What Your Design Process is (Probably) Missing: Design QA

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Can you tell which animation is better?

GIF from Angela Delise

If you aren’t a designer then I hope that animation gives you a taste of the attention to detail and subtlety required for Design. If you are a designer, the answer is it depends what kind of look and feel the user’s need and the client wants.

While glitchy button animations are something to look out for, some UI bugs can be critical to a well-functioning app. To make sure our product is top-notch, TTT adopted Design QA as a dedicated step in our design process.

The theme of 2020 for TTT is to get even better at what we’re already good at. One of the ways that we ensure that we consistently deliver an optimal and beautiful user experience is with Design QA.

What is Design QA? 

Have you ever typed up an important email then stared at the send button — hesitating and worried that you included a typo or forgot to attach the right document? Now imagine that same  pressure before showing the first demo to a client after weeks or months of hard work.

If your app is perfectly functional but even one small graphic element is off, it could undermine the overall quality of your design. Design QA is the final check before your client sees your product in action for the first time – not to be confused with what QA Engineering does. 

Engineering QA vs Design QA

Engineering QA has a functional role while Design QA involves a more detailed review of the subtle features of an interface and at TTT is done by the lead designer on a project.

During the QA process, the design lead looks at details as small as typography, microinteractions, colour, animations, spacing and alignment on the level of individual pixels. They then zoom out to evaluate the overall consistency of an interface. They make sure branding guidelines are adhered to and ask, “how does the model appear?” on every scale, everywhere in the app. 

The more closely the project management, engineering and design teams work, the better. That’s why we use a tool called Jira as a ticketing system between the developers and the designers to systematize and streamline the QA process. This way, you save precious time.

The benefits of Design QA

Near the end of a project timeline, a holistic evaluation of the software could be the difference between a good and great user experience. Several reasons you should incorporate Design QA into your processes include the following.

1. Consistency

To make sure a design consistently matches the specifications, you need to be thorough in your design process. It’s important you have a chance to go over an interface again before your client sees it. 

Design QA ensures that what’s being implemented is exactly like how it was designed in the specs. By incorporating Design QA as a dedicated step, it allows for a smooth, consistent experience for users across all touchpoints of the product.

2. Team morale

Redoing work is frustrating for designers and developers. Design QA ensures that all the effort put in from Discovery to UX to UI implementation is integrated into a cohesive whole. This way, simple errors can be caught and fixed before rolling out the application.

3. Product ownership

Design QA promotes ownership of the product since designers are more involved in reviewing it. However, once the design is handed over to the developers, work is far from done. The lead designer must work closely with developers all the way to the finish line. 

4. Communication between designers and developers

At TTT, we communicate with developers using Jira. It allows us to flag, document and share discrepancies between the product demo and what is needed. If a project is big, I would recommend that the lead designer sends issue tickets feature by feature so the developers can work in parallel with Design QA – saving time. 

It’s also important to remember that project managers should be involved with the timing of the Design QA stage. Since PMs are in charge of the project timeline, you want to make sure there’s enough time to do thorough Design QA. 

5. Resolve Design Debt

Design Debt is when the complexity of a project increases over time leading to an increase in the complexity of fixing issues. It might show up as extra time being required to resolve issues late in the project timeline. Simply put, the bigger the project, the bigger the bugs. Addressing the accumulation of complex issues in a specific step becomes more important as you take on larger projects.

Closing remarks

Before Design QA became a step in our project workflow, the lead designer was still doing it, but it wasn’t official. We would Slack developers or speak to them at their desk to address issues as they came up. 

Now we use Jira to better communicate with the development team and systematically carry out quality assurance. By incorporating Design QA into our Design process as a deliberate step, QA gets the focus needed to maximize the benefits. This way, we consistently deliver apps with beautiful user experiences and the TTT Design team is accomplishing the goals of getting even better at what we’re already good at.

Also, get caught up on everything Design by exploring the design section of our blog!