We can probably all agree that the worst thing you can do is create a frustrating experience for your customer. That is certainly true in the online world, and even more so in the world of online ordering. A frustrated customer is a lost customer – very likely forever. So how do you avoid creating one?
In my experience as a web editor, the best way to avoid frustrating a customer is to build a sterling back end ordering system and then test the heck out of it before you let a customer anywhere near it. We did that when we launched a massive membership and ordering site, and it was very successful.
We broke quality testing into two phases:
Phase I was during development, which naturally occurs as designers and programmers are building a site. Programmers test processes as they create them, looking for coding errors and little things that just don’t work right.
Phase II was at the end of development in the month before launch. This was the tweaking-what-works stage, when the whole development server is running and all the systems are working together.
Rigorous Pre-Launch Testing
Here are all the things we tested using SQL Server and a tracking programming to note and update testing progress:
- Site log-in for various levels of membership
- Main navigation
- Secondary navigation
- Hundreds of pages of product pages and sub-pages with photos and graphics
Before this we needed to separately program and test the building and loading of a content management system for product information and graphics/images.
- Alt tags on all photos and images
- Links – both hypertext and hypergraphics on every page
- All server error pages (these we had to ferret out from each programmer)
- Entire sign-up process, including resulting e-mail messaging responses
- Entire ordering process, including resulting e-mail messaging responses
- Shopping cart process
- Customer service forms and response messages
- Business information processing apps and response messages
During testing, which involved a half dozen dedicated testers and a supervisor, the process included not only initial testing but also follow-up results testing (once something was found to be faulty and it was fixed, it had to be retested to make sure it finally worked the right way – a bad fix is not really a fix). Some problems, of course, were easier and faster to correct than others.
We were ready to launch on date as announced. Everything went well, except we didn’t have nearly enough servers to meet demand, which kept crashing from overload.
Of course, not all sites are as complex as this site was (and still is today). Your site should still be quality tested before launch even if it doesn’t have all the bells and whistles I list above.
Navigation still needs to work. Links still need to connect. Photos and graphics still need to load. Error-page messages should still be appropriate, and if you can customize them, all the better. You still need to make sure an order triggers all the appropriate response messages.
Far from trusting the server to do its job, you need to test it to make sure you’re taking care of the customer!
Next Up – Quality Links
What links are most likely to best help you optimize your site to help readers find your site in a search? You might be surprised. Find out in my next article!