When people ask me what I do at PLATO, I always pause before I answer. Not because I do not know what I do, but because I am never quite sure how to tell people I have a cool job that allows me to develop new skills and learn new technologies daily. What is it I do? I am a content tester. The title is a bit vague and with good reason, we do a number of tasks that fall into various categories. According to the description, Content Quality Assurance (CQA) involves: checking documents for spelling, grammar, sentence structure, punctuation, adherence to client standards and functionality; ensuring that documents meet the copy editing standards; ensuring that media products adhere to pre-defined standards; analyzing media products to uncover editing and functionality issues; ensuring that the information that appears on a given website matches the original blueprint. As a content team, we carry out all of these tasks in a few different ways.

We are testers; we simply test in a different way and on different products. At the base, we perform content verification on a number of internal and client-supplied documents and media. This is an important and sometimes overlooked step in a project’s process. Without confirmation of a document’s contents or review of standard grammar, spelling and punctuation, a document may reach its destination looking unprofessional or incomplete. These may be the most common tasks, or at least the assumed tasks, we perform. However, many days we fill the “jack of all trades” position. We spend our days performing the tasks mentioned, as well as troubleshooting software installs, learning an entirely different software program or an entirely new skill (ie. the basics of a coding language). Our main focus is whether a product, as a whole, is effective and meets client’s expectations.

Currently, our major client has us performing content verification on a number of popular online software training courses. Not only do we review written material, we review video tutorials for editing and content inconsistencies. This is what makes our job one of the coolest possible: We do not simply review a course, we also learn or finesse our knowledge of popular software programs. At first glance, it often looks like our team simply passes the day watching videos. We spend much of our day focused on our computer screens with headphones on, following course instructions intently. Contrary to how this may look, we are employing a critical eye to each video we watch.

In any given week, we could be testing a course for Adobe Photoshop and the next day we may be building a phone app with X-Code or Visual Studio. Working for this client, we have built a repertoire of working knowledge of many programs which aid us in working with other teams.

The most common misunderstanding of those outside of CQA is that we focus on performing copy edits and checking documents for basic editing issues. However, here at PLATO, this is only a portion of what we do. Depending on the type of media we are working on, editing is a small part. For the most part, we are responsible for adhering to client standards and are concerned with consistency and paying close attention to even the minutest details.

The CQA team members have a diverse educational background in computer science, education and business, just to name a few.  Each member brings a unique perspective and a wide range of knowledge to content testing. I am not sure any of us envisioned ourselves in a CQA role, yet we are confident in the skills we employ and cultivate each day.  Approaching content from different areas allows us to think outside the box and work effectively as a team. We rely on each other’s knowledge of various subjects, for second opinions and reassurance.

Content testing is not for the faint of heart. Testing requires a close attention to even the smallest details and focused attention for long periods of time on repetitive content. We need to be inquisitive and employ on-the-spot problem solving skills. When we log or record issues, we often question what may be causing a recurring issue and offer possible solutions or suggestions for future cases. This type of testing also requires a certain level of multi-tasking. As mentioned, for our current client we test online courses. Not only do we test the video content, but we also follow the steps provided and test provided files for consistency. Often working with software we have never worked with before. This can be a bit confusing if a tester does not have strong multi-tasking skills.

The best advice for content testers: practice, practice, practice. In order to become a strong content tester, the more content reviewed the stronger one’s eye for detail. A beneficial addition to practice is good instincts. Over time, we develop a “gut feeling” for issues that we know are wrong and therefore we often rely on past experiences. We often turn to our content teammates to reassure or seek a second opinion of these initial instincts.

As content testers, we are lucky to have the opportunity to learn new technologies and techniques on a daily basis. Our skillset is constantly growing and changing. We employ strong attention to detail and take pride in the products we help to produce. We aim to provide clients with a final product which exceeds expectations and leaves an impression.