By Elie Sloïm, President and founder at Opquast
Elie worked for over 20 years on Web Quality Assurance, making him one of the undisputed pioneers of this discipline. Elie divides his time between managing and running the Opquast company and network, giving training and participation in web conferences (Csun San Diego, DevCon Mauritius, ParisWeb, Confoo Montreal, keynote speaker in 2013 and 2016 at Accessibility Québec, Codeurs en Seine, TuniSeo, Data on the Web London, Chancellery of the Belgium Prime Minister).
He has given courses on web quality assurance in many universities and colleges: Paris Dauphine , Paris 5 René Descartes University, Réunion Island University, Toulouse University and Toulouse Business School, HEC – Telecom Paris, Skema Business School, ECV Digital, Digital Campus, Bordeaux University, Limoges University, Ecole des Mines d’Alès, Avignon University, IDHEAP Lausanne (Switzerland), Institut International du Multimédia (La Défense), Centre de recherche Interdisciplinaire (Paris).
He wrote the two first versions of the French accessibility standard for the public sector (RGAA - Référentiel Général d'Amélioration de l'Accessibilité). He's also the founder of Temesis, a consulting company specialized on ecodesign, accessibility, and quality assurance. He wrote more than 100 articles about Web Quality Assurance. As an expert member of the Google Developer Network (UX category), he mentored several startups during the Google launchpads in Europe.
Co-author of mémento Sites Web: les bonnes pratiques and of Qualité Web by Eyrolles, he also wrote the forewords of:
- CSS2 by Raphael Goetter at Eyrolles,
- Ergonomie Web by Amélie Boucher,
- Ergonomie et UX design by Amélie Boucher, Eyrolles,
- Tri par cartes by Gautier Barrère and Éric Mazzone, Eyrolles,
- Intégration Web by Corinne Schillinger, Eyrolles,
- Bonnes pratiques Eco-conception by Frédéric Bordage, Eyrolles,
- 60 questions pour réussir votre site Web by Jean-Marc Hardy, Dunod,
- Écrire pour le Web by Muriel Gani, Dunod.
After 20 years in the web industry, if somebody asks me what’s the most useful thing you’ve created or done, I would definitively cite the VPTCS model. VPTCS stands for Visibility, Perception, Technical, Contents and Services.
Back in 2001, with my friend Eric Gateau, we analysed and classified the different aspects of the quality of the websites and identified these five user requirements. At this time we were looking to create a model that would allow us to put the user at the center but also to consider their whole journey, not only their experience of the user interface.
Most importantly we were trying to identify those things that frustrate the user, cause the high bounce rates, degrade a brands reputation etc. We wanted to factor in everything from SEO through to the frequently overlooked delivery of services, so touching on customer experience and digital experiences.
Since then, there has been increasing support and use of the VPTCS model due to it being a very versatile and praticable UX model.
It is used as a frame of reference to map the professions of the web, and it allows us to compartmentalise the users perception and requirements while demonstrating where the added value of the website is. We also discovered that it was an easy way to distinguish and illustrate the difference between UX and UI.
Below we explore the utility of the model, what we can do with it and how it helps us to have a 360 view of the web project and the web industry.
Understanding and structuring user requirements
When delving into the concept of the quality of a site, we started with a simple question “What do users want?” It’s quite hard to give a structured and simple answer. In answering that question, we offered a model which is hinged on five user requirements.
The VPTCS model comprises of five fundamental user requirements: Visibility – Perception – Technical – Content – Services.
- Visibility: Find the site
- Perception: Using the site
- Technical: The site works
- Content: The contents are of good quality
- Services: Ensure quality of the services after the visit
This model is very useful in many ways. Let’s explore what we can do with it.
Before, during and after the visit
This model reads in chronological order relating to the users visit of the site and the three major phases, before, during and after.
Before the visit – Visibility.
The user’s journey starts with Visibility. In the VPTCS model, this phase represents what happens before the user arrives on the website. This might relate to print or digital advertising campaigns, word of mouth and reputation, SEO, social media, or public relations.
During the visit – Perception, Technical, and Contents
This phase corresponds to the passage of time during which the user encounters the interface.
Perception covers all ergonomic aspects including design and graphics. The Technical part, covers the security, the performance, the robustness, a part of the web accessibility and compliance to web standards. Last but not least, we have the Contents that also, in part, relates to the interface. When we talk about content we address the intrinsic quality of Content, and therefore, for example, everything related to relevance, originality, the sources, spelling and grammar and all aspects that affect the trust and confidence of the user.
After the visit – Services
Finally, the user leaves the website and starts the whole third phase, the Services. In this VPTCS model, the Services phase represents everything that happens after the User interface. A lot of things happen then: after-sales communications, Service level agreements, customer relationship management, e-commerce logistics, delivery etc
Explaining the difference between UX and UI
The VPTCS model also allows you to explain some of the UX (user experience) issues. With this model, you are not only interested in the interface but in the UX as a whole, indeed as we consider best practices for Services more towards the Customer Experience (CX). The UI or, user interface, part is covered by the three central sections of the model: Perception, Technical and Content.
