you if:

  • You’re a larger corporation, with a team to build custom applications.
  • You need to publish content on multiple platforms, all at once.
  • A traditional website isn’t doing it for you, and you need more functionality.

What We Recommend

WordPress makes creating a great website quick and easy, and it’s a terrific option for most companies. But as your company is growing, consider making the move to a headless CMS part of your long-term vision; you will be more flexible, prepared for new devices, and have no worries to scale for high traffic. Understanding your options in content management can help you deliver the experience you want, and the one your customers expect.

PeakActivity can help bring your company to the next level by considering all your options in content management. By working with those in the know and using the right tools, you can instantly access new tools to help your website thrive.

ADA Compliance and Your eCommerce Site

Using the internet with disabilities is no easy feat, and the law agrees. Just this year, hundreds of eCommerce companies have been hit with lawsuits claiming violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) because people with impairments were unable to access or effectively use sites across the internet.

In fact, more than 10,000 ADA compliance website lawsuits affected companies large and small over a wide range of industries in 2018. With so many different people using your website with a variety of browsers and devices, being accessible and compliant isn’t just the nice thing to do for your users; it’s the right, and the legal thing to do.

What is ADA compliance?

When you think of ADA compliance, you probably think of making sure your building is wheelchair accessible, or other structural changes like lifts and cut curbs. But in 2010, ADA Standards for Accessible Design was published, requiring that websites be accessible to everyone, including people who are visually impaired, hearing impaired, illiterate, or have a learning disability. With the additions to the ADA, new requirements were put in place for how to cater to all customers who visit your site, including requiring sites to be accessible by screen readers.

Many people with visual impairments use a screen reader to use the internet. Screen readers interact with a website by conveying to the user the contents of your site through text-to-speech and sound icons. The keyboard is used to navigate the site rather than a mouse, which requires visual cues. If your eCommerce site can’t be read by these devices, you’re losing out on potential customers, and you’re in violation of the ADA.

Read more about screen readers here.

Why does my eCommerce website need to be ADA compliant?

When a person with a disability arrives at your eCommerce site, they should be able to navigate easily enough to browse the site, contact you, or maybe even buy something. eCommerce sites require tons of interaction, with buttons to click, things to read, and information to enter, even more than an informative website would.

Beyond just avoiding lawsuits, if a person can’t navigate your site easily, they’ll probably just move on to your competitors. 19% of the population has a disability, so making your site ADA compliant may help your reputation, as well as helping you access thousands of new customers.

How can you ensure your website is ADA compliant?

When a visually impaired person tries to access a site that is not ADA compliant, they will probably run into trouble as soon as their screen reader tries to read the pictures on the site. If your images don’t have any captions or code behind them to explain what’s in the picture, called alt-text, your site is not ADA compliant.

The first step in becoming ADA compliant is to figure out all the aspects of the law and how they apply to your site. While lack of alt-text is one of the most common problems cited in lawsuits, making sure your site is accessible requires fixing all the issues people with disabilities may come across. For example, certain disabilities require the site to have full keyboard accessibility, so your site can be read by people who cannot use a mouse. Other violations of the ADA involve color contrast, so that colorblind people can see all parts of the site. The ADA even includes provisions banning flashing lights on your site, so as not to trigger someone with epilepsy.

Knowledge is the logical first step in creating an ADA-compliant site. ADA compliance training can ensure that all members of your team are knowledgeable on all the requirements involved with website ADA compliance, so things don’t go unnoticed. By identifying what needs to be done on your site and working with knowledgeable people, you can easily find the right tools to develop new code that is compliant.

Don’t let a lawsuit be the catalyst to make your site ADA compliant. By working with those in the know and using the right tools, you can instantly access new customers who may have otherwise looked to your competitors. Being accessible and compliant isn’t just a common courtesy for your users; it’s required by law, but more than that, it’s just the right thing to do.

A/B Testing: Taking the guesswork out of eCommerce

Reader Takeaways:

  • An A/B test is the process of sending users to different versions of your eCommerce website to test the performance of each version.
  • By continually running A/B tests on different parts of the site, you can continue to learn more about your customers and how best to cater to their needs, with the goal of finding new ways to convert browsers into customers
  • The process of A/B testing requires creating goals and testing the highest priority areas of the site first.  Changing just one variable at a time ensures that you know what had an impact on your customer’s responses.
  • While the benefits of A/B testing are endless. The best part is the ability to create an eCommerce site that has been proven to be successful.

A/B testing is the easiest and most effective way to convert casual eCommerce visitors

into loyal customers. Running an A/B test requires sending your users to multiple separate versions of the site to determine which they prefer. In an A/B test, you can actually talk to users and watch them interact with a product, uncovering and solving problems that would have otherwise gone unnoticed. With this valuable data, you can quickly see how small things can make a huge difference to your customers. Every site can be improved, and A/B testing can reveal weaknesses and successes in your marketing strategy that you can utilize to make data-driven improvements, taking the guesswork out of your eCommerce site.

