Common Issues When Testing
There are some misconceptions and commonly made mistakes in front-end testing. One common mistake is to overlook constant elements on each page, such as the logo, footer, any sidebars, the navigation bar, and so on. It’s easy to believe that checking these just once is sufficient, especially since in many cases each page reuses the same pieces of code for these elements. However, it’s always a good idea to double check to confirm that these parts of the website are consistent from page to page.
As an example, we once tested a partner’s site that included a logo in the footer. When double checking that the footer was consistent across all pages, we found that one page used a variant of the logo that was slightly different from the logo used on all other pages. This wouldn’t have been caught if we’d just checked the footer once; it may not have been caught if we’d checked the footer sporadically, as the logo variation only appeared on one page. Even though much of the time these elements will be the same across the site, it pays off to check them on every page to ensure that the site is fully consistent.
Consistency across a site signals to users that the business pays attention to detail and prioritizes a more cohesive experience.
Another common mistake is to not test enough varieties of pathological inputs. This can be one of the most difficult parts of auditing; it can be challenging to switch from asking yourself “What input would a user give the site here?” to asking yourself “What input does the site expect here, and how can I give it an input that doesn’t fit those expectations?” It’s much less natural, but nevertheless it’s important to consider because we want our partners’ websites to be able to handle these unusual cases.
We encountered a case where coming up with an input like this uncovered a bug when auditing a partner’s site. Their site included an ecommerce platform. When viewing products in the cart, users could adjust the quantity of each item using a text box. We tested that the text box did not accept non-numerical characters, and it didn’t, meaning it was robust enough to handle that type of pathological input. However, we also discovered that it was possible to adjust the quantity of an item to 0. When we did this, the item wasn’t removed; the cart simply treated it as though we were purchasing 0 of the item for a total of $0.00. Because we found this in auditing, we were able to work with our partner and the development team to make sure that the site could handle even this unlikely scenario appropriately.
Improving the User Experience
Front-end testing is crucially important in order to fine-tune the experience users have when interacting with your brand. A cohesive, intuitive website that can withstand all kinds of use communicates to users that you take your business seriously and are committed to providing them with a good experience. Conversely, a website with bugs or typos, or a website that’s difficult to navigate, can cause users to doubt your professionalism. When we audit websites, we do so to ensure that our partners’ brands and expertise are clear and that users have a good experience with them.