Extending Quality Assurance to the Entire Development Team

No matter how much we try to break down silos and work in collective teams that place more importance on end goals than job titles, we often find ourselves acting as a team’s expert in a single craft. Your SEO expert focuses on content and technical attributes, while your designer owns the brand and visual-design aspects. Sure, it’s a good, natural thing to specialize and become a master at certain skill sets, but staying in that silo 24/7 can lead to negative outcomes and team morale. When we focus on our own strengths too closely, we remove the opportunity for collaborative development.

This can lead to mistakes, like launching an imperfect website update or a solution that isn’t user-friendly. Even if you don’t have strong talents in a particular area, cross-collaboration builds new opportunities to get things right the first time, or – at the very least – identify things that we know what we want to test and iterate upon.

Effective teams are always built on some level of quality assurance, even if that means work is checked by someone who is not a subject-matter expert. In fact, I’m a big fan of performing quality-assurance checks on the work that falls outside of your typical team responsibilities. Here’s why and how you can try it. Fair warning: In theory this is a great idea; in practice it can slow down your QA process. That’s OK: embrace the process.

Create a QA Checklist for SEO, Design, and Development

We often ask our quality assurance experts to take a look at a site during a development process, before we launch and again after we go live. Typically these team members have expertise in load testing, regression testing etc. Quality assurance specialists are invaluable, but since we typically hire for those skills, we may limit them to software QA and miss opportunities to check different pieces of a site or digital product that should pass a quality test before going live.

Standard QA checklists focus on things like design breaks across devices or functionality pitfalls. True QA should include checklists for each specialty, including SEO, content, and user experience. Each team member should be responsible for checking his or her own list, but the list should also be available to the entire team at the beginning of a project build with the expectation that the entire team is responsible for success and failure across all specialties.

Quality standards across each group should be known at the beginning of a project by each person who can contribute to seeing it through.

Educate Yourself in Someone Else’s Expertise

Of course to be truly effective when checking work, you need to be familiar with a particular specialty other than your own. You don’t have to learn to code if you’re an SEO expert and if you’re a developer you don’t have to know how to everything about latest Google algorithm update. What you should do is keep up to speed with trends through blog posts or shadowing your teammate when he or she checks their own work.

Realistically, you won’t have the time to become an expert – or even proficient – in a teammate’s area of expertise. Most of us are too busy learning new trends and skills within our own disciplines to truly master a new one, and that’s fine. To make the most of collective skills, teams should schedule time to update peers on latest trends or areas of concern within their specialty. If you’re an SEO, I hope you’ve talked to your team about doorway pages in the last two weeks. If you’re a coder, ensuring your SEO knows the ins and outs of AngularJS if your team has recently switched to that coding framework.

Tackle the Unfamiliar

Exploring new skills can be daunting, so it’s important to schedule times to switch places with a skilled teammate throughout the build and before you launch changes to a project. We all know that staring at a problem long enough will make it disappear, but trading work with someone who is less familiar with it will nearly always uncover something you might have missed otherwise.

When you do this, give them your personal QA checklist and encourage them to ask you questions. If you begin to educate each other as you review the work you’re more likely to uncover issues that need to be addressed before going live.

Beware of the Technical Beasts

No matter how familiar you try to become with new skillsets, there will always be things that are simply out of your wheelhouse. That’s fine, as long as you stay aware of what you’re looking at. Designers and developers can always tackle straightforward tasks like analyzing title tags and descriptions. SEOs should not have a problem spotting a mobile design break. As long as you stay cognizant of the things that need a more technical eye and get those items checked by another specialist with your expertise, your team will benefit from the extra set of eyes. Whether it’s ensuring a rel=”canonical” is properly set up or your Node site is easily crawlable by search engines.

Does your team use multiple layers of quality checks? What’s your process?

Image via Shutterstock.

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