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An overlooked yet vital part to building and maintaining successful websites is quality assurance or QA. Quality Assurance refers to systematically testing a new website or any modifications to current websites to ensure that the flow and functionality are working properly. The primary goal of testing is to make sure that the end user has a positive experience on our clients’ websites. The most sure-fire way to lose a customer is to have a website that is frustrating to navigate or that doesn’t work correctly.  In Peacock Production Studios effort to provide top-notch quality assurance, we spent approximately 17% of our time testing websites last year.

Our Process 

Peacock Production Studios has a specific workflow in place to make sure that quality assurance is a priority. Utilizing communication portals and repositories, we are able to effectively communicate each step of the way. The basic flow is for the developers to make their changes and push to a testing environment, called stage, which mirrors the production site. Once the changes are in stage, our QA department will perform thorough testing and provide instant feedback to the developers, if necessary. After testing in stage is complete and everything is working properly, these changes will be pushed to the production environment where the public is able to see and use the updated software. Once “live” in production, thorough testing needs to be done immediately to ensure the file deployment took hold and that there are no issues in the live version.

Definition of Quality Assurance

Now that you understand Peacock Production Studios quality assurance process flow, it’s time to look into exactly what goes into QA. Updates to websites can be as simple as changing a phone number or as complex as modifications to a complicated shipping calculator. While we can’t possibly cover everything that needs to be tested in this article, there are a few major items we will discuss. First, a testing checklist needs to be defined based on the technology being built. Our example will be the launching of a new ecommerce website. Our process involves having our QA department work closely with the development team at the very beginning of a new build. We want to catch any issues early during development; things that could potentially be carried throughout the site if not caught early and lead to longer delays down the road. Depending on the site, the order of testing may be different, but there are several common things to check. We will take a look at those now.

Functionality Testing 

Functionality testing for an ecommerce site involves checking all of the links on each page of the website to ensure they direct to the proper page, testing all submission forms on the site and to make sure that customers are able to add products to the cart and checkout. The most important component on an ecommerce website is the shopping cart. During this process, correct calculations of taxes, duties and surcharges needs to be tested. It is also very important to ensure that all product options, like color and quantity, are following the order throughout the checkout process. Finally, thorough testing needs to be done to ensure that any shipping carrier APIs are connected, working and bringing back correct results.

Usability Testing

Usability testing involves making sure that the navigation is easy and consistent for the user. Content needs to be proofread and the search feature returns relevant results. Usability testing is in essence making sure you provide a good experience for people coming to the website. In other words, is it user-friendly? In reference to an ecommerce site, it is vital that visitors to your “store” are comfortable moving about and can obtain pertinent information easily. The more comfortable they are, the more likely that they will make purchases on your site.

Cross Platform Testing

In an ideal world for web developers there would only be one universal browser and one operating system. Of course, this is not the case and compatibility testing is an extremely important part of quality assurance. It is vital for developers to write code that is cross browser compatible. Some applications are dependent on browser settings, especially if you are using AJAX, javascript and the latest version of CSS. Once new code has been pushed to stage for testing, our QA team will typically check these changes in the latest versions of Internet Explorer, Chrome, Firefox, Opera and Safari. We even check the previous version of Internet Explorer, since it is the most common browser. QA will also make sure the changes are working in the latest two versions of Microsoft Windows and Apple iOS.

Mobile Testing

As more and more people are making purchases using their smart phones, mobile testing is becoming a vital component of quality testing. As part of our QA process, we ensure that the functionality works and the layout looks good on mobile devices like the iPhone, Android and BlackBerry. Another important product to perform mobile testing on is tablets, like the iPad. With all of the various tablets on the market today, it is nearly impossible to test all of them, but it is necessary to check Apple and Android devices, at the minimum.

Security Testing

The final step in performing quality assurance is to make sure that the website is secure. This includes testing all contact forms and make sure that all validation and captcha is working properly. SQL injection is a popular security risk and building strong forms is crucial for any ecommerce site. Also important is to make sure that all security certificates are up to date and that the user is directed to a secure URL (https://) when providing personal information like address and payment method, particulary credit card information. Many end users, rightfully so, will not purchase products if the site doesn’t appear secure.  Although Peacock Production Studios always encrypts sensitive data, it is essential to security test for ecommerce compliance such as PCI or SET.

