Crowdsourcing a Q/A Checklist for Interactive News Projects

Back in April, following a round of municipal elections here in Wisco, I reached out the NICAR email list to get an idea of what a Q/A checklist for news projects might look like.

The responses ranged from programming and server 101 to user experience and design.

Here is the list in random order and paraphrased in some spots. Got some more? Add them in the comments.

  • Everyone involved with the app, no matter what technical level, should be aware of these two critical security holes, which are responsible for the majority of site hacks: SQL injection & XSS Browser attack.
  • If your app has some kind of sortable list view, sort it by each field and check out the pages for the entries at the top and bottom of the list. If your app lists budget items and transactions, it’s possible that the data included negative numbers or other strangeness … does your app adequately handle or explain this?
  • If you have the time and staffing to build something custom from scratch, I’d think it would never a bad idea to anticipate how users might ruin their experience and to make that impossible. That could be a useful step toward crafting a coherent, engaging story, which is the point.
  • Do a project wide search for all variations of “f~/k” “sh!t” “g0ddamm!t.” Do a search for any HTML/Javascript comments (Users aren’t likely to see any funny comments in the app’s program code, but HTML comments will be visible to anyone who views-source in the browser.) Hell, do a search for any comments and eliminate ones that aren’t used for documentation purposes
  • Don’t forget to have a copy editor look at it to make sure everything’s spelled correctly, makes sense to “non-computer” people, no unintended double entendre, libel issues, etc. All those wonderful services copy editors provide.
  • You might want to have the dumbest person in the building play with it to make sure it’s idiot-proof.
  • I test in two or three ways, looking for things I know should be there, but a lot of times people find errors and tell me, and then I fix them.
  • We regularly try to get folks from inside the newsroom at different ages to fiddle with stuff and see how intuitive it is to them. I’ve been known to send things to my mom and ask if she can figure it out. Feel free to send me links for your projects and I’ll send ‘em to her.