QA involves creating processes for each stage of a product’s development life cycle to help reduce bugs, flaws, and other defects during its build, as well as measuring and maintaining the quality of the product.
Quality Assurance Versus Quality Control
The terms “quality assurance” and “quality control” are often used interchangeably when we speak about the processes used to maintain the quality of a product. However, there are some key differences as highlighted below:
- Quality assurance refers to process management activities which are aimed at reducing defects and errors for the end customer. QA involves looking at how the processes are performed and making sure that the quality requirements are being fulfilled. It is a proactive, process-based approach which aims to manage the quality of a product before and during the production process.
- Quality control (QC) is concerned with the end product and seeks to ensure that it is not defective or damaged before reaching the customer. The defects that quality control are interested in are likely derived from faulty manufacturing processes rather than inherently ineffective processes (as you would typically see with quality assurance). QC is a reactive process which is employed after the product has been created to verify its quality.
Quality Assurance in Software Development
As well as being used when creating physical products, QA also plays a key role in software development and is applied by software companies in exactly the same ways as manufacturing organizations would. The QA team in a software company works alongside a Solution Architect to analyze the requirements of the system, define the parameters which are set to determine whether that product is meeting all the necessary needs, and to implement processes to make sure that not only is the end product suitable, it is of the highest quality possible.
Quality assurance is an important aspect of the production process, which, when applied correctly, aims to ensure that the security and quality of that product is of the highest quality. QA allows a company to locate and eliminate potential errors, such as security, performance and defects.
Once the software product has been created, and is in adherence to all the QA processes and checks, the QA team will then hand over to the QC team (quality control) who devise and implement tests to make sure that the software is working without any bugs. They will test the product extensively before finally either releasing the product or handing it over to a client.
The Importance of Quality Assurance in Software Development
Quality assurance is hugely important when it comes to software development. Some of the most important features are:
QA helps to reduce cost and saves time
- Having QA systems in place during your production life-cycle allows you to anticipate and prevent issues such as bugs, defects, and errors from ever occurring. By identifying problems in the initial stages, you can put fixes in place early, helping you save time and money that would otherwise have been spent on fixing those issues during the later stages of the product lifecycle. In addition, if any bugs or errors do occur despite the QA processes implemented, they would likely be relatively minor and easy to fix.
QA helps to maintain the quality of your product
- Having QA processes in place allows you to maintain the reliability and stability of your product. As a proactive process, QA aims to anticipate issues before they occur so that potential problems are never allowed into the software build. Fewer problems means better quality, and the QA team works alongside the quality control team in order to carry out tests at different stages of the life cycle which focus on the usability, functionality, security, and usability of the product. The final result is that the finished product has minimal defects and, to the best of the company’s ability, works perfectly as intended.
QA ensures that your product is secure
- Security is always a huge priority when it comes to software, so it makes sense that a company’s QA processes should have a strong focus in this area. Software programs may work perfectly well, but this doesn’t guarantee that they are secure. Any weaknesses or defects in a software’s security could seriously compromise a company’s data, which is evidently a massive problem. The QA team installs safeguarding processes when the product is being developed to make sure that it is built as securely as possible before finally being tested by the QC team after product completion.
QA improves accessibility and usability
- With a QA engineer on board you can improve an existing application or the prototype, investigate the possible technical implementations and find optimal solutions to best satisfy your customers’ needs.
How? You can:
- Evaluate the project’s usability through different methods, like cognitive walkthrough or heuristic evaluation.
- Analyse the user’s flow related to keyboard navigation, tabulation and interaction together with potential blockers.
- Verify aspects like correct colour contrasts, colour use or support for keyboard navigation and screen readers.
A QA engineer can share with you recommendations of what needs to be improved in service or product so it can be used by people with visual, hearing, motor and cognitive disabilities. And when working closely with the development team all the information on priorities, recommendations, references to specific points of guidelines and tips are shared with web-designers, editors or developers. And you get the best quality product, that will have higher market share, will be accessible for society and will enhance the brand image.
QA runs performance testing
- When engaging a QA in your project you get even more – performance testing. It is a testing practice that helps to determine the way system performs in terms of responsiveness and stability under a particular workload. What’s more? With performance testing you can measure, validate or verify other quality attributes of the system e.g. reliability, scalability and resource usage. Quality is not only failure-free software, but also meeting the user’s needs in a timely manner.
QA increases customer satisfaction
- Regardless of whether you are creating software for a client or directly for the end customer yourself, customer satisfaction is key. Clients and customers alike require a product to fulfill their needs, as well as having a full set of features that function properly and without issue. It is the role of the QA team to put processes in place to ensure that their software gives customers exactly what they expect. If they do this well, customer satisfaction will be high and it will go down as a job well done.
QA protects your company’s reputation
- Providing a good product which results in satisfied customers reflects directly on the company who created it. By releasing high-quality software which boasts excellent features, uncompromising security, and flawless functions helps to build a company’s positive reputation in the marketplace. QA is a huge contributor to a company’s reputation for obvious reasons and it ensures that your star product is a fitting ambassador for your company’s international reputation.
The Risks of Neglecting Quality Assurance Activities
- Companies may be tempted to neglect various aspects involved in QA activities to save money or decrease production times. However, this is a very risky strategy that can seriously backfire. There are lots of technical and commercial dangers which could potentially be highly damaging to your company if QA is not taken seriously enough.
Quality assurance ensures that software is efficient, contains minimal defects, and meets customers’ needs closely. It is extremely important to incorporate QA into the overall software development lifecycle and to weave it into every stage of the process.
QA shouldn’t be deferred to the QC testing phase because by this time, it will be too late and any problems here that could have been mitigated earlier on with sound QA processes will probably be very costly indeed in terms of both time and money.
Without QA, software development can be very unreliable, resulting in products being unviable and having to be taken back to the drawing stage if its flaws are too widespread. Therefore, having sound, effective quality assurance processes in place and a strong “QA driven philosophy” is a huge asset to any software company.