Conclusion

As you can see, quality assurance is an integral component of any successful website launch or upgrade release. Without thorough testing, end users can become frustrated, be given incorrect information or worse, not be able to purchase products at all. Peacock Production Studios values quality assurance and devotes the time and resources necessary to ensure that our client’s websites are performing at peak levels. While QA is not the most glamorous task that we perform, we understand its importance in building functional, easy to use websites. In order to have a successful ecommerce website, customers must feel comfortable navigating the site and trust that their information will remain secure. We hope this article has stressed the importance of thorough quality assurance in relation to building your customer base. If you have any questions or comments, please do not hesitate to contact us.

PPS QR Code

QR Code

I recently posted a QR code on my Twitter account and I had many people ask me why I linked to a picture of a barcode. Although popular in many countries, marketing by QR code has not yet caught on in the US. I am of the opinion that it soon will and when it does, it will become one of the most effective marketing tools in the digital world.  QR codes are non-intrusive to consumers; easy and cost-effective for marketers to produce; and they allow companies to effectively target market and drive consumers directly to their message.  Chances are, you have already run across a QR code and didn’t even realize it. This article is meant to introduce you to QR codes and how they can be utilized.

QR codes are similar to what you may have seen stockers using in grocery stores. They contain information that can be easily scanned. Unlike grocery barcodes, QR codes are 2 dimensional and are able to hold a lot more data. Creating your own QR code is simple. There are many free sites that will auto generate a QR code based on the content that you supply. For example, to create the QR code shown above, I simply went to a website offering this service and put in our website URL and immediately there was a .jpeg of the code.  In order to read a QR code, all you need is a Smartphone with a camera. Some mobile operating systems, like Nokia’s Symbian and Google’s Android, have a QR code reader preinstalled on your phone. If you own an iPhone you will need to download an application, many of which are free. Once you have a reader installed, all you need to do is aim your Smartphone’s camera at the code and the “hidden” message will be revealed, directing you to whatever content the marketer wanted you to see. Hopefully, you now have a basic understanding of what QR codes are and how to read them. Next, we illustrate a few ways that QR codes can be used in your marketing campaigns.

The uses of QR codes as a marketing tool are limited only by your imagination. I recently ordered a Papa John’s pizza and there was a QR code on the box. Curious, I scanned the code and was taken to a video of Papa John himself discussing the quality of the ingredients in his pizza. Another company utilizing QR codes is Best Buy. On their products price tags is a QR code that when scanned will take you to a page with more detailed information about that product, including reviews, comparisons to similar products and specifications. One of our clients just used a QR code in their catalog to direct their customers to a specific product page on their ecommerce website.  Customers who were savvy enough to read the scan were offered 20% off of their purchase. These are just 3 real life examples. As I mentioned, the applications for QR codes are limitless. Listed below are just a few of the possible uses:

Business Cards – recipient scans the code to import your contact info directly into Contacts

T-shirts – wear a code on your shirt to promote your website, storefront, whatever

Campaign Signs – people can scan to volunteer, donate or see candidate speak on issues

Real Estate Signs – instead of tear offs, direct to listing on website or a virtual tour of house

Product Packaging – link to video with assembly instructions

Hopefully by now your mind is wandering with all of the great things you can do with a QR code. They are an inexpensive way to effectively market and they can also reduce costs substantially. For example, if you are a retailer and have a QR code which links to a video with assembly instructions, you can reduce the number of calls into Customer Service and the number of returns. Large corporations, like Ford, Best Buy and Verizon, are implementing QR codes into their marketing mix. Many of the ads in Times Square are also utilizing QR codes to direct people to sites containing more information on their products or as a call to action, signing a petition for example. Data shows that that there is heavy Smartphone use during the shopping process. It is estimated that 79% of Smartphone owners use their phone to help with their shopping and 70% use their phones while in a store.  These numbers are only going to continue to increase. If you are a small business owner I strongly encourage you to experiment with using QR codes. They truly will be impactful to the future of marketing. If you happen to have a Smartphone with a reader installed, click on our QR code above. If you have any questions or comments, please let us know.

