Web Application Development - Bridging the Gap between QA and Development

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Summary:

Quality assurance (QA) professionals often are squeezed into the Web application development process too late in the game, and thus have no chance for success. Common QA frustrations include lack of planning and processes, unrealistic schedules, and lean staffing and financial resources allotted for the QA and testing phase of a project. RadView's Michal Blumenstyk offers guidelines to ensure QA can deliver what it promised.

While in the past QA may have been less of a focus due to time and money, today's Web applications are strategic components of corporate success and simply cannot fall short.

Successful organizations rely on Web applications as effective points of contact with customers, partners, and employees, and as a means to help reduce costs internally. Web applications are at work, for example, when a customer fills out a response form on a Web site or when a salesperson files a purchase order via a wireless Internet device. It is no longer an option of whether or not to perform a battery of tests on this Web application before they go live; testing and analysis are critical where Web applications are concerned.

Today's Web administrator understands that these applications cannot shut down or post incorrect data for any user-that the assurance of quality is a must. Today's QA professional also understands the Web administrator's challenge, and would be better positioned to help if functional and load testing methods were implemented earlier in the development cycle. When will this collaboration truly take shape so QA is more closely united with development teams in the planning stages of a Web development project? What are the best ways to go about testing to assure organizations that today's business-critical Web applications won't fall down on the job? How can small-to mid-size companies prepare their Web applications to compete with the applications of larger organizations?

Costs of Not Testing
Most people are aware of the high-profile sites that could not handle load, such as the Victoria's Secret fashion show, the dot-coms that advertised at Super Bowl 2000, and more recently the FIFA World Cup Soccer site for ticket sales. While most Web site failures don't make headlines, even partial downtime of business-critical Web sites is not cheap. Overall, the financial losses and perception of a poorly functioning Web site can be long-term. In the financial services industry, companies could lose a staggering $6.5 million per hour in brokerage operations, and $2.4 million per hour in credit card sales applications. Media companies could lose $150,000 per hour in lost pay-per-view applications, and an estimated $113,000 per hour in home shopping TV. Companies in the travel industry stand to lose as much as $89,500 per hour in lost airline reservations from down and poorly functioning Web sites.

Industry analyst firm Zona Research published reports that have become almost gospel in the industry by citing the risks: "Page load times of eight seconds or more, combined with normal ISP page download and connection failures, could cause as many as 30 percent of online buyers to "bail out" of a site before buying anything. The combined losses of these site problems could be as high as $362 million a month."

But how real are the risks of Web site failure? "Of the e-commerce sites we have tested, 99 percent have failed to meet desired performance levels" on a first test, according to J.D. Brisk, regional vice president of Exodus Performance Labs, now KeyLabs. In fact, Exodus Performance Labs has actually tested and found sites that do not function correctly or even at all with as few as two simultaneous users-even though the sites theoretically were designed for larger numbers.

A Systematic Approach to Scalability and Functional Testing
One sizeable financial services company has done an exemplary job in global planning for its large-scale Web testing. They understand that a Web site is an important tool in providing a broad range of funds and services to institutional and individual investors. Before embarking on the testing process, they outlined a process

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