4 Steps to Make Software Products Successful
Got a big idea for a software product? One that fills a huge gap in the market? One that’s guaranteed to make a splash? Congratulations! That’s great. But, unfortunately, that one-in-a-million idea isn’t as foolproof as you might think. And, conversely, some of those more obvious, been-there-done-that ideas you disregarded could also be wildly successful. Either way, it’s all in the execution.
Done right, your new software could certainly be as wildly successful as it is wildly innovative. But even the most exciting ideas can be spoiled by poor execution.
That’s why the savviest thinkers know that, in order to bring their big ideas to life successfully, they must hire a qualified team to handle the execution. This team will obviously include expert software developers and engineers, but one critical component that is often overlooked is quality assurance. The quality assurance team works in parallel with the developers to double check every step of the process, ensuring everything is going according to plan.
QA cannot tell how good your idea is, but it can certainly tell if the software you’re building is reliable, functional, and easy to use — and, of course, whether it does what you want it to. A custom software product can be successful on the market only if it meets all of those criteria. Otherwise, it will more than likely fail.
In short, quality assurance is the key to turning your great idea into a great product. But how does that work, exactly?
4 Ways Quality Assurance Can Save Software Products
1. Prevent Bugs through Requirements Validation
Imagine you are building a house: you’ve had blueprints made, you’ve hired a contractor to oversee construction, and you’re counting down the days to move-in. But how confident are you that the blueprints are sound? You may have developed the concept for your new house, but you certainly aren’t a construction expert, and you aren’t likely to notice minor errors or shortcomings in the plans — until they turn into major structural issues in your home, that is.
But by investing in quality assurance — structural engineers to approve the plans and inspectors to monitor progress at critical points — you can be confident that your architecture plans are blueprints for success.
The same concept is true in software development, where poor design or functional requirements can lead to costly, time-consuming issues once development has started.
However, bringing in a QA team to apply requirements validation will enable you to identify and correct mistakes or gaps in the system architecture, design or functional requirements when they’re still easy to fix — before you begin to build. Like the structural engineer or the inspector on your home, a dedicated QA team uses proven techniques and extensive experience with similar technologies and applications to ensure your plans and requirements truly do meet the needs of your software.
This upfront investment, which can fix critical defects even before they appear, will save you time and money in the long run.
2. Check Development’s Work through Functionality Testing
Once you have the requirements correct and ready to go — once your blueprint is complete — it’s time to start development. In ideal world, developers create bug-free code that allows the system to work just like you’d imagined it. However, reality is slightly different, and even the most qualified developers make mistakes. So do the world’s most qualified home builders. They are human, after all.
And, just like in home building, issues in software may be so frustrating for the end users that they leave your app in search of a product that is more reliable or easier to use. In a crowded marketplace, users always have a choice, and they’ll always choose the product that works better — the product they can trust.
That’s why it’s critical to validate the software developers’ work every step of the way — from the very beginning of the project and in parallel with ongoing build progress, consistently ensuring the code is built correctly and functions properly.
It may be tempting to try to save time or money by simply having a QA expert come in once the application is complete, but if you wait until the development is done to start testing, you run a significant risk of finding something wrong early in the code — in the first line, even — that means large pieces of the application may need to be unraveled and redeveloped to function correctly. So the earlier you start validating the engineers’ work, the better.
Experienced QA teams know what small but important details are usually missed, where functionalities are likely to fail, and how to determine whether everything is working as it should, and your QA experts will mitigate these risks before they drive users away, applying proven testing techniques to ensure security and functionality for end users.
3. Prepare for Launch through Performance Testing
How often do you wait for a webpage to load for more than a couple seconds before you get frustrated, refreshing the browser or moving on? Users expect webpages and the software applications behind them to load fast, and they don’t care if there are hundreds of other people on the site submitting transactions. High performance is nonnegotiable. So once you work with QA to ensure everything in the app behaves correctly, don’t forget to ensure it keeps behaving correctly under higher loads.
Identify how many users and transactions you are expecting to see at any given time, and then work with your QA team to conduct performance tests and determine the right load management approach.
We know real-life performance will almost always uncover some yet-unimagined issues in production — from unresponsive databases to jammed payments to a site failure on Black Friday. But full, proper testing before launch will minimize these issues and protect most users from negative experiences.
4. Take good care of your app in production
Just because the software is live, that doesn’t mean the job is over. Your new software is like a child taking its first steps — it’s doing great on its own, but it’s going to need your help eventually, and it may not be able to warn you in advance. So it’s critical to work with the QA team to track and analyze performance data in order to flag and rectify stumbles before they become meltdowns.
These analytics will provide extremely useful information on how your product (and its users) are doing. It can track users’ regions, activity, and workflows — including details like which pages users most likely leave the app from. Combining this kind of usage data with usability and user experience regularities, QA experts can propose changes in the workflow, functionality, or design that dramatically improve the app’s usage.
Silicon Valley fans will remember the season three episode when the Pied Piper team discovers that, though the app has been downloaded more than 500,000 times, the number of “daily active users” is abysmal. That’s the kind of meltdown that could be prevented — first with better testing and then with proactive usage tracking.
In our own, non-televised experience, we watched a product get positive feedback from free users but neglecting to purchase a subscription when the trial period was over. Analyzing the usage data, we learned that many users did start to buy a subscription, and most changed their minds around the same stage. From this knowledge, we could infer that users were reluctant to provide all the information the app was asking for in order to purchase a subscription. When we modified the page to minimize the amount of personal data users had to share, the conversion from free to paid usage increased immediately.
We know a brilliant software idea is hard to come by, but it’s even harder to execute successfully. It can be all too easy to get carried away with your brainstorm, racing through development and into launch. But in these cases, to borrow a saying from our grandmothers, “haste makes waste.” In order to ensure sloppy execution doesn’t ruin an incredible idea, you need to team up with a dedicated, expert quality assurance team to monitor and examine progress from Day Zero all the way through post-production. This is the only way to make sure you’re building and delivering a quality product your customers will enjoy — and continue using. The idea is just the start. Quality assurance ensures the product you’ve dreamed up has a chance to succeed the way you want it to.