If you’re testing your website to make sure it works properly for visitors, you’re off to a good start. However, many companies overlook the importance of visual testing — i.e., evaluating layout, images, text, design, and other visual components. As the number of browsers, devices, operating systems and screen sizes explode, teams need to be more cognizant of current and emerging issues in responsive design. These bugs may be a mild inconvenience for users, or they could be what prevents them from completing their purchase.
Functional vs. Visual Testing
When we think of checking our websites for bugs, we often attribute it to the task of functional testing. Functional testing examines how the software actually works in relation to the given requirements.
For example, your e-commerce site probably has some sort of checkout process. Functional testing verifies that if you’re on a product page and click “Add to Cart,” you can then go to your shopping cart and find that item in the size, quantity, color, etc., that you chose.
While functional testing is clearly important for many reasons — most of all to ensure a shopper is able to complete each intended action through the user journey — some teams will make the mistake of doing the bulk of their web testing to check functional efficiency with little or no regard for visual validation.
Visual testing, on the other hand, requires you to consider how the application looks in addition to how it works. Often times a website may technically be working, while design elements that are visually defective go under the radar.
This becomes important as we think about responsive design and look at our website across different devices. If an application isn't built to be responsive, design elements may suffer on different screen sizes, devices or browsers, compromising the user experience.
What Happens Without Visual Validation
Though these visual bugs may just look unpleasant to site visitors, they can be more severe as well. When visual elements are misaligned or scaled incorrectly, it can make it difficult or impossible for visitors to take certain actions.
The Baymard Institute provides examples of what exactly could go wrong when you overlook visual testing on your e-commerce website and how it can affect users.
As you can see, the issues range from annoying to obtrusive. Because some site owners don’t always take the time to visually validate their site, they can encounter issues like overlapping text that's difficult to read, form fields that are impossible to fill out, sloppy-looking layouts, chaos with dynamic content, and navigational issues which create obstacles to performing simple actions.
When Looks Matter
In e-commerce, your website is the first impression your brand makes on consumers. However, sometimes we prioritize functionality over visual appeal, and consumers may feel compelled to flock to a competitor when they run into buggy design.
The good news is that visual bugs are easily avoidable; we just don’t always spend enough time thinking about them. By following best practices for building a responsive website and visually testing it after each release, you can ensure a higher quality user experience that will keep your customers coming back.
Alexandra McPeak is a content marketing specialist at SmartBear, a software testing, monitoring and developing tool.