 

SECURITY UPDATE: http://mashable.com/2011/10/20/qr-code-security-threat/#comments

 

 

E-mail: info@peacockproductionstudios.com

Website: http://peacockproductionstudios.com

Twitter: @peacockstudios

Facebook: Peacock Production Studios

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Peacock Production Studios is proud to announce the launch of our new website and updated Facebook pages.

Please visit our site and provide any feedback you may have – both good or bad. http://www.peacockproductionstudios.com/

We updated or Facebook page with a lot of new portfolio pictures. Please visit our page and “like” us. We promise not to add too much noise to your timeline. https://www.facebook.com/PeacockProductionStudios

Thank you for your support!

PPS Team

 

 

Peacock Production Studios is a business based in Florida that develops web-based & mobile technologies. We are constantly faced with clients expecting us to compete with overseas prices.  The internet has definitely made the statement “It’s A Small World” much more true.  Big corporations have paved the way, and now even small businesses are looking to take advantage of outsourcing, especially when it comes to technology.  Although Peacock Production Studios has an in-house staff, even we have utilized resources from other countries, so we thought we would take some time to outline some of the considerations that should be pondered if you are looking to outsource overseas.

Project Management is the Difference
One thing that clients quickly learn when they stop using their local web development firm and begin using overseas resources is that project management becomes more of a full-time job.  From our experience, clients are not usually sure what they want until they see something then they have feedback on how to change it. Only about 5% of the clients we have built technologies for actually have a detailed scope of work prepared before getting quotes.  We work closely with our clients, interviewing them and establishing an outline of the actual work required before offering pricing.  So from the very beginning of the process, we typically take on the role of project management.  We enter the work into our workflow and manage what tasks need to be completed by what groups and by what date.  The majority of the time, we serve as the architect using our knowledge of customer experience, technology restrictions and client requests to manage the process and the outcome.

When a client decides to deal with overseas resources they are required to be the architect of the technology as well as the project manager. The definition of the work must be specifically outlined and detailed tasks established to keep forward momentum.  Clients that do not have a full-time project manager and little to no project management experience themselves become extremely busy managing the construction of their technology.

Disputes and Litigation
Have you ever had to deal with a court case involving you and a contractor, or any court case at all for that matter?  Then you know how draining and expensive it can be. Now imagine that the entity you are in dispute with is in a completely different country. Luckily, there haven’t been legal or intellectual property issues with the groups we have used, but we’ve heard some horror stories. If you choose to outsource either overseas or domestically, make sure your software contracts and non-disclosure agreements are in order. For more information on this topic, please read our article on software agreements.

Project Oriented Work vs. Billable Hours
It is common in the technology development industry for projects to be separated into one of these two payment methods.   Our firm actually services our client base in both ways depending on their needs.  As an American outsourcing company, we serve as the technology department for other small to medium-sized businesses as well as building technology on a project basis.  If your technology needs are substantial enough to pay for a full-time developer, then outsourcing in general is probably a good idea, even if you go overseas.  Most overseas developers are contracted on a monthly basis, 40 hours a week, at a reduced hourly rate.  Finding development groups that do work on a project basis may be more of a challenge.  Also keep in mind that once a technology is constructed, even if it is just a brochure based website, there will always be some kind of maintenance required if you want it to evolve or stay fresh.

Morality of Outsourcing
The topic of outsourcing is one of extreme opinion.  Many are focused on the loss of jobs for American workers, while other are concentrated on competing in today’s marketplace.  While economic isolation is rapidly becoming a thing of the past, some companies are forced to reduce overhead costs to compete in a global market. Business decisions are typically made with the bottom line in mind. The reduction in costs such as payroll taxes and salaries, as well as the ability to offer a wider variety of services, makes outsourcing very appealing to many companies.  So where does the moral compass come into play?  If you were a company that produced waste and you could dump it in an unauthorized land fill to save your company some overhead, would you?  Let’s hope not.  Is sending your jobs to other countries the same?  Well that all depends on your own morality. Some would say both maneuvers are ruining America. Some would argue that we live in a global economy and international lines should become more blurred.  The fact of the matter is that the business owner(s) need to make the outsourcing decision based on what they feel is right for their company based on their own set of moral boundaries.