A/B Testing Basics

A/B testing is the process of splitting your eCommerce site traffic between multiple versions of the site to see which experience has a better result based on a certain goal metric. In other words, it will show you which of the sites produced more leads, engaging customers, or purchasers depending on the needs of the site. By continually running A/B tests on different parts of the site, you can continue to learn more about your customers and how best to cater to their needs, with the goal of finding new ways to convert browsers into customers.

The solutions that A/B testing can provide are endless. Every part of every site can be tested to ensure that your eCommerce marketing strategy is working. For instance, you might begin A/B tests where you notice your conversion rate falling off. Rather than replacing the page entirely or relying on a gut decision on how to fix the problem, A/B testing allows you to effectively troubleshoot. Will incorporating different verbs or adjectives into your wording or simply changing a font improve your results? An A/B test can give you an exact outline of the problem with a data-driven solution. Keeping up with the constantly changing needs of your customers requires constant A/B testing.

Process of A/B Testing

Our team has established a repeatable method that outlines where to begin and how to proceed at each stage of the A/B testing process. Since it’s easy to get carried away when running A/B tests, it is helpful to keep your scope in mind. Beginning with the highest-priority part of the site, establish the goals you have for your conversion rates. Use research, including data from previous A/B tests if they apply, to form a hypothesis which you can prove right or wrong with your test. Stick to one variable and find out why you’re not meeting your goal on that page.

Once you design and create your test, an A/B test runs until you have enough data to make a solid decision. Once you have enough data, you can quickly determine which of the two solutions is better to meet the goal you set out. Then, repeat the process with a different variable. Changing just one variable at a time ensures that you know what had an impact on your customer’s responses.

Benefits of A/B Testing

A/B tests can be run at any time to create customer-centric designs for your eCommerce site, increasing your conversion rates. The benefits of A/B testing are endless, but the best part is the ability to create an eCommerce site that has been proven to be successful. By creating a culture of data-driven decisions on your site, the results can create higher customer lifetime values.

By being able to test strategies that may be considered risky, such as aggressive marketing tactics, A/B testing can reduce the risk of higher bounce rates. As your business grows and evolves, so do your customers, which is why assuming that your site is great isn’t always the best strategy. A/B testing is an ever-evolving process that can ultimately make a huge difference in your marketing return on investment.

A/B testing is a way to change your eCommerce site for the better using data-driven analytics. By asking your customers what they want out of your site, you’ll ensure that your site is as effective as it can possibly be. Running A/B tests is a way to identify problems or things you might want to change, without assuming the effects of the solution for your customers. eCommerce can be a tricky business, so invest in A/B testing to allow the data to drive your eCommerce strategy.

User Experience Design (UX): Promoting Usability by Making the Complex Feel Simple

Reader Takeaways:

User Experience Design, commonly referred to as UX, is the process of designing intuitive systems built around the user’s needs. By simplifying the user experience of the operator, the system will allow for more efficient sales to drive increases in revenue.

  • By implementing solid UX strategies, enterprises can empathize with their users to find and solve their frustrations, creating a system that allows for intuitive usability.
  • UX has the goal is to build a system so intuitive to the user that training for use would be unnecessary.
  • By collecting feedback data on the pain points from both users and management, UX can easily incorporate both the user’s needs and the company goals.
  • Using initial customer data, stakeholder interviews, and business goals, UX can grow a product in phases, giving enterprises greater accountability while promoting growth.

 

Understanding how customer needs converge with business goals can carry substantial weight in the process of designing effective retail client platforms. User experience design, commonly referred to as UX, is the process that works to build eCommerce platforms intuitive processes in mind by using data to create a user experience that makes the complex feel simple.

 

By solving for complexity, UX design utilizes intuitive task performance to drive increases in revenue. Replacing less efficient operations with UX design allows introspective simplicity, giving enterprises greater accountability while promoting businesses’ growth. An easy to use eCommerce platform will allow for more efficient sales to drive increases in revenue.

 

Leveraging Empathy to Solve for Inefficiency

In terms of design, user experience is based on empathy. By implementing solid UX design strategies, enterprises can effectively improve how they are engaging with customers, driving their behavior toward revenue growth. User experience research is essentially feeling customers’ pain through feedback. By listening to your customers and finding pain points, you can evaluate how the business goals can converge with the needs of the user. If the user is easily able to complete retail purchases, your revenue increases instantly.

 

When creating a user experience analysis for a national retail chain, it is helpful to begin by gathering data from users through surveys, forums, and competitive analysis. The goals include learning the whole process by going to stores, speaking to associates and managers, and finding how the associates use their tools rather than trusting the way they should be used. In researching for the UX best practices empathize with users to guide the design process.

