There’s always something professional about doing a thing superlatively well.
Colonel Pickering, in George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion
What is a good website? For us web professionals, this is a most important question. Building good websites is part of our professional ethics, stemming from a code of honor that asserts that we can be professionals only if our work is good.
But how do we know that our work—that our websites—are good? Many criteria and examinations come to mind, but there is actually an entire field dedicated to informing us: quality management.
Quality management, which can be broken down into quality planning, quality control, quality assurance, and quality improvement, comes with a host of methods to not just identify (control) and fix (improvement) defects, but to avoid them systematically (planning, assurance).
This little book, which is the third in a series of books that cover important components of modern web development (after web frameworks and coding standards), focuses mostly on the quality control piece, for if we can’t “see” what’s wrong, we won’t fix or plan to avoid what’s wrong. Still, it’s going to share advice on how to tie quality to our processes, for it is more useful to learn how to fish than to hope to be fed every day. The book will do all of this in a loose and relaxed manner, however, and not to the extent ISO standards would cover quality.
Finally, and although this should matter only in few instances, the book hinges more on websites rather than web apps. That distinction is usually relevant when it comes to standards and development best practices, but there are some differences in how one should go about quality checking of sites as opposed to apps. What follows will work slightly better and allow for more complete quality control of websites.
This is a little book, then, because it’s short. Let’s leave the intro behind.
What Is Quality Control?
Wikipedia defines quality control (often, but rarely in this book, abbreviated as “QC”) as “a process by which entities review the quality of all factors involved in production.” ISO 9000, also through Wikipedia, is said to define quality control as “a part of quality management focused on fulfilling quality requirements.” Google, without offering attribution, understands quality control to be “a system of maintaining standards in manufactured products by testing a sample of the output against the specification.”
We want to use a definition that is stricter on the one end and more lenient on the other: “Website quality control entails the means to determine (a) whether they meet our expectations and (b) to what degree our websites meet professional best practices.”
“Means,” then, will refer largely to infrastructure—that is, tools. Also, as stated a moment ago, we’ll look at some processes and methods useful to improve, not just measure, the quality of our work.
Why Is Quality Control Important?
Quality control is—for that decisive reason—important, because without it we have no robust way of determining whether what we do and produce is any good.
Quality control, therefore, is a key differentiator between professional and amateur work. Consistent quality is the mark of the professional.
Quality control, finally, saves time and money and sometimes nerves, particularly in the long run.
But what are our options to control the quality of our websites? We’ll look at that now in more detail.