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Step 7 - Usability Testing
In usability testing, you'll be looking at aspects of your web application that affect user's experience, such as:
∑How easy is it to navigate through your web application?
∑Is it obvious to user which actions are available to him or her?
∑Is look-and-feel of your web application consistent from page to page, including font sizes and colors?
The book, "Don't Make Me Think! A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability" by Steve Krug and Roger Black, provides a practical approach to topic of usability. I refer to it often, and recommend it highly.
In addition to traditional navigation and look-and-feel issues, Section 508 compliance is another area of importance. The 1998 Amendment to Section 508 of Rehabilitation Act spells out accessibility requirements for individuals with certain disabilities.
For instance, if a user forgets to fill in a required field, you might think it is a good idea to present user with a friendly error message and change color of field label to red or some other conspicuous color. However, changing color of field label would not really help a user who has difficulty deciphering colors. The use of color may help most users, but you would want to use an additional visual clue, such as placing an asterisk beside field in question or additionally making text bold.
For more details, refer to http://www.section508.gov. Another great resource that can help analyze your HTML pages for Section 508 compliance can be found at http://www.cast.org/bobby/. If you are working with United States federal government, Section 508 compliance is not only good design, it most likely is a legal requirement. You may want to utilize following information regarding techniques for accessibility evaluation and repair tools, which can be found at http://www.w3.org/TR/AERT.
Step 8 - Load Testing
In performing load testing, you want to simulate how users will use your web application in real world. The earlier you perform load testing better. Simple design changes can often make a significant impact on performance and scalability of your web application. A good overview of how to perform load testing can be found on Microsoft's Developer Network (MSDN) website.
A topic closely related to load testing is performance tuning. Performance tuning should be tightly integrated with design of your application. If you are using Microsoft technology, following article is a great resource for understanding specifics of tuning a web application.
People hate to wait for a web page to load. As general rule, try to make sure that all of your pages load in 15 seconds or less. This rule will of course depend on your particular application and expectations of people using it.
Step 9 - User Acceptance Testing
By performing user acceptance testing, you are making sure your web application fits use for which it was intended. Simply stated, you are making sure your web application makes things easier for user and not harder. One effective way to handle user acceptance testing is by setting up a beta test for your web application.
One article to help you get started planning an effective beta test is: Supercharged Beta Test by Joshua Grossnickle and Oliver Raskin, May 14, 2001 which can be found at: http://hotwired.lycos.com/webmonkey/01/20/index1a.html?tw=design. This article points out critical aspects of setting up a beta test including how to identify beta testers and how to obtain their feedback. The main point to remember in user acceptance testing is to listen to what people using your web application are saying. Their feedback will be critical to ultimate success of your web application.
Step 10 - Testing Security
With large number of highly skilled hackers in world, security should be a huge concern for anyone building a web application. You need to test how secure your web application is from both external and internal threats. The security of your web application should be planned for and verified by qualified security specialists.
If you think security is a subject that is over-hyped, check out Steve Gibson's account of how a 13 year old hacker took his company's website down for an extended period of time at will. You can find this eye-opening security case study at:
Some additional online resources to help you stay up to date on latest Internet security issues include:
CERT Coordination Center http://www.cert.org/
Computer Security Resource Center http://csrc.nist.gov/
After performing your initial security testing, make sure to also perform ongoing security audits to ensure your web application remains secure over time as people and technology change.
Testing a web application can be a totally overwhelming task. The best advice I can give you is to keep prioritizing and focusing on most important aspects of your application and donít forget to solicit help from your fellow team members.
By following steps above coupled with your own expertise and knowledge, you will have a web application you can be proud of and that your users will love. You will also be giving your company opportunity to deploy a web application that could become a run away success and possibly makes tons of money, saves millions of lives, or slashes customer support costs in half. Even better, because of your awesome web application, you may get profiled on CNN, which causes killer job offers to start flooding in.
Proper testing is an integral part of creating a positive user experience, which can translate into ultimate success of your web application. Even if your web application doesnít get featured on CNN, CNBC, or Fox News, you can take great satisfaction in knowing how you and your teamís diligent testing efforts made all difference in your successful deployment.
Copyright © 2002 Krishen Kota, All Rights Reserved
Krishen Kota is a 10-year veteran of the information technology consulting industry and is a Certified Project Management Professional. Krishen serves as President of AdminiTrack, Inc. (www.adminitrack.com), which provides a web-based issue and defect tracking application designed specifically for professional software development teams. Krishen can be contacted via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.