Think about it — whether you’re shopping online, sitting at the doctor’s office, or perusing the produce section, you want top quality. Why shouldn’t our learners and clients expect the same of their training? That’s why one of our four core values at ttcInnovations is quality. As an editor, this particular value has always been near and dear to my heart. And how could it not be? Quality assurance (QA) is the foundation of my job!
Without proper QA, we run the risk of handing over work that doesn’t shine as brilliantly as it could. Or worse, we could end up pushing out content that confuses and frustrates the audience, resulting in the exact opposite of what we all set out to do in the first place — help them learn!
So how does establishing solid QA reviews (or a lack thereof) really affect you, your audience, and your clients?
1. Fewer Distractions
Have you ever been reading an online article, or even a physical book, and come across a glaring mistake? Doesn’t it take you right out of whatever you were reading and make you lose your focus? That’s the last thing we want for our audience, especially if the topic itself is challenging.
Not only do errors disrupt one’s attention — in many cases, they can disorient the reader entirely and give them incorrect information. Think about the difference one wrong number can make in a Social Security number! This is why it’s crucial to double-check (who am I kidding, triple-check!) your work. It’s all too easy to press the wrong key or leave out a word when you are rushing to meet a deadline, so factor that second (or third) look into the overall time you’ve allocated to work on your project.
Our resident QA expert, Tambra, knows all too well how little inconsistencies can easily throw someone off their game. She noted the following classic example, “In a learning solution where the point is to show what’s happening on the screen, if your screens aren’t positioned exactly the same, it makes it much harder to see what’s different from screen to screen.”
While it’s important for each individual document to go through QA review, we should also ensure that all documents across a project follow consistent standards and formatting. Wouldn’t it be odd to take the first part of a training course, then open the second part of the same course and see that all the colors are different and the headings are in a strange new font? You might think you had opened the wrong document! Consistency is key when it comes to QA.
2. Easier Updates
When you follow a consistent set of guidelines, it makes things so much easier to update in the future! Consider the following scenario: A client asks you to do a little maintenance work on four of their training modules. A system name change here, a new image there — pretty minimal updates. Sure, you think, that won’t take very long. But then you get into the documents and realize that the headings and bullets are formatted differently in each one, and the same acronym is spelled out three different ways! What would have taken you all of 30 minutes is now taking a few hours to hunt down the right standards and correct all the inconsistencies.
Checking for typos and formatting errors can seem tedious but taking the time now to check your document carefully (before every review and handoff) will save you and your fellow team members loads of time down the road when the client asks for updates.
3. Happier Clients
Nothing makes clients happier than when you follow their standards to a T. All those style guides and brand standards were created for a reason, and so much thought has been put into each choice. From fonts to imagery to preferred terminology and more — all these pieces make up a brand’s identity. By following your clients’ standards, you are showing them that you take their identity seriously and you care just as much about their materials as they do. Take the time to learn your clients’ preferences inside and out — they’ll notice when you do. Satisfied clients equal more work for you in the future!
How Can I Get Better at QA?
Now that we’ve covered the importance of QA, you might be thinking, “Well, that’s great and all… but how do I actually improve my QA skills?”
The best place to start is by reviewing your clients’ style guides ad nauseam. Get to know the ins and outs of all their special preferences and nuances that might set them apart from everyone else. Keep notes on things that might not immediately catch your eye when reviewing content.
Having a good understanding of the formatting capabilities of whatever platform you are using to develop and review content — be it Word, PowerPoint, Articulate/Storyline or Captivate — will also go a long way. For more seamless development, learn how to use the various features and settings in each application. And of course, use templates whenever possible so that most of the formatting work is done for you!
Lastly, coming from your friendly neighborhood editor, always do a quick spell check before you hand off your document to the next person.
It takes a village to make great training. We need the big picture analysts, the innovative instructional designers, the technical expertise of graphic designers and programmers, the coordination of project managers, and the detail-oriented QA team. But everyone, no matter their role, has a little of each trait. So you, too, can be a QA connoisseur!