Bridging design and development, Quality Assurance, or QA processes ensure that the product that consumers see is executed as the designers intended — free of bugs, crashes, or frustrations. Of course, that’s easier said than done, making Quality Assurance Managers an invaluable link in the chain for developing digital products.
The user experience or UX design process aims to offer a product or service that is an easy, efficient, and satisfying experience for the user — which requires teams of designers, developers, testers, and more to take a concept from an idea to a usable product.
To guarantee that the user will have the intended experience with that product, Quality Assurance (or QA) is a necessary part of the development process. Not only do UX QA Managers ensure that a user can complete all the tasks they need to without any bugs or glitches, but they are also central to maintaining the integrity of the design.
Vive Le Difference: UX Design + Quality Assurance
UX design refers to any interaction a person has with a product or service; it considers each and every component that shapes a person’s interaction with a product or service. This encompasses a wide array of experiences — from how it makes a user feel to how simple it is for a user to accomplish their desired task to how the product feels in their hands to how easy it is to complete a transaction (particularly online).
QA Managers take the vision for that design and see it through the development process. They work closely with the UX designer to get a comprehensive plan for the design and then work directly with the development team to ensure that vision makes its way into the final product. While not in charge of creating the design, QA Managers are a critical link in the chain of bringing the intended experience from a starting concept to the users’ fingertips.
Why is Quality Assurance Important to Digital Design?
Quality Assurance processes are necessary to ensure both the usability and the design consistency of any digital product — and the earlier in the process QA is included, the less work will be necessary to fix any issues that arise. Unforeseen ripple effects caused by recoding an error could lead to a whole host of new problems popping up that need to be addressed, which can throw the development team into a situation where they have a massive amount of work to do just before the deadline. That can be avoided by more proactive QA practices starting much earlier in development. Fixing any bugs early on can prevent more significant issues from emerging down the line.
At the core of a QA Manager’s job is ensuring the usability of the product or service. They make sure that the customer can successfully complete the tasks they need to in a way that feels intuitive. One can do usability testing in various ways, but it ought to be done often throughout the development process.
Usability can be broken down into five different quality components:
- Learnability: Is it easy for users to accomplish simple tasks the first time they encounter the design?
- Efficiency: Once users have used and navigated the design, how quickly are they able to perform tasks?
- Memorability: When users return to the design after not using it for a period of time, how quickly are they able to reestablish proficiency?
- Errors: How many errors do users make? How severe are these errors — and how easily can they recover from the errors?
- Satisfaction: How pleasant an experience is it to use the design?
Usability QA, described above, is one form of QA. In addition, there is the process of design QA, through which the team ensures that design elements have been implemented as planned. Incorporating design QA throughout the development process means that everything is getting executed according to the design or very quickly corrected as you go, rather than having to fix a colossal error right before the deadline retroactively.
Design QA is often overlooked by development teams that see usability alone as “good enough,” but quality user experiences are rooted in well-executed design. Design features like animations, color palettes, fonts, and information layouts can become inconsistent, negatively affecting user experience. A comprehensive Style Guide and active QA practices can help bridge that risky divide between design and development. The clearer that line of communication, the more likely the correct interaction will be developed the first time.
Quality Assurance Hurdles
QA Managers face the complicated task of ensuring that designs are implemented in accurate and usable ways and can run necessary fixes at almost any point in the process.
Suppose coders and developers don’t have an accurate or comprehensive understanding of what the design is supposed to be or the intended function of a given feature. In that case, things are not going to be built according to the UX Designer’s specifications. Developers may sometimes misinterpret or accidentally alter design components, which can become a problem when certain design choices are disregarded that significantly impact usability and function. Quality Assurance testing helps prevent these snafus.
When time and resources start to run thin, people can sometimes work in the mindset of making something “good enough,” and different team members might define that threshold differently. While designers may prioritize visual elements looking and behaving correctly, the development team may primarily focus on streamlining code and processes.
With a constantly changing and evolving product, maintaining a consistent design can become complicated, which can lead to Design Debt, the issue that arises when “a bunch of incremental changes collect over time and yield a disjointed, inconsistent, and patched-together experience.” Design QA audits can point out these issues as they emerge, and this can help avoid accruing a large design debt that would become a massive project to address at some later point.
You Need These Attributes and Characteristics to Succeed at Being a QA Manager
Successful QA Managers have a keen eye for detail and can give useful, constructive feedback. Also critical is a user-centered approach to the development process because understanding how the user will interact with the product leads to better testing and analysis.
For highly collaborative UX roles, companies are looking for folks with:
- Creative problem-solving skills
- Critical thinking skills
Above all, this role is about communication and teamwork, so group problem-solving and mediation skills are necessary to prevent building an “us vs. them” culture in the development process.
QA Managers require an intimate understanding of the design process and all the necessary technical features to bridge design and development successfully. Experience in software testing and coding languages is essential, along with understanding product functionality and design concepts.
QA Managers require a balance of hard skills and soft skills, especially if you’re managing a team of testers. You may be juggling many projects at once, so time management and prioritization skills are also going to be necessary tools in your back pocket.
The average salary for a UX QA Manager varies by experience, sector, and location. According to data on Glassdoor, UX QA Managers in the United States typically make a base salary of $85,778.
About the author.
An award-winning creator and digital health, wellness, and lifestyle content strategist—Karina writes, produces, and edits compelling content across multiple platforms—including articles, video, interactive tools, and documentary film. Her work has been featured on MSN Lifestyle, Apartment Therapy, Goop, Psycom, Yahoo News, Pregnancy & Newborn, Eat This Not That, thirdAGE, and Remedy Health Media digital properties and has spanned insight pieces on psychedelic toad medicine to forecasting the future of work to why sustainability needs to become more sustainable.