Why Start Accessibility and Usability Testing Early On?

Not long ago, usability and accessibility were testing attributes that were taken up as an afterthought in the testing lifecycle. Time permitting, once functional and other core tests such as performance, UI, security were performed, typically a team of users would be called in to use the product and provide feedback. A usability expert would sit with them to guide them through the product and answer any questions they may have. The results would then be disseminated across the entire product team including the test team to see what issues need to be fixed. While this exercise is very valuable, it was often too late to take in any serious feedback coming from the users. In some teams’ minimal usability and accessibility (to ensure the application is accessible for the differently abled people) testing may have been undertaken prior to this exercise. However, with how short product development lifecycles have become, these tasks are no longer ones that can be pushed to the end of the release. So, you may ask, how can I productively engage usability and accessibility testers throughout the lifecycle? One important task they should be entrusted with at the start of every lifecycle is to evaluate the design of the product workflow or specific features. There is ample scope to test and catch important issues at this stage. Any such issues caught at the design stage will help bring down the cost of quality quite a bit because usability and accessibility (U&A) issues are often very expensive if not impossible to fix at a later stage. Wireframes are excellent resources to understand the product’s workflow and provide feedback. Similarly, the crowd (user community) can also be brought in at varied stages in the product development lifecycle to keep providing U&A feedback. The other angle to these test attributes, at least in the case of accessibility testing, are the governmental mandates that are beginning to be imposed on products. Section 508, DDA, WCAG kind of mandates are often not just mandates but excellent guidelines for the entire product team to use in promoting a product’s accessibility. Resources such as VPAT (Voluntary Product Accessibility Template) provide a comprehensive checklist for test teams to ensure compliance with Section 508. The right mix of effort from teams in ensuring U&A along with mandated checks from governmental bodies, have been giving a significant focus on building products that are intuitive, usable and accessible by one and all.

About the Author

QA InfoTech

QA InfoTech

Established in 2003, with less than five testing experts, QA InfoTech has grown leaps and bounds with three QA Centers of Excellence globally; two of which are located in the hub of IT activity in India, Noida, and the other, our affiliate QA InfoTech Inc Michigan USA. In 2010 and 2011, QA InfoTech has been ranked in the top 100 places to work for in India.

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