Improved Web Testing

How Can Coverage and Reliability of Web Quality Management Be Enhanced...Cost-Effectively?

Web site quality is critical to success. Organizational Web teams are facing demanding environments characterized by budget cutbacks and sprawling Web sites created by legions of content authors. In this article, Al Caughey discusses the advantages of using an automated Web quality management solution to improve coverage, reliability, and return on investment.

The incredible increase in Web activity presents tremendous opportunities for your organization; but it can also create potentially dangerous situations. The Web operates twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, so it is not enough to be good most of the time. There are no second chances and there are too many competing sites just a click or two away. Errors and missing information will alienate your customers and damage your corporate image.

Web quality is a growing concern among almost all organizations. A key component to building a successful Web-enabled environment is to continually and proactively monitor Web quality. Web managers work within a dynamic setting that spans a multitude of departments and includes numerous content authors. With a larger number of content authors comes the corresponding increase in the potential for errors, omissions, and other quality problems. Some of these quality problems can include incorrect or objectionable content, slow downloads, malformed links, legal blunders, and inconsistent scripting or layout. These sorts of mistakes can be costly.

According to USA Today, Starwood offered a stay at its Bora Bora luxury resort at one-tenth of its planned value on its Web site. Had the organization honored all the reservations made by 136 people over two days, the error would have cost Starwood $2 million. It is certainly not the only e-commerce site that has experienced problems. A stream of online retailers-including Comet, Kodak, and Argos-has been embarrassed by similar blunders. It is not just retailers that have suffered from the consequences of Web quality problems. Reality television shows, government departments, stock exchanges, and even technology companies have fallen victim to the pitfalls of infrequent or incomplete Web Quality Management (WQM).

It is generally accepted that Web quality is essential, but that manual verification of Web content is too time consuming and expensive. Therefore, the real question is how can Web quality be effectively monitored and efficiently managed? Automation!

Through the use of a desktop, server-based, or hosted WQM solution, Web teams can regain control of content quality, increase their confidence in their Web sites, and simultaneously make better use of their time. An automated solution will monitor and test more aspects of Web sites than manual monitoring, and will do it in a fraction of the time and at a fraction of the cost. Not only will there be salary savings, but the improved quality can create increased revenue opportunities from the Web site.

The benefits of automated WQM can be divided into three main categories: coverage, reliability, and return on investment (ROI). It is essential to be able to continually monitor a Web site. WQM solutions can be configured to perform deep scans of entire sites or to complete specific Web transactions. These activities can be repeated on a configurable schedule. Advanced WQM products offer conditional sequencing of tasks that will send alerts or reports to targeted stakeholders based on the results of these tasks. In addition, these results can be written to a database yielding the opportunity for sophisticated reporting. Some solutions can be integrated into the workflow of content management systems, which allows for immediate validation of content before it is published to the production environment. The speed of an automated solution also enables the tests to be conducted with a much higher frequency than manual testing.

In terms of reliability, a human tester cannot maintain the same level of diligence or attention to detail when verifying thousands of elements on Web sites. Even attempting to comply with organizational standards can be daunting. The list of essential items per page is seemingly endless: privacy notices, branding elements, legal disclaimers, 508 accessibility requirements, contact information and on… and on ….

Automated WQM solutions will verify these elements, test transaction processes and forms, notify stakeholders if prices stray outside of the acceptable range, and even handle the latest Web technologies, such as Web services. WQM can do it quicker and more reliably than a human tester. An automated solution will check the consistency and layout of every page, never stopping. In the time that it would take a manual tester to complete a review of a site, it will likely have changed several times, leaving it vulnerable to quality issues that subsequently erode customer confidence.

The ROI can be quickly realized when you consider the ongoing, annual cost of maintaining a manual testing staff, or worse, not testing at all. The investment in a WQM solution often achieves payback within the first six months of implementation. Some consideration should also be given to the impact of a Web site that fails to complete transactions, breaches legal standards, or damages the public's perception of an organization. Of course the ROI numbers largely depend on the total cost of the solution and, like anything you buy, not all solutions are created equal. Buyers need to look carefully at the product's capabilities, scalability, and licensing program.

In summary, automated WQM solutions provide a deep pocket of benefits to those operating in the dynamic Web-enabled world. Most Web teams operate in a demanding environment that features budget squeezes, higher quality expectations, shorter publishing deadlines, and an increasing number of content authors. Empowering your Web team with an automated WQM solution will improve their speed, coverage, and reliability. It will provide a rapid ROI for your organization. Automation is simply the best way to effectively and efficiently manage Web quality.

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