Your website is tied to your livelihood. If it stops working right, you lose money.
But lots of business websites include mistakes the website owner has failed to notice. You’ve probably encountered some yourself when browsing websites—links that go to the wrong place, pages that look funny in certain browsers, or forms that don’t work.
Why are these kinds of errors so common? Because too many website owners skip the important step of QA testing.
What Is Quality Assurance (QA)?
Quality assurance (QA) is any action you take to make sure something works as it should. It can be applied to physical products, software, and—the focus of this post—websites.
The specific steps involved in QA testing will depend on what you’re testing, but they should all be designed to better understand the end user’s experience to make sure it’s a good one.
Why You Should QA Test Your Website
While QA testing of products is standard in many businesses, the same rigor isn’t always brought to business websites.
But your website is your main face on the web, and the primary gateway between your audience and your products. Many of your prospects and customers will associate your trustworthiness as a brand with their experience of your website.
If you make QA testing your website an intentional, routine part of your website maintenance process, it will help you catch any errors that make your brand look sloppy and lose you sales. And the sooner you fix them, the better your website performance will be.
8 Best Chrome Extensions for QA Testing
This isn’t just another article telling you to add one more thing to your already overwhelming to-do list. We’re also going to help you make the process of QA testing your website easier.
These Chrome extensions each make some part of QA testing faster and more effective at the same time.
Ghost Inspector is an extension that automates some of the process of QA testing. You create tests within it by going through whatever steps you want tested on your website and recording them. Then you can set the app to automatically run through those same steps to look for any changes that occur.
The tool will alert you anytime it catches a difference in the process, whether it’s how a page looks, a form works, or where a link goes. Some of those changes will be intentional, but others will alert you to a problem you need to fix.
Ghost Inspector is a powerful, useful tool. As such, it doesn’t come for free. Prices start at $89 a month.
When you’re testing out forms on your website, there are a lot of different potential bugs or errors to consider. Remembering them all is difficult, and manually testing out each can be time consuming. Bug Magnet makes both those things easier.
Once it’s installed, all you have to do is right click on the form field of any website and you’ll get a full menu of options with things to test, such as different alphabets, names of different lengths, or email formats.
Bug Magnet will automatically fill in the field based on what you choose, so you can quickly run through all relevant tests. Find out quickly if your field has stopped accepting numbers over a certain length or if it fails to accurately recognize an invalid email address. It doesn’t automate the testing process entirely, but it’s a handy tool to speed it up and keep you from forgetting any important tests to run.
Testing out your website on just your own computer or device is an easy mistake for website owners to make. But the people who come to visit your website will be coming from an array of devices with different screen sizes. Making matters even more complicated, people can make browser windows any size they like.
The Window Resizer plugin is an easy way to test out how your website looks in different window sizes. The tool comes with some preset testing options, based on the most common sizes for desktop and mobile devices. But you can enter additional custom sizes as well to test out.
If important parts of a page drop below the fold or your website looks funny in different sizes, the extension will help you spot it and update your design to fix the issue.
Resolution Test is an alternate option for testing out how your website looks in different screen sizes. Using it is simple. Once you’ve installed it, click on the plugin image in the top right browser menu. You’ll get a drop down menu with a list of different screen resolutions, and you can click on each to see how your website looks in it.
5. IE Tab
While many people have moved on from Internet Explorer (IE), a surprising number still use the old-school browser. It gets around 3% of market share—more even than Firefox. Even if you dumped the browser on your own computer long ago, you need to stay on top of how your website works on it.
You don’t have to go back and download IE to do that, the IE Tab extension takes care of it for you. You can run IE entirely within Chrome, and see precisely how your website looks and works in the legacy browser.
Testing out forms can be a tedious part of QA testing your website, but forms are also one of the most important parts of your website. They’re used to collect information on leads, process purchases, and enable trackable contact with your customers. Form testing is not a step you can skip.
Web Developer Form Filler is an extension that’s as straightforward to use as its name is at describing what it does. Fill in the values you want to use to test a form, and the extension will automatically fill them in for you each time you go to test. You can set up multiple sets of values based on how many different forms you have to fill out. It can significantly increase the speed of form testing across your website.
Accessibility is an important trend in web design that matters both from a moral perspective, and from a business perspective, since it improves the visitor experience for a notable portion of your audience. The WAVE evaluation extension provides visual feedback on how accessible (or not) different parts of a web page are. It will help you spot accessibility problems you don’t know how to see on your own.
Getting an accessibility report from WAVE is as easy as clicking on the WAVE icon in your extension menu in the top right of your browser screen. Once you’re done, click it again to remove the report from your view.
Broken links are a normal part of life, but that doesn’t mean you should be OK with them becoming a normal part of your website. Even for small websites, going through your site page by page to check all the links is a large and tedious task. For larger ones, it’s downright herculean.
Check My Links automates the process and saves you the trouble of having to do it manually. Each time you run it, it checks the full site and spits out a report showing all the broken links you need to update. If you to it regularly and fix links as you go, you can keep that list short enough that updating them won’t be as large of a task each time.
QA Testing Keeps Your Website Working
Your visitors aren’t going to go out of their way to alert you to it when they have a problem with your website. More often than not, they’ll simply click away and go somewhere else. Keeping your website working correctly and ensuring every visitor has a good experience each time they come is up to you. QA testing is an important step in maintaining your website over time and keeping it in good working order.
Kristen Hicks is an Austin-based freelance content writer and lifelong learner with an ongoing curiosity to learn new things. She uses that curiosity, combined with her experience as a freelance business owner, to write about subjects valuable to small business owners on the HostGator blog. You can find her on Twitter at @atxcopywriter.