We’ve been the test partner for miggle, a Brighton-based web development agency, for over 7 years. We recently got together with Alick (the agencies founder) to look back on our partnership and discuss why a solid quality assurance process is important for both miggle and their clients.
Why did you decide to outsource your QA?
In the very early days of growing the agency, a client reported a few annoying bugs on a site we launched. They were reported vaguely and we spent a considerable amount of time ironing them out. Post-launch the budget had been eaten, so we were fixing these bugs at our own cost. We realised quickly that we needed to add testing to our processes before the applications were launched.
But, we are developers, not testers, simply adding testing meant we still had problems. Tests were being carried out by our developers or the client – so neither were very comprehensive. Testing time would usually end up being truncated. The more projects we did without a clear process for testing, the more it became a problem. New work was affected because we could never satisfactorily get the last job fully out the door.
So, about seven years ago, we started to think differently. Ideally, when we released something, we didn’t want to be fixing it on an ongoing basis at our own cost. We wanted to be iterating on it and innovating on top of code which was sound. We wanted to ensure the highest quality of the web applications we were building. And we wanted to confidently say we’d guarantee what we’d deployed for a year.
Can you tell us about the steps you took to achieve this?
To end up in an environment where you’re not endlessly fixing bugs, code needs to be better tested. It’s that simple. This allows lines to be drawn under stages of work. Better testing can only be done by experienced testers who know how to write effective tests. Because it’s their job. Recognising this was a key step in our journey to delivering quality.
One thing was clear – the demand for testing and the amount of testing we needed to do was nowhere near the levels where we could look to hire our own tester. So, we needed to partner. And we partnered with Zoonou.
Why did you choose to partner with Zoonou?
We chose Zoonou because they are flexible and adaptable while you learn. Zoonou works with you to define a testing solution that is the best fit for each project. They help you to understand the benefits of test scripts and how they construct them. They can identify the subset of test scripts that would work well for a client’s in house acceptance testing. It’s also reassuring to know that Zoonou test on real devices.
Zoonou brings independence and objectivity to the test process while at the same time feeling like a part of our team. They understand our working methodology and requirements and devise a test approach that fits.
How did you measure if this testing approach was successful?
On the first project we sensed we were spending less time fixing issues post-launch. But because each project is different it was hard to benchmark. An easier measure was to look at the quality of the testing work done.
Bugs are described, documented and prioritised with steps to recreate them. The way in which they document this is incomparable to the old world of ‘this is broken it needs fixing’. This level of detail meant we could prioritise and fix the bugs all at the same time before launch. Also, better bug reports give a level of confidence that all the major bugs have been caught.
How did you pitch independent QA testing as a benefit to your clients?
We told our clients that, as part of our development cycle we handed over the judgement of quality to a third party as opposed to marking our own work. On the basis that the work was tested by qualified test engineers we went further. We offered to fix all bugs of our making reported post-launch for free for 12 months.
Of course we didn’t force clients to use Zoonou to get the guarantee. They could still get the 12-month guarantee – but to qualify they had to also ensure that the testing was done by similarly qualified staff. Otherwise the guarantee was only 30 days.
Do you have any advice for other agencies that might be looking to improve their QA and testing?
I’d aim to start not by thinking about how I fit it into new or current builds, but how I up-sell it to clients as part of a wider conversation about quality.
You may already have a testing phase as part of your product development cycle, or have it as part of your agile workflow and all that needs improving is the quality of the actual testing work you do.
If it’s difficult to make a major change for your client, based on budgets or timelines, as a first step I’d be looking to engage an agency like Zoonou to carry out a small phase of exploratory testing. Even if this process uncovers some scary issues, the output of even a small phase of testing can really show the client the value of a formal test process!
Do you want to know more about how partnering with Zoonou will improve your QA and test strategy? Check out our Test and QA Advisory section for more information. If you’d like to get in touch about anything else, please head over to our Contact page.