team reviews prelaunch website testing planNo matter how much you test a new website yourself, you won’t notice all bugs and things that need to be addressed before launch.

This is why you need a true testing phase before launch that involves multiple people.

Creating a test plan and test cases gives you valuable and organized insight to help improve the site before it launches. From bugs to design issues, you get feedback to create and launch a better site.

Determine Who Will Test the Application

Choosing the right test group(s) is important as you want testers who will delve deep and focus on different aspects of the website.

Don't Go at it Alone

team tests website prior to launch

Web application testing takes a team. Invite a small group (or groups) of testers to participate in this phase before launch. They should go through every page, link, form, video, and other elements of the site.

For best results, use different testers who understand your business, some that don't know your business as well, some who have some knowledge of web design, and some who will act like your potential audience(s).

By utilizing different test groups, you will be sure to cover all areas of the website. Here are a few groups of people who make great website testers:

People Close to the Content

These may be people within your organization or who know your business or product well. These are the people who are more likely to catch missing information, erroneous information, and other things such as brand or product inconsistencies.

People Not so Close to The Content

These may be customers, partners, or other interested parties who will not be as critical of the exact content and brand but might be more apt to find usability issues.

This kind of group is great at providing a usability test and giving higher-level critiques than those who are closer to the brand, product, or service.

Your Web Development Team

web developers test website prior to launchThe web development team should be testing your new web application through the entire build process. However, I am here to tell you that we can get so into the weeds and so ingrained in the development side of things that we sometimes miss issues a more standard user will find with ease.

The development team should be responsible for testing for broken links, search engine optimization, browser compatibility, accessibility, etc. This will most likely be a mix of automated testing and manual review.

Basically, the development team should be focused on the technical aspects of the website. They should have a standard scope of testing that they follow and may even have test deliverables or reports that they provide.

Create A Timeline For Testing the Website

There are two things you want to avoid when it comes to testing a website for launch:

  1. A "forever" review and feedback cycle. Remember that it's a website and can always be changed and updated. The last thing you want is an indefinite testing period that delays the launch.
  2. A last-minute rushed testing phase, i.e. right before launch. There is enough stress and stuff to focus on without looking for bugs that should have been caught earlier.

Create a timeline that includes several phases of testing and bug fixes. No matter how much you test, a few small flaws might escape notice.

Don’t worry. These issues can be fixed after launch. The key is to ensure the major issues are taken care of.

Plan for several days or even weeks depending on the size of your organization, the size of the website, and who the stakeholders are.

What to Test Before a Website Launch

multi-device website testingYou want your testers to look at every single element on your site by having them click through and give each a focus such as content, branding, testing forms, usability critiques, etc.

Here is a list of things that should definitely be looked at:

  • Content Accuracy
  • Browser compatibility across both PC and Mac.
  • Mobile responsiveness on popular phones, tablets, and desktop sizes.
  • ADA / WCAG compliance
  • Menu navigation
  • All links
  • Video playback
  • Page loading times
  • General content - all dummy data removed, content makes sense, fonts easy to read
  • Ease of use of the design
  • Test all forms
  • Shopping carts
  • Member logins
  • Test all 3rd-party integrations such as social media tie-ins

Your exact checklist might vary, but include any elements visitors would use regularly. If these critical items don’t work properly, you need to know before they ruin your big launch day.

Your developer may, and probably should have tools to test browser compatibility, ADA / WCAG compliance, and mobile responsiveness across popular devices.

Setup a Feedback System

project manager organizes feedbackThe feedback system is the most important part of the plan. Without an organized system, things turn to chaos quickly.

Set up a special email account for bug reports, use a project management system with all testers and the developers involved, and invite people to a shared Google Doc or any method that works well for you and your testers.

The idea is to have an easy way to receive feedback and organize problems so they can be fixed quickly.

Use a Project Manager

This is where a project manager comes in real handy. Having someone to organize issues into various areas like content, design, and development, to remove duplicate issues or even make judgments on what is important and what should be ignored for the time being.

Establish A Schedule For Fixes

developing a prelaunch website testing scheduleOnce bugs or design issues are reported, they need to be fixed as quickly as possible. For instance, if the first stage of testing lasts three days, you may schedule any reported issues to be fixed within three more days if possible.

You can then start the second stage of testing by the seventh day. For any problems that you can’t fix yourself, talk to the developers or designers to see how quickly issues can be fixed so you can plan accordingly.

The important part here is to have a schedule. Your site and/or team may be small enough that days are not needed so adjust accordingly. Without a schedule, the process can quickly become chaos.

Multiple Rounds of Website Testing is a Good Idea

One round of tests isn’t enough as a single bug fix might have repaired one issue but created another. It takes several rounds of testing to ensure the site is running as smoothly as it possibly can.

Plan for at least three to four rounds as testers might have overlooked a bug in the initial tests but found a major issue during the third round.

Spending this extra time is crucial to a site’s launch success.

Decide Who Gets an Opinion on the Website

everyone has an opinion on what makes a great websiteHere is the thing, everyone has an opinion and it's these opinions that make a website testing plan so hard to coordinate and keep on track.

It's just human nature. You will ask people to test the website to see if forms work, see if links work and they will write you back telling you how they feel the color combination is not pleasing to their eye.

They will let you know that they don't like some of the images and even suggest some alternatives. It happens.

Everyone Has an Opinion, But Not All Opinions are Equal

Unless these people are stakeholders and "get" an opinion on such matters it's important to pull this kind of opinion stuff out of their reviews. Why? Because it doesn't matter what they think.

That sounds mean but trying to bend to every person's opinion is a losing game.

Just About Everything is Subjective

Things like design, imagery, and sometimes even wording are subjective, remember that. Taking into account everyone's opinion will lead to NEVER launching your website.

Sure the CEO might be able to slip some opinions in because they are the boss, the marketing team may have something to say about branding (even after the design is done) or sales might have an option on how lead generation works. You may want to listen to these people.

unwanted opinions during website testingKnow When to Ignore Feedback

When Joe from accounting says that he finds the product page "confusing" or Jane from HR says the colors are too bright... skip it.

Don't send this to your developer or designer, appealing to Jane and Joe at this point is a loser's game!

In Conclusion

A testing plan is a must for any website launch. While developers and the site owner test the site, the real test comes with genuine users.

Getting their feedback helps you perfect your site. Establish your testing plan before the site is even complete and you’ll be ready to start testing the moment the developer gives you the go-ahead.

Real user testing is important, once you collect feedback from real-world users you may want to revisit some areas of your new site.

Expecting to catch all things before real-world use is not going to happen. Maybe even consider the first few days, weeks, or months a beta test.

Real user experience is invaluable and you will only get it once the site launches. Unless of course, you have the luxury (and budget) to run organized focus and testing groups which most organizations don't.

Go ahead and let your new website into the wild and adapt moving forward.