Addressing 100% of inconsistencies on digital products may be quite hard, but doing design QA is a big step to combat design debt.
What is design QA, and why is it so damn important?
Design QA (quality assurance) refers to the thorough process of reviewing visual designs, copy text and micro interactions. This is reviewed by cross-checking what has been developed, next to what was briefed and intended, in order to identify any inconsistencies.
Handing off designs for development is by no means the last step for designers. Good designers will remain a part of the process, continually collaborating with parties to ensure that the design intention is delivered, from early verifications to unforeseen UI and interaction issues further down the line, as well as overall consistency from a branding perspective.
Design QA is of the utmost importance for ensuring consistency. Over time, as a product is designed and developed, incoherences are bound to appear. These soon add up to create an incoherent experience - We call this “design debt”. Design QA aims to nip design debt in the bud.
I’m a Product Designer, do I really need to do QA?
Absolutely. Quality assurance is not just for engineers, who test products from a different (yet also necessary) perspective. Technical QA will test backend functionalities and practical behaviours, like whether a certain button or step appears after a specific action is taken. If so, this can be marked as complete. Design, or “visual” quality assurance on the other hand, looks for the way in which this button or step appears. Does it appear from the correct direction? Does it appear from this same direction across devices? Does the animation perform at the correct speed? And so on. You, as the Product Designer, have the required experience and skills to spot these types of issues.
What are some of the challenges of design QA?
Finding the time to do it
Let’s be honest, design QA is not the most thrilling task for a designer. Keep in mind though, that you as designer will not be judged by the content of your design file, but rather on the shipped product. Last but not least, doing QA often helps you to spot UX issues or design flaws you missed while working on your designs. That’s why committing your time to QA is never a waste, and should be an integral part of your process.
Evaluating the importance of a bug
In order for things to run smoothly, you should be adept at prioritizing design issues, and communicating this well. Know what needs to be fixed now, and what could be addressed later. Design priorities can often be split into three different criteria:
- This is a blocker and must be fixed prior to release.
- If we can’t fix this during this sprint, let’s make sure we add it to the next.
- Fixing this is not crucial, but it would be amazing to have.
Stress the importance from day one
As we’ve already mentioned, design quality assurance isn’t just a process that can be slipped in as an afterthought. You should fight for it and ensure that design QA is planned as part of the overall process, from the beginning. This also includes making sure all relevant parties are fully aware of this, and that the time and resources to do it are allocated every sprint. In order to avoid any setbacks, we’ve made design QA an integral part of the agile development process at YND (which we’ll take a closer look at in our next post).
What does design QA look like at YND?
To ensure the quality of our services, we’ve integrated design QA into our development process for both Sprints and Kanban Based projects. This way all members of the team are aware of it—developers can communicate to designers when to check what, and PMs allocate time for it when planning the next iteration. Here is a short overview of our approach:
Design QA for Sprint Based Development
- Before each sprint demo, the product designer will review the visual aspects of all completed tasks in the starting environment.
- The QA designer should raise the bugs. It’s crucial here that the fixes are described in a precise and illustrative manner.
- Bugs should be assigned to the PM, who should add them to the sprint planning and assign a developer.
- Once all bugs are fixed, and before the final release, the designer should run a second round and repeat until the product matches the expectations.
Design QA for Kanban Based Development
- The QA designer will review in the staging environment the visual aspects when all tasks are completed.
- The QA designer should raise the bugs by creating tickets assigned to the PM in Jira (again, don’t skim on those bug descriptions!)
- Once the design QA is completed, the designer will report the outcome to the PM.
- Once the bugs are fixed, the QA designer should run a second round and repeat until the product matches the expectations.
The pace of shipping new features can potentially outweigh quality and design. That’s why making design QA an integral part of the development process ensures that your team won’t drop the ball on it, and your designs shine not only on dribbble shots, but in shipped products. By making sure your team understands how important design and UX/UI consistency is for digital products, you minimize the risk of sacrificing any elements relating to design and quality.
We’ll be writing more content about Design QA at YND. In our next post on the topic, we’ll dive deeper into how we conduct Design QA sessions at YND, complete with a detailed checklist. Follow us on LinkedIn and stay tuned.