 

Bridging the Gap Between Job and Tool

After reviewing the user’s needs, a UX team will incorporate the enterprise goals for the design into their analysis. By evaluating everything the enterprise needs in the platform and leveraging all of the data that had been collected, the goal is to build a system so intuitive to the associated user that training for use would be unnecessary.

 

By incorporating both the user’s need to have an intuitive experience and the company goals of creating a high-performance application, UX teams can work to bridge the gap between management and users. While blending complicated internal reporting with the efficiency of maximum intuition, the UX design team can create a prototype built around the user experience with the goals of the company in mind.

 

Building the Future With Phases of Feedback

Using initial customer data, stakeholder interviews, and business goals, the best practice in UX design requires building the product in phases. Once an initial prototype is built, the system can utilize further user experience testing to quickly modify. With user feedback, the user experience team creates the modifications, ensuring many versions of the final product with a focus on maximum user benefit.

 

In the case of the national retail chain, PeakActivity used this type of user experience design research to move an outdated paper-based system into a user-centered prototype for a national retail chain. The prototype has been a great success in pilot stores, promoting positive user experiences and driving sales with increased efficiency.

 

While elevating the user experience, UX design can convert inefficient processes into revenue-building task performance. The UX design mindset works to better connect customer intentions and business growth through forward-thinking progression. Investing in UX is the next step in balancing goals with design. Don’t make assumptions about what your customers want; invest in UX to deliver balanced usability with proven results.

Break Through: Implement a 3-Step Methodology to Accelerate Innovation

Reader Takeaways:

  • Real innovation is difficult and often painstakingly slow or nonexistent in many enterprises.
  • Processes that allow teams to incrementally achieve success with clear communication through documentation will help innovation establish a toehold in your organization.
  • Implement a methodology that enables teams to understand and adapt design thinking processes to encourage accelerated innovation with reduced investment.
  • Simplify your innovation methodology into three steps: research & document your current state, visualize your future and develop a clear roadmap for execution.

Building a strategy for real innovation is a daunting task that leaves many companies stuck in the middle between saving cost and implementing technology solutions or process improvements. We at PeakActivity have been experimenting with different techniques that support the simplify and speed up the innovation process. Through our experimentation, we have established a methodology that governs the innovation we bring to our customers, and we’ve decided to share our learnings here. Our methodology has been applied in many different environments, industries, and company growth stages, with the intent of breaking the logjam that holds back real enterprise growth. We firmly believe that enterprises that intelligently accelerate such initiatives will be poised to win in the new business world.

Your methodology at its core should adapt and extend design thinking principles. Design thinking principles have successfully taught teams and individuals to think creatively, an important step in the process of innovation. Read more about design thinking from Google here.

We have distilled the myriad of design thinking “thinking” into a 3-step methodology for applied innovation. The three major steps of the process are:

  • Research & Document Your Current State
  • Map Your Future
  • Develop a Clear Strategy for Execution

Research & Document Your Current State

The first phase begins with an observation of the current environment of the business and its customers. Observing the competitive landscape with an innovation point of view allows for a deep review of the current processes, technology, and identifies any underlying issues. While conducting the current state research for a company, you find & identify key pain points for internal stakeholders & end customers. You may also find major challenges that are limiting your innovation delivery that is not easily remediated. Some areas that such great challenges exist are typically in areas such as data modeling, IT systems & security, or human resource processes. The current state research phase provides documentation of historical actions and pain points that have previously held innovation back. The deliverables at this phase allow for a wide review of how the company is operating from multiple points of views, giving innovation a strong foundation.

Visualize Your Future

Visualization of an innovative future is established through the process of reviewing, defining, and strategizing business choices. Bringing in external thought leaders to work with internal teams can significantly help accelerate this phase of the process. In this phase, it’s important to enable teams to focus on spending time reviewing the current state research, then coming up with ideas, prototypes, and ultimately hypotheses that will help the enterprise invent the future from their point of view. Once a future vision is created, teams must then take time to validate their thoughts to ensure stakeholders, customers, and business needs will be met. Visualizing your future eventually should engage multiple teams and stakeholders, all with the intent of creating transparent communication and common understanding.

Develop a Clear Roadmap for Execution

Armed with the knowledge of their current state and a visualization of their future, your team members can now create an innovation strategy roadmaps supported by budgets, resource allocation, and projected financial benefits. The process combines identifying stakeholders, their must-have features, and the key benefits to your business benefits. In addition, you will want to incorporate the resolution of any major operational issues that might prevent your initiatives from succeeding. Once you have established a clear roadmap, it’s time to lead your teams to deliver a small project establishing a framework for success.

This 3-step method focuses heavily on delivering strong business growth through managed digital service delivery. With deep expertise in strategic digital transformation, innovation, and technology delivery, it is easy to support enterprises in the innovation process. With the 3-step strategy at hand, your company can easily build a culture that fosters innovation, creating real enterprise growth