28 Feb

The importance of earnest QA

28. February 2013 by Greg Danford

When I used to work in full-service, integrated agencies, I was very aware of the differences between the role of myself, as a digital designer, and my print design colleagues. We all did great work for the same great brands and the same great projects. We all had an in-depth knowledge of our specialist area.

The one big difference that always stood out was the approval process of our work.

Print has an undeniable finality to it - when it’s printed, it’s printed. The job’s done. Out the door. On to the next great project.

With digital, the live date was often the point where the key stakeholder would be revealed, take their first serious look at the project and make a raft of amends. And so the project dragged on, post-live.

A lot’s changed since those days - better processes are widely accepted and new roles have come about as a result. There was no such thing as a Digital Producer - Account Handlers tried to perform that role as best they could while primarily remaining focused on retaining a happy client.

Nowadays, there’s no way we’d allow any stakeholder to only get involved at the end of a project but there’s another key element of the process which has come on leaps and bounds since those days. One that makes the lives of the digital agency a lot easier - Quality Assurance.

Of course, a period of testing has always been built into digital projects but it was often seen as a ‘nice-to-have’ or formed the contingency period that would get eaten up by slippage elsewhere in the project. And, most often, testing was carried out in-house, by people with little time and resources at hand to do a proper job of it.

Quality Assurance in earnest

The prevalence and variety of devices in recent years, coupled with the desire to create projects that function across as many of them as possible, meant that QA became a much more specialist occupation and a full-time business.

Even for the largest digital agencies, running a successful QA department in-house, ensuring that it’s well-managed and holds fresh stock of the latest kit can be quite an undertaking.

Finding, and building a relationship with, a decent QA partner, can be much more effective and I’d certainly give a glowing reference to ours. They’re called Zoonou, and work out of an office on the South Coast.

Outside of our numerous cross-platform and cross-device builds, Disturb Media have recently produced a suite of native Android and iOS applications that required a fairly involved testing script to be followed on a huge array of devices. Not something we would be able to invest in committing to do in-house, or have the time or specialist resource to carry out. Which is where the good people at Zoonou are worth their weight.

Native app development has, in some way, brought us a bit more finality to a project, with Apple’s approval process - which is a very welcome pressure and time allowance at the end of a project. But there’s still the ability to release updates ;)

For the best possible product, our processes will always need to allow us, and our clients, a degree of flexibility and agility - and while we’re busy creating and producing, it’s good to know we have solid partners giving our work their seal of approval.

Once you, or your agency, have found that ideal partner, you’ll never undertake to perform in-house QA again !

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