Developers Recognize the Need for Testing, But Still Devalue Testers

I had the pleasure of attending Mobile+Web DevCon last week in San Francisco. Being a fairly new and relatively small conference, I was a bit skeptical about how much I would get out of it. Fortunately, the conference ended up having a good number of attendees, and the sessions were - for the most part - thoughtful and engaging. What really caught me by surprise was all the chatter about testing mobile applications.

That’s right testers: this was a small community of developers, creating mobile apps, talking about mobile quality and the importance of testing. If I were to tag a theme onto this conference, it would absolutely be mobile quality.

If you’re a commendable software tester, you understand that testing is not an easy task nor is it for the weak minded. To be an effective software tester, you need to approach the software philisophically, overcoming biases and understanding the context of each and every testing situation. Of course there is much more to it, but I am not going to go into it here. The point is that software testing is a skill that is not as easily attainable as some might initially believe.

So what am I getting at? I was a bit put off by some of the discussions about software testing. Of course, there were a few people who understood the importance of testers, but the general vibe was that testing is something anyone can do.

For instance, one speaker said you can just hire testers off of Craigslist, essentially devaluing the software testing occupation to that of a one-time handy man. I’m not sure what the intentions of that comment were, but I was definitely taken aback by this inference.

Since this was a mobile conference, I can only speak of the mobile developers at Mobile+Web DevCon, but there seems to be a serious divide around the importance of testers. I fully recognize this divide is hardly a new phenomenon, but the issue lies in that developers themselves are not putting their mobile apps under the same scrutiny as apps for other platforms, i.e. Web and desktop.

Roughly 8 out of 10 developers that I talked to at this conference said that they do both the development and testing themselves. That’s like writing this blog post without an editor—the quality of my writing would be significantly degraded. I could try to edit my own work, but I know that I would likely overlook a typo or fumble over a phrase due to my own biases and partiality.

I understand that the lack of testing may be a resource issue, especially for smaller development houses, but is that an excuse when the credibility of your organization is on the line? You just need a few 1-star reviews on the app store to keep others from ever giving your app a shot.

The irony comes to life when the very same developers who tell me they don't need testers to do their testing turn around and insist that mobile app quality is the most important factor to the application's success - an assertion that is backed up by SmartBear's own original survey data.

Am I the only one who sees how crazy this is?

If the mobile industry is going to continue to evolve, testing needs to be at the top of every organization's task list. The mentality of "code now, test later... if there's time" is no longer acceptable. If time is a pressing factor go ahead automate some of the testing, but keep it in the hands of someone who truly knows what they're doing.

We've all seen the embarrassing results of nonchalant testing. Are you really willing to risk the future of your mobile app?

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