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Why Website Quality is Neglected

Project Management TriangleThere are just 4 main dynamics of a project that a web project manager needs to be in control of and these are frequently depicted by the ubiquitous project management triangle.

Features (Scope) – the work to be done

Time – when is needs to be done by

Cost – the amount of money being spent

Quality – the standard to which the work is done

There is a close interrelationship between these project factors, change one and it impacts the others. For example, increase the scope and either the cost or time increases or the quality decreases. Decrease the cost and either the scope or the quality decreases too.

I’ve written articles about clarifying the scope through adequately confirming the requirements and I find that time and cost are the two factors most clearly defined. Keeping an eye on the costs and ensuring that deadlines are met are very tangible factors to control. And everyone involved in the project, especially those paying for it will be all too aware if these are under control on not.

The quality factor often seems to have a lower profile in the project than time and cost. Quality can be less visible, less tangible and its certainly harder to measure. When maintaining control of the time, cost and scope, quality is the corner that can be cut without sounding any alarms.

But what is the knock on effect of poor quality? A higher bounce rate on your website? Fewer conversions? Less visitors clicking your social share buttons? A poor user experience? Defects will eventually need to be fixed and so the costs of a lesser quality website are not removed, they are simply deferred. A low quality user experience will increase your marketing spend because a high quality experience converts visitors into customers better than a low quality one.

Quality should more often win the conflict it can have with time and cost. A short delay in launching a new feature may be better than having to apologize for a fault. Perhaps a new feature gets released in June instead of April.

Measuring quality is both an art and a science but most importantly there should be someone on the project championing quality. Quality is about aiming for excellence, it's a mindset that's about going the extra mile. But ultimately, quality is about the people on the team and their attitude towards doing the best possible work they can.    

Building a successful online business is an evolutionary process with the feedback faucet always open and flowing. A web project management tip is to run tests on your website. Two services that can help to measure quality do so by sending anonymous visitors to your website. The visitors then provide their honest feedback. There are many different types of testing services available I can recommend and Feedback Army sends multiple visitors to your site who then answer some questions that you have set for them.  User Testing supplies a smaller number of visitors and each one creates a video recording with their running commentary, giving their thoughts as they navigate though your site. These testing services can be quickly set up, produce speed test results and they won’t break the bank.  

It takes some forethought, but it is possible put some quality metrics in place for a web project. Start with simple metrics such as the number tests passed and build from there. Certainly it’s worth including a measure of user experience satisfaction as this can identify some otherwise undiscovered issues. This can be done by creating metrics from user surveys but it's also worthwhile to take a more qualitative approach based on user discussion and verbal feedback.

In conclusion, don’t let quality get bullied into submission by time and money. Sometimes it makes sense to be late or for the project to cost a little more in order to preserve high quality. In short - it's better to do less but do it better.                                    Do less but do it better  

Which factors get priority in your projects? Is it time, money, scope or quality?

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Comments (2)

Ian Sharp

August 17, 2014 at 9.33 am

Great comments Mathew - You’ve touched on some all-to-common missed opportunities when it comes to better testing. And testing, in it’s many forms is the key to better quality.  I think ‘test early and test often’ sums up the best approach to testing.

Matthew Castle

August 15, 2014 at 10.28 pm

Spot on, and in my experience quality is the hardest of the levers to move.

Time? Easy, move the deadline.
Scope? Easy, drop some features.
Cost? Easy, add another developer.

Quality? Do more testing.
More testing? What does that look like?
If we add more testers how do we ensure they are not all testing the same thing and missing the important thing?
How do we fully utilise our testers when we only get a “code release” every 3 months ?

Things I could no longer live withoutt:
Automated Deployment, its just a hygiene factor these days.
Testers being able to “pull” builds into a test environment after each small feature is finished.
Continuous Testing where each small feature goes through a “In Testing” state, no developers cannot mark features as “Done”!

In summary, don’t leave testing until the end of a project, build it into your process as you go along. That way your not short changed at the end of the project when scope creep has eaten all your planned testing time…..

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