Though test automation has been a saving grace for when checking previously written code coverage, we know that there is no substitute for manual testing. Whether you follow the traditional waterfall method or are practicing agile development with your team, exploratory testing plays a critical role.
Anyone who owns or manages an e-commerce website especially knows this to be true. What’s the use of automating a script you derived out of thin air? Instead, exploratory testing with real, human testers provides insight into functionality, performance, and usability of the application.
In order to better understand some of the most important areas to cover when conducting exploratory tests on an e-commerce site, we put together a few steps to consider when live testing.
- What happens when someone tries to log in? Is the user directed to the correct page after they logged in and does it load properly? What happens if they put in the wrong information — do they have to re-enter email and password every time or does it stay in the field? What do any error messages say and is it easy to retrieve a forgotten password or use existing login data? Whether your web application prompts a login as soon as someone lands on the home page or just in order to log into their account at payment, you want this to be a seamless experience because if someone has trouble logging in, there’s a good chance they won’t end up purchasing.
- How user-friendly are the form fields? If your website is good enough that a customer can easily make it to check out, you don’t want to trip them up on the last few steps of their purchase as the fill out form fields like name, address, and payment information. Unfortunately, however, this is still something many websites have yet to master. Are you asking too much information or not enough? How long does it take to get one from their shopping cart to a finished checkout? Make sure that promotion boxes and purchase total calculations function correctly. Additionally, you’ll want to make sure that all payment processing works, so that customers who are trying to use PayPal won’t encounter an issue that someone charging to their credit card wouldn’t get.
- What’s the experience like on mobile? Speaking of form fields, they can pretty much make or break the mobile user experience. You want to make sure that each field takes up most of the screen when a user goes to fill it in, or someone going through checkout might become frustrated at how hard it is to see and type their information to make the purchase. You’ll generally want to make sure the website design is responsive, which may mean implementing different types of features and designs for users that do not access the site on a desktop in order to make it easier to use and look at. Consider all the ways that the buying process differs with a touch screen and a scaled down keyboard. Of course, it’s best to test for mobile on a few real devices to truly understand how these different functions come into play.
- How long do different pages take to load? First of all, you want your homepage to load quickly because this is where new and returning traffic will start, and you want to make a good first impression. However, you also have to consider other areas of your application that don’t get the same level of traffic but are equally as important. Does the last product page load as fast as the first or second one? Do some categories perform better than other? What happens in the shopping cart — is the site laggy when it tries to process a user’s input information? Basically, where does the site trip up that could affect the buyer’s journey and deter them from fulfilling their purchase? Don’t forget about load and performance testing.
- What happens when you abandon the site and come back? How much progress does the page save and for how long? What about if the page is reloaded? Will someone be logged out or have their cart emptied if they leave for a few minutes? You have to consider the fact that not every user will have the same consistent experience with your application from beginning to end. They might view a product on multiple devices or keep the tab open while they check your competition, and you would hate to lose them when they come back to buy because you haven’t made it easy enough to pick up where they left off.
- What could be better from a usability perspective? You know what they say — if it’s not broken, don’t fix it. Except, this isn’t necessarily true when you’re talking about developing and testing a web application. Just because you don’t find a bug in your exploratory tests, doesn’t mean there’s no feedback to give the developers. Consider not just how to fix the application, but what would make it more intuitive for your users. Could the navigation be in a better place or the contact information easier to find? Are there design components that could be more appealing and is the site accessible to a broad range of users? Is there a to make searching for specific products easier such as different a filter? Usability testing will assure your website remains a popular destination.
- How functional are different elements? It takes a testers eye to look beyond just the surface of the website to assess whether it really works the way it’s supposed to. Test search algorithms and results. Experiment with different filter combinations. Check calculations and confirm results. Any time a user has to input information or interact with the website, you should be testing whether or not that the application is responding correctly.
- What happens after a customer has completed their purchase? You’ve made it through and impressed (or avoided-annoying) a customer long enough. But you also want to make sure their experience is excellent from beginning to end so that they come back next time. Make sure that the page redirects to something thoughtful so that the customer understands their order is being processed. Give them options to review and cancel their order, contact customer support, and access tracking information. Each of these components needs to be tested to make sure that data is accurate and the functions work.