About philosophe.com

Introduction to philosophe.com

Welcome to philosophe.com, A thoughtful approach to web site quality, a web site devoted to quality assurance for web sites. Not another guide to totally excellent web design, because let’s face it — there are more design guides, sites, and books than you can shake a stick at — but a resource for anyone responsible for the quality of a web site.

Sure, usability testing is sexy, but there’s more to testing than the glamorous use of focus groups and paper mockups.

Good sites don’t just happen; they’re designed, coded, filled with content, and tested. Any web design expert you encounter will mention — in passing — the importance of testing. Such a cursory treatment of testing is a disservice to web site designers and web site visitors, because a large gap can develop between the best design intentions and the actual implementation.

philosophe.com is about information — how to run a quality assurance program for a web site — but it’s also about opinion and philosophy, because there is no one correct way of doing anything on a web site. Whatever you find here, let me know if you disagree or have a better way of doing it. Quality assurance is about learning, and I haven’t stopped learning yet.

Why the Domain Name “philosophe”?

I wanted a name that conjured “philosophy” and “language” and “thoughtful enquiry”… several of the names I wanted had already been snatched up, such as “metaphor.com” and “philosophy.com”. I can’t recall how exactly I settled on philosophe.com, but the name appealed to me on several levels: it is nicely symmetrical, letter-wise; it is a term from my philosophy background and my old english background; and it has a pleasing sound.

I didn’t realize that it would be such a hard word to spell — I mistype it half the time myself — or pronounce. Please, pronounce it as fee-low-sof, with the accent on the first syllable.

Audience for philosophe.com

I created philosophe.com for those people responsible for testing a web site, with a focus on testers of larger sites or commerce sites. I expect these people to being working as part of a team — composed of testers and QA analysts — that in turn works closely with a production team.

Everything discussed here is relevant to smaller sites such as individual home pages, but the terminology and methodology might be more formal than smaller sites require.

philosophe.com’s Mission

philosophe.com fills in the gaps of web site testing information by addressing:

  • the major concepts at the heart of the quality assurance process
  • the critical importance of defining standards and specifications
  • the general categories of tests you might want to perform on your web site
  • some links to specialized QA web sites that might provide deeper information about any of the topics discussed here
  • some information on useful books for the quality assurance team

About philosophe.com’s Design

I write all of the site’s HTML and all of the content by hand, using a text editor (which explains any typos you find). In September 2002 I released an updated design using XHTML and CSS style sheets, a design that had been in the works for almost two years. This site validates to the W3C’s XHTML 1.0 Transitional standard, but the design won’t be renderable by some older non-standards-compliant browsers, and will render inconsistently across the range of browsers with imperfect standards support. Given my understanding of my audience, I think this is a reasonable design direction. Please drop me a note if you think this is not reasonable, or if you cannot access my content.

Please note that the new design’s CSS code has borrowed from a range of sources, sometimes specifically and sometimes inspirationally, including Eric Meyer (http://www.meyerweb.com/eric/css/ & the O’Reilly books); Eric Costello (http://www.glish.com/css/); Zeldman (http://www.zeldman.com/lectures/css/); and Rob Chandanais (http://www.bluerobot.com/web/layouts/). As the design has been in process for almost two years, it’s difficult to give detailed attributions of techniques I’ve learned, but my thanks to these wonderful teachers and any whose teachings I’ve internalized and lost track of.

philosophe.com Update Schedule

philosophe.com is not a dead site. I work on new content frequently; well, at least I *think* about new content frequently, but the time pressures of work and family are constraining. I post new content when I can, roughly every several months. If you’d like to be notified when I post new essays, please drop me a line at qa@philosophe.com.

Changes i’m planning to make if i ever get the time:

  • Reorganize the topics and information architecture; what made sense 4 years ago makes not so much sense now;
  • Put the content into a database, and create a set of templates to format that content depending on context, user-agent, etc.;
  • Update older, aged content and archive the original content;
  • Implement a timestamp system for content freshness and change history;
  • Incorporate more dynamic code generation (the entire site is written by hand, and is laborious though oddly satisfying to update by hand);
  • Get my drafts of essays finalized and published, especially my work on usability, test automation, and log file analysis.

About the Author — Derek Sisson

I’m currently the Director of Quality Assurance & Usability at Grassroots Enterprise in San Francisco. I work with the company’s software products, rather than with the company Web site itself.

I was the Director of Quality Assurance & Usability at Grassroots Enterprise in San Francisco for nearly ten years. I’m currently doing some contract work testing and maintaining the old software service for the new owners, along with other contract development and test work.

I’m currently looking for more full-time work; my CV is available on request.


I recently launched my photography site — Derek Sisson Photography — please check it out!