How to Test Visual Design
By Vivek Mannotra, Community Contributor - March 13, 2023
Visual design testing and the specifics of its actual implementation completely depend upon the product and tech-stack being deployed, but all products are competing for user attention and retention, which are guided by well-established human interaction design principles.
The goal of technology is to act as an efficient interface between humans, businesses and institutions, hence there is a great deal of standardisation in the way product design is approached.
Similarly, for testing visual design there are some well established tools and techniques.
Why is it important to test visual design?
Visual design is an integral part of the user experience (UX) design process, and the way it is tested can vary depending on the product and the specific design goals. There are several business and technical considerations for the importance of visual design, including:
- Branding: Visual design plays a crucial role in establishing and reinforcing a company’s brand identity. A strong visual brand can help differentiate a company from its competitors and build brand recognition and loyalty among customers.
- User Engagement: Visual design can significantly impact user engagement and retention. By creating visually appealing designs that are easy to navigate and use, businesses can increase user satisfaction and loyalty, leading to repeat business and positive word-of-mouth referrals.
- Accessibility: Visual design can also impact the accessibility of a product, particularly for users with disabilities. By incorporating accessibility features into the design, such as proper color contrast and clear typography, businesses can ensure that their products are usable by the widest possible audience.
- Technical Feasibility: Visual design needs to consider the technical feasibility of implementing the design. While a design may look great, it may not be technically feasible to implement it due to technical limitations. Therefore, visual designers need to work closely with developers to ensure that the designs are feasible and technically sound.
- Scalability: Visual design needs to consider scalability. As businesses grow and products evolve, visual design needs to be scalable to accommodate these changes. A scalable visual design system can help ensure that products are consistent and easy to maintain over time.
According to this study testing application quality is a clear contributor to a higher ROI on business activity, for a long list of big companies:Visual design plays a critical role in the success of businesses and products. It can impact user engagement, accessibility, branding, technical feasibility, and scalability, making it an essential consideration for any business.
Read More: 11-Step Website Design Checklist
What is Visual Design Testing?
Visual design testing in the context of web and mobile apps can involve testing various elements such as inputs, buttons, forms, alerts, emails, popups, and colors on various devices, operating systems and user settings.
However, for a beginner QA automation employee who may not have a strong background in front-end development, it can be challenging to understand these concepts.
Here’s a simple breakdown of their activities in a five step cycle:
1. Design meaningful tests: This involves creating test cases that ensure the design is user-friendly, intuitive, and visually appealing. Unless tests capture meaningful scenarios that are helpful for business, there is no point in going ahead.
Read Adobe’s guide on Usability testing
2. Automation test element functions: Selenium and Appium are tools that are commonly used for automated testing of web and mobile applications. Automation is a great skill set to have for beginners as it is a highly leverage way of applying QA.
3. Automation visual screenshot testing: Testing application pages, automating the process, maintaining ledger of changes and a record of builds, deployments.
4. Learn CI/CD and cloud deployment: Continuous Integration/Continuous Deployment (CI/CD) and cloud deployment are important aspects of the development process. QA can work with the development team to ensure that the testing process is integrated with the overall development workflow and that the application is deployed to the cloud in a timely and efficient manner.
5. Monitor results: Once the application is deployed, QA can monitor its performance and evaluate how well it meets the business goals. This provides a clarity on the success of effort and areas for further improvement.
Also Read: What is Visual GUI Testing
Different Visual Design Testing Methods
Visual design testing is a collaborative effort that involves multiple teams and roles working together to ensure that the product’s visual design is user-friendly, accessible, and aligned with the product’s goals and objectives.
Material design is a popular technique in UX design
For teams developing web and mobile apps, visual testing can be thought of as a layered testing stack that looks like this:
- Unit Testing: This is the lowest layer of the testing stack, where individual components of the app are tested for functionality and correctness. Visual design elements can also be tested at this layer to ensure that they are implemented correctly and function as expected.