Alternatives
Outsourcing does not have to be a negative word.  Whether you sell a tangible product or a service, you probably need some type of technology to market or manage your business. This need for technology means you need to have an individual or organization that can guide you through the waters, produce custom applications and support you from a technical aspect.  Whether you simply need a webmaster to create and maintain your website, or you need full application development, chances are you will quickly realize that hiring someone to work at your location is going to substantially impact your budget.  Your alternative to purchasing all of the hardware, software and furniture for this employee and paying salary and taxes to have this person in-house is to find a technology company to outsource to.  By outsourcing your technology department, you can potentially have several team members focusing on your needs vs. one, increasing the skill sets available to you while reducing overhead significantly.  I recommend that you find a local development group – local meaning within driving distance.  This team will be an extension of your own organization so get to know your outsource team and build a relationship with them in the same manner as you would if they were in-house employees.

Outsourcing Considerations
When choosing a team, keep in mind that you are hiring a department for your company.  The group needs to be trustworthy as they will be in control of sensitive data.  They should have long-standing relationships with their current client base.  They should have good communication, workflow and support infrastructure.  Since you will most likely be communicating with this team remotely, they should have video conferencing capabilities.  Make sure that a project manager will be assigned as a liaison, and that your communication is not directly with a developer.  Evaluate your service level agreement and software contract to avoid any confidentiality or intellectual property issues.

Conclusion
Outsourcing is actually a good idea in many cases, but it does not mean that it has to be overseas. Do your research when looking for the right team, and consider this group as an extension of your own staff. If you have any questions regarding the choice of outsourcing, please contact Peacock Production Studios.

E-mail: info@peacockproductionstudios.com

Website: http://peacockproductionstudios.com

Twitter: @peacockstudios

Facebook: Peacock Production Studios

While we have been touting the growth of social media and offering advice on social media strategies, we would like you to understand that there are some pitfalls to using social media that you need to be prepared for. While some pitfalls are unavoidable there are certain steps you can take to ensure your campaign runs as smoothly as possible. This article will highlight a couple of the more common issues with using social media – hiring practices and negative feedback – and steps your business can take to avoid, or at least minimize, the damage.

Hiring Practices Using Social Media

I’m sure that many of us have friends (not us of course!) who post their latest party pictures or talk about how much they hate their job, boss or co-workers on Facebook or Twitter. While many of us like to use social media in our personal lives to show how much fun we had or to vent, there can be some serious implications by posting these “too personal” comments. To illustrate this, a person who was a prospective Cisco employee tweeted the following: Cisco just offered me a job! Now I have to weigh the utility of a fatty paycheck against the daily commute to San Jose and hating the work.” Unfortunately for her, an employee at Cisco saw her tweet and her offer sheet was immediately rescinded.

You may be wondering how this affects your business. Well, put yourself in Cisco’s shoes and ask yourself if this tweet was reason enough for termination. In this instance, you can easily justify their decision, but not all cases are as cut and dry. A recent study indicated that 75% of businesses now use the internet, particularly social media, to screen potential job applicants. Using social networks as an employee research tool is commonplace today, offering HR professionals instant access to all sorts of information about job candidates (and current staff).  As this practice continues to grow, some built-in challenges and previously unseen complications are coming to light. One of those challenges is making sure the search for a good employee doesn’t step on the toes of government bodies such as the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs. For example, LinkedIn’s membership consists of only 5% of African Americans and only 2% of Latinos. This compares to a general US population of 12.8% African American and 15.4% Latino. As you can see, if a company used only LinkedIn as their hiring source, they may be violating EOC laws by not opening up their job search to a fair representation of minorities.

Some experts argue that those who source job seekers from network sites such as LinkedIn and Facebook might expect to face lawsuits over race, age, gender, disability or even sexual preference in the near future. This type of information is frequently evident on social network sites. While rejecting a candidate for personal characteristics that might point toward poor judgment or an unsafe job environment makes sense, there’s usually no way to show that any of the information uncovered will be relevant to the job being offered.

