This document is a supplement to
Editing for Clear Communication
No portion may be reused without the author's permission.
Jakob Nielsen, "The difference between Web design and GUI design," Alertbox, 1 May 1997
Amy Gahran, Interview: Jakob Nielsen, Contentious, 14 August 1998
To learn more about
Testing Your Web SiteA good reporter knows that she needs at least one more set of eyes to look over a story before it's ready for publication. That's because by the time the reporter is ready to part with it, she's so familiar with the material that she easily can read past holes and other problems problems that fresh eyes can catch quickly.
The same thing holds true in designing Web sites. A site can make perfect sense to those intimately involved in its construction, but it may baffle the typical user. So no site should be launched on an unsuspecting public without first beta testing it. And even the most thoroughly tested sites need to be retested after any substantial changes.
For simple sites, Quality Assurance testing done in house will likely suffice to catch browser compatibility problems, excessive download times and other technical difficulties as well as readability. As Jakob Nielsen noted in an interview with Contentious online magazine,
The writer and editor have to predict what users may want to do, and support those tasks. All of these are traditional usability considerations even if the content is an article.
Sites that publish dynamic content or have complex navigational schemes require true beta testing. Such testing is a multi-phase operation that includes writing test plans and carefully monitoring and coordinating bug reports. (CNET Builder.com offers a series of articles that provides a great introduction to beta testing.)
Whichever form your testing takes, this phase is critical to ensure that all the hard work you put into your site isn't tainted by technical difficulties. As good as a site may be, bugs can damage reader credibility just as readily as a typo in 96-point type across the front page of newspaper.