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We are all prone to mistakes now and again, but trying to understand what those mistakes are and how you can improve upon them is the key to producing awesome content. Sun Tzu explained in the Art of War that if you know your enemies and know yourself, you can win a hundred battles without a single loss. While we are not necessarily at war here, I’ve started to notice some common enemies to a perfect quality assurance process. Here are five enemies that prevent you from the perfect QA process:
Normally, I would not pick on a particular type of error for a list such as this, but this one stands out in my book as Public Enemy #1. Copy/paste is a fantastic tool for writers and developers to save time by using content they have already created to help new content get developed faster. It is also one of the biggest perpetrators of errors in your content. This is especially true if your project is following a newly-made template to create a batch of content. Unless your quality assurance process starts early, you could spend a lot of extra time hunting down these errors.
#2 Ignore the Past
As an editor, I’ve come to appreciate knowing ahead of time whose work I’m editing. I’ve learned that people often tend towards the same habits—and, ultimately, the same mistakes—in their writing. This is usually a two-edged sword. On the one side, it makes it very easy to catch errors because you know how they are most likely to make them. On the other side, it can also mean that the individual making those errors is not correcting them. It is good to know when someone is prone to an error, but it’s bad to let them continue making that error without any kind of remediation. Use previous quality assurance passes to help improve your team members and reduce the amount of time spent on QA in the future!
#3 Only Testing for “Normal”
How many times in your life have you seen a tool used for something other than what the manufacturer intended? You, too, may be shocked that anyone would ever use your content in a way other than what you intended, but that’s not likely to stop it from actually happening. In some ways, this is actually a good thing, as your end user has turned your creation from a paltry uni-tasker into a glorious multi-tasker!
But what does this mean for your quality assurance process? As any good QA person will tell you, the goal is to not only test for the most-probable scenario, but to also try and test against every scenario. This helps your content shine in every possible moment.
#4 Poor Reporting
Detail is crucial to your content creators when you report issues or corrections. There’s nothing worse than losing the precious time you have by bouncing emails back and forth trying to clarify a particular problem in some circumstance. Simon Tatham wrote in his excellent article How to Report Bugs Effectively, “If the programmer cannot tell what you meant, you might as well have said nothing.” The same goes for any content writing as well. Simply saying, “it does not work” to a programmer is just as bad as saying,“it does not make sense” to a content writer. This also says nothing of the fact that the longer you go without accurately pinpointing an issue, the more likely you are to forget what exactly went wrong, the steps to repeat the issue, or even what made a particular piece of content confusing.
Time is the one enemy that you often have very little control over. Ideally, everyone would always have the time to work on a project and give even the smallest details every bit of their attention. Sometimes, deadlines do not allow you that level of attention, and you have to try to do your very best work with an insufficient amount of time. So, what can you do to prepare yourself for a tight deadline? Plan to implement your quality assurance process from the very beginning. QA can save you time by catching errors early on in the development, say, through incorrect templates or copy/paste problems. QA can also get in on the early drafts of your project and help you to create a more high-quality results by pointing out how the content could be made clearer or more accessible to the end user. Whatever happens, don’t save your QA process until the very end when there may not be enough time to utilize it to its fullest potential.