The importance of testing

by Martin Reed on 19 July 2007 in Articles

Back in June, I wrote an article entitled ‘Never stop experimenting’. In that post, I wrote about how important it is to always experiment with your website; you should be constantly tweaking and improving your site and part of this process includes experimentation.

When you experiment and try out new things on your website, it is essential that you always test to ensure that things are working as you expect and that there are no problems that you may be unaware of.

Test from an administrator’s perspective

Testing your new site featuresA new feature for your website is no good if it is impossible to administer properly. You should vigourously test any new feature and make yourself an expert in how it works. Make sure you understand exactly how to administer any new feature before fully launching it upon your community.

When I first launched the email penpals section at Just Chat, I made sure I familiarised myself with the full administrative functions offered in the admin area. It is no good launching a new feature and then not being able to modify or take action on something because you do not know how to administrate the new feature properly. Worse, you may find that the action you wish to perform isn’t even supported by the software!

Test from a user’s perspective

It is all too easy to set up a new feature, see that all works well from an administrative stand-point and then presume that all is working fine. Even when you have made all your desired customisations, you should ensure that everything is working from the perspective of a regular user of your site.

When I installed Comment Relish for this blog, it was relatively easy to customise the emails thanking people for writing a comment. Once I tested the plugin by adding a comment to the blog and reading the email that was sent, I noticed a few formatting issues that I would not otherwise have been aware of.

Once I had seen this issue from the user perspective, I was able to adjust and modify the plugin to ensure that everything appeared and worked just as I wanted.

Stay updated!

Once you have tested any new features from both an administrative and a user perspective, there is still one more task left – ensure you keep things updated!

Plugins and software scripts are often updated, and it is important for you to be aware of any new updates to ensure your site’s features continue to work as you would expect.

Do you test all your site’s features from both an administrative and user perspective? Have you spotted any mistakes that you were previously unaware of thanks to testing? Whatever your experiences or thoughts, share them by leaving a comment below.

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Biddy July 19, 2007 at 6:57 pm

Emails thanking people for leaving comments?! I’d be very interested to hear your justification for this one.

zecco review July 19, 2007 at 7:39 pm

I have one active community, and I’m very addicted to adding modifications and plug-ins. After adding a new feature, I always log-in to my other account(not the admin one) just to check if everything is alright. I also ask for my members feedbacks just to make sure they are happy with the add-on.

Martin Reed - Blog Author July 19, 2007 at 10:43 pm

Biddy – The Comment Relish plugin only emails people when they post their first ever comment. It simply thanks them for taking the time to contribute to the blog and welcomes them to the site. We don’t email users every time they submit a comment!

The welcome email adds a personal touch and helps contributors feel valued.

Zecco – Thanks for your comment. I like the fact you welcome feedback from your members – this shows you are involving them in your decision making and will make them feel more valued as part of your community.

Daniel July 19, 2007 at 11:14 pm

Talking about testing I heard that the Comment Relish plugin will crash any blog with a large user base, because it run database queries for all the past commenters to see if they are new or not.

Martin Reed - Blog Author July 19, 2007 at 11:18 pm

Daniel – I believe there were issues with Comment Relish if run on blogs that already had a huge number of comments from different individuals. Of course, this doesn’t apply to this blog however there is now a new version available of the plugin that is supposed to address such issues.

Andy July 20, 2007 at 10:18 am

For my website (not a forum) I keep a mirror of the site on a “test” subdomain. That way I make all the changes in the testing environment, try things out from a user perspective, and then upload it to the live page.

This method has prevented me from going live with pesky errors like leaving off semi-colons!

Life is Colourful July 20, 2007 at 3:10 pm

I came to know about your website at Jason’s blog. Just visited out of curiosity and finding the articles interesting. I would be going through all possible articles and come back with any questions in mind.

Martin Reed - Blog Author July 20, 2007 at 3:20 pm

Andy – Having a test environment is a fantastic idea and one I strongly support. Just be sure that nobody can stumble across it though – that wouldn’t leave the best impression!

Oh, and don’t get me started on those darn missing semi-colons! They are so hard to spot, eh?!?

Life is Colourful – Thanks for your comment and welcome to the blog, it’s great to have you here and I hope to read more of your comments in the future.

Andy July 21, 2007 at 8:04 am

Martin, yeh the test environment is setup with two levels of password protection!

I also used it for “alpha” testers well before I was ready to put the site live.

Martin Reed - Blog Author July 21, 2007 at 1:42 pm

Andy – You seem to have all the bases covered, then! I like the idea of using testers as an extra layer of protection to ensure everything is working as you would expect.

Sutocu July 23, 2007 at 9:39 pm

Good points all around. Fortunately Blogger, which I’m using, offers Previews on almost everything. Unfortunately I’ve found they don’t always work…

Martin Reed - Blog Author July 24, 2007 at 2:52 am

Sutocu – Ah, proof-reading! Just as important as testing new software; if not even more so as there is simply no excuse for not doing it!

Sutocu July 24, 2007 at 1:01 pm

Yeah, well that too. I was mainly talking about adding new HTML/Javascript gadgets to the template.

Martin Reed - Blog Author July 25, 2007 at 12:54 pm

Sutocu – My apologies for misunderstanding your comment! I wasn’t aware that Blogger offered previews for when you add Javascript etc to your template.

In any case you state that it doesn’t always work – hence the need to still test, test, test!