Beta testing- is your website ready?

Your brand-spanking new website is finally finished and you’re ready and raring to go-live. How can you be sure it is up to the job until it has been put to the test? The biggest defects, the ones glaring you in the face, have already been sorted out but beta testing is one of the last and most important stages of the development process. This is your site and you want to make sure it looks and functions exactly as you envisioned it would. ##The aim of beta testing: break the website This might seem like a strange aim to have at this point in the process, but it is important to know that your website is indestructible. The aim is to navigate around the site in ways in which a normal user would not, for example, clicking on one particular button repetitively multiple times. Now is the time to uncover any problems.

Here are some questions you should constantly be asking yourself throughout the beta testing process:

  • Functionality: can I do what I need to do (e.g. can I send an email enquiry)?
  • Usability: is it obvious how to do what I want to do?
  • Maneuverability: can I move about the website easily (e.g. do all the links work)?
  • Aesthetics: is everything laid out clearly (e.g is the text place neatly positioned around the images)?
  • Readability: are there any grammatical mistakes or spelling errors?

The testing mind frame

When you have been involved every step of the way throughout the development process, you can become accustomed to the way the website you have developed works. This can include any faults. Beta testing should be approached from many different angles and wearing many different hats.

Think like a new user

Put yourself in the shoes of each of your target users, imagine this is your first visit to the website and slowly walk through the processes they would. If I am looking to achieve a specific target by visiting the website, how easy is it for me to find?

Better yet, find a new user

The best way to look at the website from a new perspective, is to get a new perspective. Watch over someone’s shoulder as they use the website, get them to describe what they think works well and not so well. Even if they cannot describe what needs to be improved, just watching how they use the website may bring the necessary improvements to light.

Approach in different directions

Start at the beginning, maybe the home page and click on anything and everything there is to click on, on every page of the website.

Test in different browsers

You don’t know what browser your client might use and websites behave differently in different browsers. Therefore, you should test thoroughly in as many browsers as possible. We would recommend Firefox, Google Chrome, Safari and Internet Explorer versions 8, 9, and 10.

Internet browsers

Don’t forget your map

If you have made a map, it will need testing too. You are looking to test usability in the same way as you test a website. Can you do everything you need to do?

  • Can you scroll around the map as you would expect to be able to?
  • Can you zoom in and out of the map? Do the tiles load as you would expect them to?
  • If it is a searchable map, enter a postcode or location you know well: Are the correct locations generated? Do they appear in the centre of the map?

What happens next?

If you discover any issues, they need to be recorded so they can be fixed. The more detail, the better.
  • Clearly explain what the issue is and explain what you did to get to that point, or to make it happen.
  • Give the URL of the page where it occurred and provide screen shots (especially in the case of an error message). Not sure how to take a screen shot? Here’s how.
  • Diagnostic Information: what internet browser and version were you using?
  • Issues that you think may be likely to appear in all pages (e.g. a ‘Contact us’ link at the foot of the page) only need reporting once.
Send as much of this information to your project manager. This helps us ensure the finished product is exactly what you want it to be.

Want to beta test your website?

If you have any questions or just need some support when beta testing your website, please get in touch.