Olympic errors: why you should take testing seriously

By: John McGarvey

Date: 23 March 2011

Ticket booth image

Launching a new website can be stressful. Just ask the organisers of the London Olympics, who opened their ticket website last week. After last Monday's big switch on, it didn't take long for people to twig that the site couldn't handle debit and credit cards due to expire before August. Whoops.

Interestingly, reports say that 'the website and ticketing guide clearly state that Visa cards must expire no earlier than August 2011'. In other words, the expiry date restrictions were known about when the site launched, but people weren't reading the explanation before putting in their ticket applications.

It's a common problem: people don't bother reading instructions, then get frustrated when things don't work as they expect. In short: if you have to explain your website, it's too complicated.

Always test thoroughly

Before you launch a new website - or any IT system - it's really important you test it thoroughly. You need to catch all the bugs you can and ensure everything is secure.

But that's not enough. Your site must be easy to use too. Can people find what they're looking for? Is your order process straightforward?

It might be harder to answer these questions definitively (not everyone's perception of 'easy to use' is the same), but it's vital you do your best.

If you're working with a software developer or web design company, they'll be able to help you with all kinds of testing. And there's plenty of information about usability testing on the Marketing Donut, our sister site.

But whatever you do, put time and consideration into how you test any new IT system . It could make the difference between success and failure. Or - as the Olympics organisers have illustrated so well - it could help you avoid any unnecessary bad publicity.

(Image of a ticket booth from Flickr user Sister72 under a Creative Commons Attribution licence.)

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