June 1, 2010

Pre-Launch Series Part 1: Planning Testing Milestones


Hostway Team

By Simon Wright

Whether you’re launching a brand new Web site or simply enhancing an existing one, it’s vital that your implementation runs smoothly. No business wants to implement changes only to find their site is littered with faults that will reflect badly upon their brand image and prevent sales.

The key to avoiding such disruption is to put resource and thought into pre-launch planning and testing. Successful businesses invariably have established testing protocols that are enshrined within a project plan.

The importance of a project plan:

A project plan lists all the milestones that must happen before changes can go live. The milestones will have owners assigned to them and any dependencies between milestones will be marked. Milestones are often grouped into distinct categories so, for example, there may be a section dedicated to everything that needs to happen for the web pages to be built and another section listing all the pre-launch testing milestones.

System Testing and User Acceptance Testing (UAT):

Typically, when a Web site is created, your developers will have created links between different systems. For example, your checkout process may involve taking data that the customer enters on your site and transferring it to payment pages hosted by an online vendor. Prior to going live, it’s essential that your technical experts have conducted system testing in a test environment (often referred to as staging) to confirm that the proposed linkages are working. This may involve liaising with the equivalent technical experts from a third party company.

System testing is the responsibility of your technical experts and you, as the business owner, are unlikely to have the technical skills to conduct it yourself. However, you can get involved in user acceptance testing. UAT is as the name implies; users run through the proposed pages and processes replicating the customer journeys that your end consumers will be expected to follow. You can use this to check that the branding and content is correct, that there are no broken links and that the process isn’t confusing.

Testing Schedule and Test Scripts:

Testing works best when it has been fully thought out. A testing schedule will normally be produced and it is best practice for the system testing shakedown to happen before UAT is sanctioned.

Both system testing and UAT should be conducted by following test scripts created by the project team. Hopefully, when you initiated the project, you’ll have had a comprehensive set of business requirements and your test scripts will be tied back to those documented requirements. To take an example, let’s say that you had a business requirement that said users must be over 18 to apply for your product. Your testing script might then read like this: “Enter a date of birth of 01/01/99 and confirm that an error message is returned.”

Testers will mark on the test scripts whether each test scenario has passed or failed, and any faults will be documented on a fault log and fed back into the technical team for investigation and resolution.

About the Author

Simon Wright works as mobile delivery manager for Royal Bank of Scotland and has extensive experience across ecommerce and mcommerce including the launch and promotion of Web sites.

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