So you’ve heard of QA. But what is Quality Assurance testing? If you look in a dictionary like Webster (or if you’re really hip, dictionary.com), you’ll find a definition like this:

A program for the systematic monitoring and evaluation of the various aspects of a project, service, or facility to ensure that standards of quality are being met.

Or:

system for ensuring a desired level of quality in the development, production, or delivery of products and services.

But these explanations are pretty vague. They could even end up leaving you more confused! So let’s define QA testing in a way that’s a little more relevant.

What is Quality Assurance Testing?

What is Quality Assurance Testing (picture shows a wood desk with a Macbook laptop, an iPad, and an iPhone on it)First, we should be clear: when we refer to Quality Assurance testing, we’re talking about various types of software testing.

In this context, QA testing involves trying to find problems with a site or app before they reach the end user (ie: the person downloading the app from the App Store). Remember the last time your favorite app crashed? With a comprehensive QA process in place, QA testers could have caught that before it launched.

So how does this work? When developers finish a new version of the mobile app or website, they send it to QA to review. The QA tester(s) will then use the software in ways real users might.

This means testing it across different types of devices, operating systems, and browsers. For example, a feature could be working on an iPhone X with iOS 12, but be broken on an iPhone 7 with iOS 11.

QA testing also involves getting creative. This means viewing each section in both landscape and portrait modes, and ideally using each feature in every conceivable way possible. It’s QA’s job to keep an eye on both design and functionality to identify issues (commonly referred to as “bugs”).

Reporting Bugs

As mentioned, QA’s role is to report bugs. One thing to keep in mind, though, is that not all bugs are created equal. There’s a big difference between a site not loading at all vs. taking one second longer than ideal. Additionally, each company and project might have a different definition of “quality.”

Everyone can agree that a broken login feature would be a major blocker. But when it comes to less extreme examples, there are different schools of thought. Some product managers want to prioritize functionality over design, while others might care more about branding and marketing. Other times, a company will make a certain feature highest priority during one financial quarter or sprint, and focus on backlog bugs more heavily the next.

What is QA Testing (picture shows a meeting table with two people sitting at it. One is wearing a black t-shirt with an arm visible. The other is a blonde white woman wearing a blue shirt and jeans, writing on a notebook)Planning and Process

The QA team should implement a well-planned yet custom Agile QA process, following best practices for QA testing while respecting the company’s unique goals. It’s also helpful to include QA at the beginning stage of a project or feature. During the early stages, QA testers can weigh in on user experience issues that could otherwise be avoided.

When QA brings up compelling points during planning, it can save months and tens — if not hundreds — of thousands of dollars. This enables a team to avoid having developers spend months working on a feature that could end up being unusable.

Test Coverage

Since every app or site is different, QA should tailor specific devices, browsers, and operating systems to the project or company needs. Researching market share and, if available, viewing analytics of the customer base can help QA propose a good strategy for coverage.

For example, if 99% of a company’s expected users are on iOS 10 or higher, it usually makes sense to end support for iOS 9 and below. Spending valuable time and effort finding and fixing bugs that few if any of your users would encounter isn’t usually worth it.

It’s also important for QA to find out if the company has a list of devices/browsers/OS’s that they expect to be tested. This is for two reasons:

  1. QA should ensure that they’re meeting the company’s expected level and definition of quality.
  2. QA should not be testing on devices that the company doesn’t officially support. This can be a waste of the company’s money and the QA tester’s time. Even worse, it can result in false flags  — a team might think that a bug was fixed just because it was working on one browser, while still broken on another.

Types of QA Testing

Most of what we’ve described so far is related to general principles of Quality Assurance testing.. But within the umbrella of QA, there are different types of QA testing. For example:

The core of QA testing is manual testing. But each type of QA is an important tool when it comes to quality assurance for an app or site.

What is Quality Assurance Testing?

So what is QA testing? Now that you know the basics, find out what makes a good QA engineer.

Do you need QA testing for your website or mobile app? Check out our full list of QA testing services.