"Let’s get that mobile app out of the door quickly!" Heard that from your marketing team before? Speed of application delivery and time to market often takes precedence while rolling out mobile applications. However, if the app is buggy or broken, users will often end up deleting it. To make it worse, TechCrunch reported back in 2013 that only 16% of users will give the app another try after it has failed once.
To overcome fickle consumer behavior driven by less tolerance to buggy code, the first crucial step is realizing mobile necessitates a different testing strategy than what is traditionally used to test desktop and web applications. Applying the same testing strategy is doomed to fail, primarily because of the following:
- Speed is important, but so is quality: Mobile users have a lot of power to make or break the future of apps through reviews on app stores. This is significantly different than what happened with desktop or web applications. Remember those blue screens you used to encounter while navigating desktop applications. After a while, you got so used to them that you actually started caring less about them. Mobile users however aren't that forgiving, when they encounter similar issues.
- Highly Fragmented Marketplace: Android is the big elephant in the room here, after having introduced a variety of operating systems, such as Jelly Bean, KitKat, and Ice Cream Sandwich over the past few years. Add to that, fragmentation resulting from screen size, device type, and hardware specifications, testing can easily make things messy. And with the Internet of Things, gadgets such as Fitbit becoming more prominent--added fragmentation means testing becomes challenging and time consuming. Rampant device fragmentation also means that testing mobile applications needs to be device specific, resulting in testing cycles longer than that of desktop or web.
- Move to “system of engagement” from “system of record”: Mobile has reinvented how users interact with applications and what they expect. Traditional desktop and web applications primarily could be classified as “system of record” information systems. These applications would typically record and report information saved on ERP systems and large databases. Mobile apps, on the other end, power “system of engagement”. These applications deliver individual personalized content that help empower in-the moment consumer discussions. Given mobile interactions are focused on people rather than on process, these interactions need to be time, context, and social aware, instead of just recording and reporting from a “system of record”. Harnessing the power of application programming interfaces (APIs) to drive this personalized context thereby becomes crucial when using mobile.
- Role of network performance: Mobile networks play a large role in determining the end user experience of mobile applications. It is entirely plausible that a mobile application may behave differently on a Sprint network than it does on an AT&T network.
Where does testing stand as of now?
Mobile testing is still in its nascent stages and as a result much of it is being carried out manually. This can be really cumbersome, especially when it’s necessary to test in a shorter release timeframe.
For organizations that have automated testing in place, they focus most of their energies on automating front-end user-interface test cases, while paying limited attention to back-end services/APIs that actually power user experience at the front end. Even less attention is paid to ensure these APIs are monitored continuously after being implemented.
How to release mobile apps within shorter release cycles?
- Reduce testing time by improving code quality: This is the most straightforward, yet tough to implement. By shifting testing to the left, organizations can accelerate attention to software quality from the inception of the software development lifecycle. Tools that help testers and developers collaborate on source code as well as requirement documents can be of great help here.
- Prioritize test cases: Releasing mobile apps in a shorter timeframe necessitates a strategic approach to testing. It’s thereby absolutely essential to reduce rework, trim down unnecessary tests, and prioritize key functions without affecting coverage. Test management solutions can help prioritize testing efforts, account for risk, and plan for coverage.
- Record gestures once and then use them across multiple mobile devices: Testing solutions that help record repeatable accurate gestures and then replay these gestures in a consistent manner across multiple mobile devices can be helpful in overcoming device specific mobile testing, which results from device fragmentation.
- Test backend services still being developed: API mocking tools can power parallel API testing and development by enabling creation of a virtual service, while actual API is still being developed.
- Automate not just the functional, but API testing as well: Integrate API and functional testing tools with automated build systems such as Jenkins and other development tools to run functional as well as API tests as a part of an automated build.
- Test for Network Performance: Visualize and analyze how apps behave when assessed using worldwide carriers.
- Reduce debugging time post deployment: Use automated solutions that help you perform root cause identification at the code level in case an issue is encountered after production roll-out.