So how does one go about using social media as an employment tool without breaking any laws or interfering with anyone’s civil rights? There are a few steps that you should take to ensure that you’re hiring techniques are not looked upon as being discriminatory.

  • Avoid using social media as the sole means for advertising jobs. Make sure that you also post in more traditional ways – i.e. newspaper, in-house postings.
  • Maintain comprehensive records in case you are ever audited on your hiring practices.
  • Dismiss any information you find on social media sites about prospective employees that isn’t relevant to the job.

Following these guidelines will ensure that your company is using proper hiring techniques and will mitigate any potential lawsuits that may come your way. Now that we’ve discussed ways to avoid pitfalls when using social media as a hiring tool, let’s take a look at a common issue that is unavoidable and look at ways to minimize any damage. I’m talking about negative reviews or feedback on your sites.

Negative Feedback

One of the best things about using social media as a marketing tool for your business is the instantaneous exchange of information between you and your customers. Social media can be a great tool to promote your product, offer discounts exclusively to your followers and provide quick customer service when customers have questions. However, this open dialogue can create some problems as well. Most notably, negative feedback posted by angry customers (or even just spammers) that can be viewed by everyone that visits your site or follows you. Obviously, this can have a negative impact on your brand. Let’s take a look at a recent social media meltdown concerning Nestlé.

Nestlé is one of the biggest chocolate companies in the world. I’m sure your familiar with many of their products, including 100 Grand Bar, Kit Kat, Nestlé Crunch and Rolo, to name a few. Nestlé’s issues began when Greenpeace questioned their purchasing of palm oil and accused Nestlé of supporting deforestation. Greenpeace posted a video likening eating a Kit Kat to killing an Orangutan. The video soon became viral and thousands of people started posting negative comments on Nestlé’s Facebook page. Faced with increasing numbers of angry feedback, Nestlé decided to remove these negative comments instead of respond to them. Nestlé continued to remove negative comments for several weeks until they posted a statement that they intended to use only sustainable palm oil by 2015. This wasn’t good enough for many people and the negative comments continued to flood in. Finally, several weeks later, Nestlé began posting pro-environmental messages and initiatives, but the public relations damage had already been done.

The Nestlé example is only one of many companies that have been hurt by negative feedback. Others include Southwest Airlines, Domino’s and of course, BP. What should a business do to avoid this public relations nightmare? Most experts agree that while it may seem counter-intuitive, businesses should leave negative comments for all to see and quickly address these posts. Of course, if standard rules of decency are being broken (profanity, slander), then you should remove those comments, but leave all others. The most important thing a business can do is to respond timely in a sincere, transparent matter. By avoiding or removing negative comments, you run the risk of alienating your customers and providing more fodder for upset customers. Your customers must feel that you are sincere in your response and believe that you are doing your best to correct the perceived issue. For example, let’s say a customer of yours posts that their product was damaged during shipping. Instead of ignoring this comment, you should quickly respond to them and offer to pay for the return of the damaged product and that you will immediately send them out a new one. You’ll be surprised how much goodwill you will create and other visitors will appreciate your prompt response and customer service. By responding in a timely and sincere manner, you can usually turn a negative into a positive. Of course, not everyone will be happy, that’s human nature after all, but taking these steps should help you avoid a social media nightmare.

Conclusion

There are many things to take into consideration when using social media as a marketing arena for your company. As we’ve shown in previous articles, there are many good things that social media can do for you. However, as with all marketing campaigns, there are issues that can arise. The good news is that it is in your power to avoid these issues, or at the very least minimize them.

If you have any questions or would like any assistance with your social media campaign, please contact Peacock Production Studios.

E-mail: info@peacockproductionstudios.com

Website: http://peacockproductionstudios.com

Twitter: @peacockstudios

Facebook: Peacock Production Studios

We hope our recent posts have illustrated importance of using social media to help promote your business. The following article details 5 case studies on how to use Twitter in your social media campaign. If you are thinking of using Twitter for your business, I highly recommend that you read this article.

http://www.jeffbullas.com/2010/01/20/how-to-use-twitter-for-business-5-more-incredibly-interesting-case-studies/

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