Website testing guide

A beginner's guide to website testing – from usability and functionality testing to performance and compatibility testing. Learn the basics and best practices for ensuring a high-quality website or web application.

An introduction to website testing

Website testing is a crucial step in the development of your website or web application. From verifying usability and functionality to checking for security and compatibility issues, website testing helps to ensure that everything is working properly and that your users will have a positive experience.

There are various types of website testing that can help identify bugs early on and avoid costly and complex errors that can arise later on in the development process. 

This guide will run you through the basics of website testing. By the end, you can expect to learn about different types of website testing, the tools and techniques used to test websites, and best practices for ensuring the quality and functionality of your website. 

Whether you're a UX designer, website developer, digital marketer, or simply someone interested in website quality, this is a valuable resource to help you take your website to the next level.

Website testing

What is website testing?

Website testing, or web testing, is a critical step in the development of a website or web application. It involves checking your website or web app for bugs and verifying its usability, functionality, security, compatibility, and performance. 

By doing website testing, you can avoid investing time and resources into a product that can face problems upon its release. 

There are two main methods of website testing: manual and automated. Manual testing involves performing actions on a website or application, such as clicking buttons and links, filling out forms, and navigating through pages to identify issues or areas for improvement. This type of testing is performed by real users who have been given instructions on what tasks to perform, and is useful for uncovering unexpected bugs or getting a feel for the overall user experience.

Automated testing uses software programs to simulate user actions. It follows a set of steps to test functionality and performance, and is useful for repetitive tasks like checking response times. Automated testing can be performed more quickly and consistently than manual testing, so is useful for large websites undergoing frequent updates.

Regardless of the method you choose, regular and ongoing testing is crucial for the success of your website or web application.

Why is website testing important?

Website testing

Website testing is an important step in web development as it ensures that your website works properly before you go live. 

Here are some key benefits to testing:

  • It ensures your website or application is functioning properly and is free of bugs.
  • It helps you identify issues early on related to cross-browser compatibility, performance, reliability, and security.
  • It helps you avoid costly and complex errors that can arise late in the development process.
  • It helps to maintain ongoing stability and prevent loss of customers.
  • It ensures that interfaces are easy to use. 

Errors discovered and resolved early in the development process are easier to fix than those found later on. If you have undiagnosed errors on your live site, it can cause ongoing instability and customer frustration, so it's important to have a regular code review process in place and to implement website testing as early as possible in the development lifecycle.

Usability testing is also necessary to ensure that your website or application provides a positive experience for your users. Your brand reputation can be heavily influenced by your site’s design and usability. Even a great design can be negatively affected by poor functionality, which can result in harm to your brand. 

Types of website testing

Now that we’ve got a basic understanding of what website testing is and why it’s important, let’s look at the different types of website tests you can perform and what their purpose is.

Types of website testing

Usability testing

It’s important to make sure that your website is user-friendly and easy to navigate, so usability testing is a crucial step in the development process. 

Usability testing involves measuring how easily a user can accomplish a series of tasks. It can help you understand how real users interact with your website and provide valuable insights into the overall user experience. 

You recruit participants from your target audience to carry out usability tests and make improvements based on the results.

There are different testing methods you can use depending on what you want to gain insights on. You can read more about these methods in our usability testing guide and we dig into how you can get started with website usability testing in more detail below.

Functionality testing

Functionality testing is one of the most crucial forms of website testing. As you’d expect by the name, it verifies that your website works as expected. This includes testing various elements like forms, redirects, error messages, database submissions, and email links. 

This type of testing ensures that your website or web application is running smoothly and correctly, and that users can complete any intended actions without glitches.

Performance testing

Slow page load speeds can have a negative impact on user experience, so it’s important to test the performance of your site. This helps you check everything works optimally under all loads, and provides a picture of load times and any potential issues that may arise. 

There are various performance tests you can run, like load tests, stress tests, and spike tests:

  • Load testing checks the behavior of your website under a specific expected load.
  • Stress testing tries to break your website by incrementally increasing the number of users.
  • Spike testing checks your website’s response to a continuous expected load. 

Performance testing also evaluates site speed, image loading, and compatibility across multiple browsers, platforms, and devices.

Compatibility testing

Compatibility testing ensures your website or web application works across different browsers, devices, and operating systems. 

Compatibility testing should include checking for compatibility across mobile devices, screen sizes, operating systems (e.g. Windows, Linux, and Mac), and various browsers such as Chrome, Firefox, and Safari.

