Web Quality Assurance: From User Requirements To Web Risk Management

As a chemist by trade, I received a Master’s degree in Quality Management and Quality Control from Bordeaux University. My initial career was in the wine industry, ensuring the quality of the laboratory’s operations and the analyses that came out of it. As a side note, the last question of my job interview as quality assurance manager of the laboratory was “Do you like wine?, I said I didn’t. They said, “you’re hired”.

In 1999, I decided to apply my quality management insights to the web. I quit my job in the wine laboratory. I immediately started work on answering the question, “What does quality mean for a web user?” That also means answering this other question: “How can one evaluate, manage and guarantee the quality of a website?”

Quality assurance (QA) is defined as:

“A program for the systematic monitoring and evaluation of the various aspects of a project, service, or facility to ensure that standards of quality are being met.”

— “Quality assurance,” Merriam-Webster

QA is a central part of any quality management approach and all quality management is very closely linked to risk management. In most sectors where risks are understood and perceived as critical, quality assurance inevitably develops. This is why quality assurance is a pillar of the aeronautics, automotive, health, and even video game industries, and not many would dream of questioning it.

The search for the answers to questions related to quality assurance led me to create my company and to produce a few documented checklists and standards about open data, performance and web accessibility, including the two firsts versions of the French national standard on accessibility (“RGAA” which stands for Référentiel Général d’Amélioration de l’Accessibilité). It also led me to write a book about web quality assurance and the forewords of eight more books about UX, ecodesign, CSS, frontend development, amongst others. Answering these questions is also the reason why I am still passionate about web quality assurance years later. And, it is these same questions that lead me to you and your web projects. By the way, now I like wine, from everywhere.

What Does Quality Mean For The Users? #

When delving into the concept of website quality assurance back in 2001, we started with a simple question: “What does quality mean for the users?”

According to the ISO (International Organization for Standardization), the term quality is:

“…the degree to which a set of inherent characteristics of an object fulfills requirements.”

Asking this initial question about a website involves analyzing the user requirements. During our research, we created a model which is comprised of five fundamental user requirements:

  1. Visibility is the ability of a site to be encountered by its potential users.
  2. Perception represents its ability to be usable and positively perceived by its users.
  3. Technical concerns its ability to function correctly.
  4. Content covers the ability to deliver quality information.
  5. Services determine its ability to offer, accompany, and/or generate quality services.