Welcome to the Testing FAQs page, here you should find some answers to some of the most common website testing related questions. Testing can be a complicated subject at times so I’m hoping to shed some light and make it a bit easier to understand.
Why should I test my website?
For many reasons but ultimately you test to improve your website. That might be to make more money if you are a business by having a better website or to generate more donations if you are a charity but it really depends on what you want to get out of your website. Whatever it is, testing your website will help to make it better.
More specifically, you should test your website to eradicate errors, find broken links, make sure your site is easy to use, comply with web standards, discover browser compatibility problems, uncover mobile issues, find typos, increase your conversion rate, ensure search engines like you, gain feedback from your users, find security issues, be alerted when there is an outage, make sure your website is accessible, audit your cookies, see where people click, and many more reasons besides.
I’ve only got a small website, why do I need to test it?
Even small websites can suffer from problems. You won’t know what they are until you test your website, or review it, or carry out an audit, or give it a once over. Any terminology that you want to use that means giving your website some focused attention with a clear idea of what you want to get out of it.
My developer/designer says he’s tested the website already, do I still need to test it?
Absolutely, no matter how good your designer or developer, they can still make mistakes and miss things. Plus, a second pair of eyes is always a good thing and can often spot things in minutes that wouldn’t have been found before.
How much time should I set aside for testing?
I don’t like answers that start with ‘It depends’ but…It depends – on what you are testing, how large your website is, how complex it is, how much detail you are testing in, whether it is a totally new site or a set of updates that you are testing, whether it has ecommerce or not, whether it is a bespoke system or uses an off the shelf CMS (Content Management System) or ecommerce platform (shop to you and me) and whether your designers/developers are good (sad but true).
There are many things that can mean that you need to allow for more testing time, however, there is invariably never enough time. It would be great if you had weeks to spare but I bet you don’t. Therefore, the time you do have should be used wisely by being organised and setting out what you want to test in a prioritised order. There are some checklists here that might help.
What different types of testing are there?
There are many, it is possible and advisable to test many different aspects of your website from browser compatibility to usability to performance and more.
For an introduction on what you can test, have a look at this blog post. Of course, there are always more aspects that can be tested, checked and reviewed.
What is browser testing?
Browser testing, also called cross browser testing, browser checking or even browser compatibility testing, is making sure your website displays and works correctly across all major web browsers. Unfortunately, different web browsers and browser versions, such as Internet Explorer, Firefox and Chrome, can display your website differently and can even work differently from one browser to another. This can be as serious as your ‘buy now’ button working in one browser but not working in another. Imagine if a proportion of your potential customers could not buy from you because of a problem like this.
What web browsers should I test in?
My recommendation is to check your website in all the major web browsers that visitors to your website use. If the majority of your visitors use Internet Explorer 8 then you should definitely include that browser when testing your website. If you use a web analytics package such as Google Analytics then you can easily find out what browsers people are using when visiting your website. You can also find out what mobile devices people might be using, which would be good to test your website using those devices too. If you don’t have web analytics for your site or your site is not launched yet then these are the current (July 2012) web browsers that I would test in:
- Internet Explorer 7
- Internet Explorer 8
- Internet Explorer 9
- Firefox (latest version)
- Chrome (latest version)
- Safari 5
How should I prepare for testing?
Like most things, the best way of preparing is to spend a bit of time to get organised. Understand what aspects of your site you are testing, whether you are testing the live site or a site still in production and any logins you might need. Work out how you are going to provide feedback to your web developers or designers. Block some time out in your diary to carry out the testing. Make a list of the core things you are going to cover in your testing, as it is easy to get distracted. You might find the Testing Plans and Checklists section helpful.
Are there any tools to help me test?
You’ve come to the right place, there are lots of tools to help you test websites depending on what it is you want to test. Our testing tools directory has over 250 tools in it. There are 19 categories of tools covering all different types of testing including usability testing tools, bug tracking tools and mobile testing tools.
How should I report problems to my developers?
First of all, please don’t write issues down on scraps of paper or quickly email individual problems to your developers with no detail of what is wrong or how it should be fixed. It will help get the issues fixed more quickly if they are organised into a central place, such as a bug tracker. I’m not a fan of using a spreadsheet, as I prefer the flexibility and workflow that a bug tracker offers. My favourite bug tracker is Pivotal Tracker, as it is easy to use and you can invite your developers to view and work on each bug too.
I’ve finished testing my website, I don’t need to test it again do I?
Unfortunately (or fortunately), you do. Things change over time, new content goes up in the form of blog posts, news articles or new product pages, some sections might be reworked and new sections or functionality might be added. It all needs testing and checking on a regular basis. Plus, some form of site review is a good idea in any case in order to continually assess and improve your website.