Quality Assurance Matters. Seriously.


Social media in the Capital District erupted into frenzy recently when a local school published its yearbook with placeholder copy where student names should have been. But not just any placeholder copy. Funny placeholder copy. Except it obviously wasn’t that funny to the students. Or their parents. Or the administration.

Let’s explain.

The misprints occurred on pages of group shots. One picture included the caption “creepy smile guy”. Another: “tall guy”. A picture of a sports team had, instead of the bottom row of names, listed “Entire bottom row – not a clue”.

What happened is obvious to anyone who has ever worked in production. Yearbook staffers (high school students, mind you) didn’t know the names of some of their peers while putting together the yearbook. So, while caught up in deadlines, they wrote placeholder text to make themselves giggle and keep the process going. The students weren’t (most likely) trying to be mean. They were busy and stressed and trying to get the yearbook out.

Unfortunately, there wasn’t proper review before the yearbook went to print. And their “funny” placeholder text made it into the finished product.

Obviously, chaos ensued. Students and parents were upset, and two news stations picked up and published the story of what had happened, helping the story reach There were lots of comments in social media demanding the school discipline these kids for “bullying” and, perhaps, expel them.

“Kids These Days” was something that somebody actually said.

OK. So I kinda have a confession to make. I’m building the new site. And on this site, we have a place profiling our staff. And on these pages, I may have done the exact. same. thing.

See, I know everybody’s names, but exact titles and biographies – they hadn’t been provided yet. So I made them up, awaiting finalized copy before putting the site into wide review.

I have, for Mike MacDuff, our amazing video producer, “gave me pizza today” because I wrote that on the day he shared some pizza with me. He’s nice. For Lawrence Basso, head of our motion department, “Chief Badass”. Even Lisa Barone is listed as “Vice President of Blogging”.

Nick Hansen? His title is “Everything”. That’s probably going to stay.

I wasn’t bullying. I wasn’t trying to be cute. But I’m a producer. I’m a maker. I create things. I’ve been coding this site, and stuck in that black and white world of the PHPs and JavaScripts for a while. I needed to laugh. And this was the way I did that. Nobody took offense.

I know. Not very professional. Sorry. When you’re coding, or moving images into place for print, or creating an amazing piece of motion, copy is – while important – just a visual element on a screen. It’s transient. It can be updated quickly and it’s inconsequential to the actual piece you’re making. As long as it matches the specifications for the copy, it’s just placeholder text.

Again, I know. We should all be using Lorem Ipsum. We should all eschew funny things for more serious, professional things. But the truth is if you’re in the middle of creating, a little brevity can make life more fun. Sometimes inserting something outlandish into a piece during production is also a method for someone to notice that something’s not right with this and send a flag up saying that we need copy for this piece.

But that brevity can’t get in the way of actually producing – and that’s what happened here, in the case of the high school yearbook gone awry. Because nobody did a thorough quality assurance (QA). Nobody checked the work. You always have to check the work. This is an important step. If I actually launched a website with Lisa listed as the Vice President of Blogging, I’d probably be the subject of much ridicule.

On Twitter.
By Lisa. [Truth. But it’s only because I love him. – Lisa]

This was a failure of the advisors in charge trusting production to source the copy and put it into place. And trusting there were no mistypes, no errors, nothing wrong. That’s a problem with their QA.

For work for our clients, I do use Lorem Ipsum text, and if launched with Lorem Ipsum in place, it’s a big deal (fortunately, we have amazing QA to prevent things like that). But it doesn’t hurt anyone’s feelings. It makes you look bad, but it doesn’t create an incredible controversy. This did.

And that is why you need to proof everything. Everything. QA processes are critical, whether it be for a website, a brochure, or a commercial. More testing, the better. The more eyes on something, the better. It prevents catastrophes from happening.

The QA process at Overit looks a little something like this:

Peer Review

Developers specifically need peer review. Not just of the code, but of the actual product itself. During the process of building, I sourced members of my team to check my work. They found things I wouldn’t have and we worked to correct them. For designers, a fresh eye is critical in making sure the work is not only sound, but follows a logical flow. People who understand the project are not the only people who should be looking at something. Pass it by fresh eyes, too. People who have the knowledge in the field to make something great, but didn’t actually work on it. They can often offer a fresh perspective.

Stakeholder Review

In our world of production, we have to rely on our clients to help us out in QA – to make sure their needs are being met. They will often look at it closer than we will because they were the ones who envisioned the project. Only they will be able to tell if all the objectives were completed to meet the goals.

Joe The Plumber Review

Not to borrow a phrase from Sarah Palin, but the concept of the ‘everyday guy’ looking over your work is key. Someone who has no background in anything production related. They should be able to look at your product and use/ consume it. Watch how they interact with it. Watch how they are using what you’re making. They can often pull out at a glance a typo, or tell you if the website you’re making is completely non-intuitive.

Final Review

After you’ve reviewed it and it’s signed off on, review it again. Yourself. and someone else. Go through with a fine-toothed comb. Don’t just look at the copy – read it. Out loud. I often fail this step. I insert copy into a website without really consuming it or understanding if it makes sense. You can’t do that. You have to actually read it and understand it. And then sign off on it.

I have a 10 year old daughter. If, in her yearbook, someone labeled her “Creepy smile girl”, believe me, she wouldn’t smile ever again. I understand the controversy here.

Moral of the story, quality assurance check everything. Don’t ever let something go out that hasn’t been looked over by a ton of people. No matter how thorough you think you are, you probably missed something. Somewhere.

And seriously – Nick Hanson? He does everything.