A successful product launch is the result of a highly collaborative team process. The more designers and developers work together, the more likely they are to create something that’s not just functional but also exactly what they intended to build.
In our experience, the idea of collaboration is especially important when it comes to Quality Assurance (QA). Both UX Designers and Developers have their own version of QA, and it’s important that they blend these processes in order to build a successful product.
As you’re about to see, it’s mainly up to UX Designers to insert Design QA into the product development cycle. Here’s why, followed by a few tips on how to make it happen.
What’s the Difference Between QA and Design QA?
Every digital product undergoes Quality Assurance testing at some point in the development process — traditionally, as the “end” stage in the iterative cycle right before release. And since this is typically the domain of the product engineers, the QA typically occurs with minimal input from designers.
But it’s important to note what kind of QA we’re talking about. The kind of QA that developers are typically concerned with has little, if anything, to do with design.
Naturally, they’re concerned with looking for errors in functionality. Does this line of code call the right function? Does that line of code perform the right action? They’re essentially checking for bugs before they ship the product. What they’re testing for isn’t necessarily pertinent to UX.
Design QA, on the other hand, is performed from a different perspective: the user experience. Does the product design appear as intended on mobile? Do the button animations look natural or awkward? Do floating buttons cover important content when implemented across different devices?
UX Designers are assuming functionality (or that functionality will exist). They’re going beyond acceptance criteria that developers are testing for and identifying UX issues that could exist even though the product functions as needed.
The question is, when should Design QA take place? What if new UX/UI issues crop up after coding has been completed? If Design QA takes place too late in the game, developers may find themselves having to re-do their work after UX Designers have given their input.
Where Does Design QA Fit In?
Traditionally, feature development begins with gathering requirements then proceeds to the design stage, after which it’s handed off to the development team and then it’s released. QA takes place just before release.
Both the design and the development teams use an iterative process that involves testing. Designers test their prototypes on users and developers perform a QA test before release. But once designers have tested the product on users and it’s ready for handoff to the developers, their job shouldn’t really be over.
They need to perform their version of QA just before release, too. They need to be asking certain types of questions, such as…
- What happens to UI and UX issues after the product engineers have begun implementing their code?
- What will become of the design intention?
Design QA is just as vital to the product’s outcome. UX Designers need to be involved during development in order to assure Design QA before the product’s release. In fact, Design QA should be performed in parallel with QA. That being said, it’s up to the entire team to synchronize their QA efforts to ensure a successful product launch.
In other words, designers and developers should work together to ensure complete, integrated QA in a product that’s both functional and usable. As a UX Designer, it’s up to you to see to it that Design QA gets pulled into that iterative cycle of development just before the product’s release.
To make that happen, UX Designers should make sure that they are involved early on in the development process. They need to be aware of technical issues, especially those that might arise as a result of their designs.
The Benefits of Design QA
1. Greater Efficiency in the Product Development Process
When Design QA is pulled into the early stages of development, engineers can save themselves a lot of work. Saving UX input for last usually means more iterations before the product is ready for release. They’d have to go back and recode things in order to fix interaction issues and other UX problems.
But when you give UX Designers a voice in the verification process, the process becomes much more efficient by reducing the number of iterations before the product release.
This happens when QA and Design QA are part of the same requirement ticket (Design QA takes place in conjunction with the development QA process), features can get approved and signed off in one fell swoop.
2. Better Collaboration Between Designers and Developers
In general, the more that team members collaborate, the better off they’ll be when they need to find solutions to the problems that come up while building a product together. By keeping UX Designers in the loop during development, the team naturally increases collaboration and communication.
3. Earlier Discovery of Bugs and/or Crashes
This isn’t always a given, but when design issues are documented early on in the development phase instead of at the end, it’s possible that the team can uncover problems (bugs) sooner.
3 Ways to Make the QA Process Better
1. UX Designers should be as precise as possible.
The “handoff” to developers should be accompanied by clear explanations of their work. Use site maps and user flows to show how pages serve the overall intention of the design, how they transition, and how they fit into the structure of the product.
2. Show the design intention in two ways.
It’s easy to interpret the description of an interaction in different ways depending on your viewpoint. To make it clearer for developers, create a visual representation to go with your written description.
3. Start QA testing right away.
Don’t wait until the end of the development cycle to start your Design QA.
4. Be exhaustive with documentation!
In addition to being precise and clearly descriptive with what you’re handing off to developers, make sure you document everything very carefully during Design QA. Graphics and images will help the team fix the bugs found as a result of your QA process.
The role of QA in the product development process is expanding to include essential UX concerns. UX Designers need to get involved in QA and share responsibility with the engineering team in a truly collaborative manner. They need to be sure their designs were actually implemented as they intended after the code has been written and the product passes functionality testing.
Inserting Design QA into the workflow will help the team move their tickets more efficiently from one step to the next. It also ensures design integrity throughout the development lifecycle which, in turn, creates a more efficient process and possibly even a better product that’s launched on time with greater success.