- Integration Testing: This layer tests how different components of the app work together. Visual design elements can be tested at this layer to ensure that they integrate seamlessly with other components of the app and that the overall design remains consistent.
- End-to-End (E2E) Testing: This layer tests the entire app’s functionality, including how it interacts with external systems and services. Visual design elements can be tested at this layer to ensure that they work as expected and that the overall design meets the user’s needs.
- Visual Regression Testing: This layer is specifically focused on testing the app’s visual design. It compares screenshots of the app before and after changes are made to detect any visual discrepancies that may have been introduced. This helps ensure that the app’s visual design remains consistent and visually appealing across different devices and platforms.
- User Acceptance Testing (UAT): This layer tests the app’s usability from the user’s perspective. Visual design elements can be tested at this layer to ensure that they are intuitive and easy to use, and that they meet the user’s needs and expectations.
How to test Visual Design
Here are some guidelines for selecting and judging components in visual testing:
- Selecting components: When selecting components for visual testing, it’s essential to focus on the critical elements that are essential to the application’s functionality. These may include buttons, forms, tables, graphs, images, videos, and other visual elements that users interact with regularly.
- Judging components: During visual testing, the components are judged based on their appearance and behavior. Appearance involves factors such as color, size, font, and position on the screen, while behavior refers to how the component responds to user interaction, such as mouse clicks or keyboard input.
- Establishing expected results: To judge components accurately, it’s essential to establish a baseline for what the expected results should be. This involves creating a set of rules that define the correct appearance and behavior of the components based on the design specifications, user requirements, and other relevant factors.
- Setting tolerances: In visual testing, setting tolerances is crucial to account for small variations in appearance or behavior that may occur due to factors such as screen resolution, browser version, or device type. Setting tolerances involves defining a range of acceptable deviations from the expected results.
- Determining pass/fail criteria: In general, a test is considered to pass if the visual components display correctly and behave as expected within the defined tolerances. If there are significant deviations from the expected results, the test is considered to fail, and the results are reported to the development team for further analysis and resolution.
The kind of comparisons we are talking about is pixel-by-pixel comparisons between the expected baseline image and the actual screenshot captured during the test.
In simpler terms, this means comparing the individual pixels that make up the images to identify any differences in color, brightness, contrast, or other visual characteristics.
While this type of comparison may sound complex and technical, the visual testing framework automates the process, making it simple and easy to understand. The framework compares the images at the pixel level and highlights any differences between the two images, making it easy for developers to identify and analyze the issues.According to this survey many people use basic video conferencing and design tools to perform usability testing which is not optimal for all scenarios.
There could be several reasons why some people may be hesitant to use automation in their testing and resort to manual techniques:
- Lack of Knowledge: Some people may not be familiar with automation tools or may not know how to use them effectively. This lack of knowledge can make people feel intimidated or overwhelmed, leading them to stick to manual testing techniques.
- Fear of Change: Automation may require a change in the testing process, which can be uncomfortable for some people. They may feel that their current process works well enough and may not see the need to switch to automation.
- Cost: Some automation tools may come with a high price tag, making it difficult for some organizations or individuals to invest in them. In such cases, manual testing may seem like a more cost-effective option.
- Perception of Quality: There may be a perception that manual testing is more thorough and accurate than automation. Some people may believe that automation is prone to errors and may not be able to catch all issues.
- Complexity: Automation can sometimes be complex and require technical expertise. People who are not comfortable with programming or technical aspects of testing may find automation daunting.
Tools such as BrowserStack Percy can help teams build workflows to test for such cases and build robust collaborative processes. Start building automated visual tests with Percy Visual Engine
You can create a test script and run it on Percy, Here are the steps:
1. Set up a Percy account: The first step is to create an account with Percy and set up a project for testing the e-commerce site.
