What is the point of Quality Assurance? At its heart, QA ensures delivery of the best possible product. It might be a toothbrush, an electric scooter or a toaster; it could also be a software program, a web application or a website. As different as these things are, high quality inspection and testing is essential to ensuring customer satisfaction with any product.

My journey into software testing and quality assurance began at a company that manufactured and refurbished telephony products: telephone agent sets used in calling centers. The QA focused on both hardware and software, making sure that each unit met the company’s expectations for the highest quality product. Part of my job was to document step by step testing procedures, and to train others on all aspects of working with the units including receiving and inspection, testing, refurbishing, building and packing / shipping.

Refurbishing required cleaning the units and replacing any broken or worn components. Some of this work was as simple as replacing a broken handset with a new one. Other activities were more detailed, such as making sure there were no dust specs between the clear plastic lens and LCD screen. Every refurb unit underwent functional testing after the physical work was completed. We took great pride in the fact that our customers considered the refurbed units to be as good as new…

So, how does this apply to software quality assurance?

Excellent QA requires consistent evaluation of multiple things. Whether that QA is focused on testing a physical product or a software product, it requires breaking down the whole into parts and vice-versa. Software QA professionals look at the page or application, the components and layout, spelling and grammar… All of this occurs while carefully evaluating the expected or intended behavior and what actually happens when an action is taken.

This is a lot like clearing bits of dust from between the thin plastic lens and LCD screen. You must look carefully to find the dust or, in the case of software, the bugs. Then, after steps have been taken to resolve the issue, QA looks again, repeating the process as necessary. Whether the inspection and testing is for a website go-live or a packaged retail product, once QA is satisfied there are no dust or bugs, the product can be packaged up and presented to the consumer with confidence.