Website testing

Security testing

Security testing is one of the most important aspects of website testing, as it ensures that your website is built to withstand any hacking attempts or data breaches. This type of testing helps you identify potential loopholes and threats, comply with laws that regulate web data security and privacy policies, and plan responses to future breaches or hacking attempts. 

Accessibility testing

Accessibility testing ensures that your website is accessible to all users, including those with disabilities. This type of testing also verifies that your website complies with accessibility standards and guidelines, and that users can access and use all features without barriers.

Localization testing

Localization testing helps you check your website is accessible to a global audience and caters to different linguistic, technical, and visual requirements. 

This type of testing covers aspects such as dialects, special characters, contact information, address formats, and website availability across different locations. It helps you to understand if your website needs any modifications to accommodate the needs of users in different countries and regions.

Interface testing

Interface testing verifies the functionality of the application, web, and database servers. This type of testing checks if the communication between these servers works as expected, and if any errors or glitches arise during the exchange of information.

Payment testing

Payment testing is especially important for e-commerce stores – it makes sure that customers can complete their purchases regardless of their location, browser, or device. 

This type of testing verifies that payment options work seamlessly across multiple devices and platforms, and that appropriate payment options are available for specific locations. It also evaluates the overall user experience of the payment process.

How to get started with website testing

As we’ve already seen, website usability testing is a crucial aspect of web development and plays a vital role in enhancing the user experience. Use it to gather information about how your users interact with your website and identify areas for improvement. By conducting regular website usability tests, you can make sure that your website is user-friendly, accessible, and efficient.

Let’s look in more detail at the steps you can take to get started with usability testing for your website or web application.

website testing
  1. Determine what to measure: The first step is to determine what you want to measure. Clearly define your testing goals and what information you want to gather. Focus on testing one aspect of your website at a time. For example, you can test the process of booking a hotel or the checkout process for your e-commerce store.
  1. Identify the best method: After defining your testing goals, choose a usability testing method that suits your goals and resources. There are several types of usability testing methods, like in-person testing, unmoderated remote testing, and moderated remote testing. In-person testing is ideal for controlled tests, while unmoderated or moderated remote testing is suitable for obtaining results in a shorter time frame. For example, if you wanted to test how users would navigate from your homepage to search for and book a hotel in Barcelona, you might decide to run a navigation test to help you work out the user flow.

  2. Create a task scenario and set your success rate: A task scenario is the objective that your participants need to achieve. This can be a series of tasks, such as creating an account, searching for and selecting a hotel, and making a payment. Determine the success rate based on the goal of the test. For example, you can consider the time it takes to complete each task, the accuracy of the information entered, and the overall ease of use.

  3. Recruit your participants: Five to seven participants per session is ideal. You can use the guerrilla method for early-stage testing or recruit participants close to your user persona for later development stages. The guerrilla method involves selecting individuals at random to test your website, while recruiting participants close to your user persona involves finding individuals with traits that reflect your real users.

    You might source participants from your customer base, via social media, or through online communities. It’s also worth considering offering your participants incentives, like gift cards. If you’re using a remote testing platform like UsabilityHub, you can use a participant panel to make recruiting participants easier.

  4. Conduct the test: When conducting the test, make sure that you give your participants clear instructions and explain the goals of the test. Ensure consistency in terms of the task and order, even for unmoderated remote tests.

  5. Analyze and report findings: After receiving the results of your website usability tests, note common issues and areas for improvement. Organize and summarize your findings, and share your recommendations for improvements with the rest of the product team.

Usability testing is an ongoing process, so be sure to run tests again after making changes, and continuously monitor for new usability problems.

Website testing

Frequently asked questions about website testing

What is website testing?

Website testing is the process of verifying the functionality, performance, security, and compatibility of a website or web application. This helps you identify bugs and usability issues, avoid costly and complex errors, and ensure a positive user experience.

What are the types of website testing?

There are various types of website testing, including usability testing, functionality testing, performance testing, compatibility testing, security testing, and accessibility testing. By conducting website testing, you can ensure your website or web application is functioning properly and provides a positive experience for users.

What is website usability testing?

Website usability testing is the process of evaluating a website’s user-friendliness and ease of use. This type of testing is performed to ensure the website is intuitive, efficient, and easy for users to navigate. It involves observing and analyzing user behavior as they interact with the website and its various features and functionalities, with a goal of identifying areas for improvement.

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