2. Integrate Percy into your project: Percy provides integrations with various testing frameworks, including Cypress, and Selenium. You’ll need to integrate Percy into your project using one of these frameworks.
To install Percy CLI:
npm install --save-dev @percy/cli
To install Percy Selenium:
pip install percy-selenium
3. Create a test script: Once Percy is integrated, you can create a test script that captures visual snapshots of your e-commerce site’s pages. This can be done by taking screenshots of the site and comparing them to previous snapshots to detect any visual differences.
from selenium import webdriver from percy import percy_snapshot browser.get('http://localhost:8000') browser.implicitly_wait(10) new_todo_input = browser.find_element_by_class_name('new-todo') percy_snapshot(browser, 'Empty Todo State')
4. Set up testing environments: You can set the access token as an environment variable using the command;
5. Run the test script: Once the test script is created, you can run it on Percy’s cloud platform using tools the cli. This will allow you to see results on the dashboard, post execution.
percy exec -- python tests.py
Percy Dashboard6. Collaborate and fix issues: Percy provides collaboration tools that allow team members to review and discuss visual differences detected during testing. This can help identify and fix issues quickly, ensuring that the app is visually consistent and meets user expectations.
Best practices for Visual Design Testing
- Establish a visual design system:
Establishing a visual design system helps ensure consistency across the app’s visual elements. By defining visual design rules and guidelines, teams can easily identify when an element is not in line with the established design system.
- Test across different devices and platforms:
Testing the app’s visual design across different devices and platforms is crucial to ensure that the app looks and functions as expected. Teams should test the app on a variety of devices and platforms, including different screen sizes and resolutions.
- Use automated visual testing tools:
Automated visual testing tools like Percy can help identify visual discrepancies between different versions of the app. These tools can save time and effort by automatically detecting visual issues and allowing teams to fix them quickly.
Learn more about benefits of integrating Percy
- Involve designers in the testing process:
Involving designers in the visual design testing process can help ensure that the app’s visual design is consistent with the original design intent. Designers can provide valuable feedback on the app’s visual elements and suggest improvements as needed.
- Integrate visual testing into the development cycle:
Visual testing should be integrated into the development cycle to ensure that visual design testing is conducted consistently and regularly. By incorporating visual testing into each phase of the development cycle, teams can catch visual issues early on and fix them before they become significant problems.
- Responsive Design Testing:
Responsive Design Testing is a technique used to test how the design and layout of an application responds across different devices and screen sizes. By testing the application on different devices and screen sizes, businesses can ensure that the design is optimized for all users, regardless of the device they are using.
- Typography Testing:
Typography Testing is a technique for evaluating the readability and legibility of text across different elements and pages of the application. This technique can be used to ensure that the typography is consistent and legible throughout the application.
- Usability Testing:
Usability Testing is a critical technique for evaluating the user experience of an application. Testers can observe users as they interact with the application and gather feedback on their experience.
- A/B Testing:
- Focus Groups:
Focus Groups are a useful way to gather feedback from a group of people to test the appeal and effectiveness of different design variations. Participants can provide feedback on the overall design, color scheme, typography, and other visual elements. Focus groups are also an effective way to gauge how different demographic groups respond to different designs.
- Expert Review:
Expert Review is a technique where an experienced designer or UX professional evaluates a design to identify areas that need improvement and make recommendations for changes.
- Load Testing:
Load Testing is a technique used to test how the application performs under heavy traffic and ensure that the design is optimized for speed and performance. This technique is especially important for applications that are expected to receive a high volume of traffic, such as e-commerce sites or social media platforms.
Overall, by using a combination of these visual design testing techniques, businesses can ensure that their applications are visually appealing, user-friendly, and meet the desired goals and objectives.
These techniques can be used in conjunction with each other to create a comprehensive testing strategy that covers all aspects of visual design.
BrowserStack provides a comprehensive suite of products for teams to build their elaborate automated visual testing infrastructure in a scalable and cost friendly way.