Visibility leads us to take an interest in why and how the user arrived? But that is not enough, you also have to understand why they are coming and what they want to take with them when they leave. That brings us to the Services part. As an example, on an e-commerce site, your experience doesn’t end the moment you leave the site. It’s going to continue: you’re going to be delivered to, you’re going to have interactions with the site and services, even if you’re no longer using the interface itself.
This model allows you to understand part of the UX and above all it allows you to explain simply the difference between UX and UI, and that is very important.
Mapping Web Professions
First, it allows us to map the web’s professions to each category of requirements.
In all five parts of the model, different disciplines are represented. Each discipline has different skills and uses different vocabularies.
One of the main problems we have in the web industry is that people working in silos don’t understand each other, sometimes it’s even worse, they despise each other 😉 . This model shows that all the five Web silos are necessary and have a point in common: the user.
Where’s the added value ?
The VPTCS model also shows where professionals bring direct value to the site. The professionals who produce Content and Services for instance. What they produce leads users to come to the site, to remain on the site and to return. Generally, it is the direct business owners of the website project who are responsible for producing the content and services.
On the other hand, we often have a combination of service providers and IT and communication departments who will deal with Visibility, ergonomics, or technical aspects. In actual fact, these professionals are responsible for ensuring that Content and Services are delivered.
This model illustrates two things :
- There’s a separation between the professionals who manufacture the sites and those who are responsible for producing the Content and Services (project ownership)
- The people who take care of the content and services are at least as important as the developers, designers and marketing people. They are often forgotten.
Translating User requirements into QA rules
In 2004 the VPTCS model gave birth to the Opquast rules. We started with the five requirements, and we wondered if there were rules, that are valid all the time, that are realistic, that are universal, that are verifiable online. We created discussion forums which are asked to propose and then to discuss each rule, to establish a consensus list of rules. We publish a list every 5 years (2004, 2010, 2015, 2020).
We have documented these rules with objectives, implementations and control methods. The checklist is available in french english and spanish. The 2020 version is available there
We have 240 best practices. They are widely used by web professionals and have a very long lifespan. We also propose a certification called “Mastering Web Quality Assurance“ with more than 12000 professionals already certified.
It’s also available in French, English and soon in Spanish. The training follows the same principles of the model i.e. putting the user front and centre with a multidisciplinary approach. This results in greater collaboration within teams and across professions while uniting professionals by central objectives such as better usability, accessibility, eco-design and an overall better customer experience.
What now ?
The VPTCS model described and detailed in the book « Qualité Web » published at Eyrolles (in french, not yet in english).
It’s mainly used in French-speaking countries, by the French government digital agency, several regional bodies, companies, international universities and schools, for instance.
Some users use it to estimate and demonstrate the costs of a website, or to execute a full audit. Some members of the Opquast community have proposed acronyms, we have several in French (Va Pas Te Croire Supérieur is probably the best for now because it means don’t believe you’re superior 😉, which fit perfectly with our philosophy). In English the best one to date seems to be Very Powerful Tool for Customer Satisfaction (by Bertrand Matge).
By the way, please feel free to propose yours.
The model is under CC-BY-SA license. Please remember to mention the authors and the date (Elie Sloïm – Eric Gateau Opquast – 2001).
If you want to talk about the VPTCS model, about UX, UI, web quality or the Opquast certification, feel free to contact me or the Opquast team
Note : If you find improvements to this article, please let me know, I hope this can be excused as a french native speaker, with only a slightly dyslexic english sidekick for help (by the way: Thank you Paul Houston for your help and inspiration 🙂
Note 2: if you don’t mind hearing my very french accent here’s a video where I present a part of this model.
Before, during and after the user visits the website.
With this model, you are not only interested in the interface but in the user experience as a whole. The UI or user interface is covered by the three central sections of the model. Perception Technical and Content. Visibility leads us to take an interest in why and how the user arrived.
But that is not enough. You also have to understand why he’s coming and what he wants to take with him when he leaves. Then we have to look at the services part. This model allows you to understand part of the UX and above all, it allows you to explain simply the difference between UX and UI and that is very important.
The vptcs model led to the birth of the Opquast best practices. We have created discussion forums that are asked to discuss each rule to establish a consensus list of rules. We have over 200 best practices that are widely used by web professionals and have a very long lifespan.
A few testimonies about this model
We use VPTCS every single day 👍 It’s simple and smart, easy to share with customers. It fits perfectly with Agile. It reconciliates dev, designers, product owners, marketing and users 🤩
Tiphaine Bichot COO and founder Athome Solution
Probably the most robust and powerful model I’ve seen along with James J. Garret’s Elements of User Experience. Both published 20 years ago and still relevant. So simple, so accurate, so useful.
Bertrand Matge, in charge of the technology support pole at the French Ministry for the Economy and Finance