With the new year soon upon us, the mobile app industry is abuzz with the news that in all likelihood the number of mobile phone users worldwide is expected to reach 5 billion users in 2019.
And as with all things related to the new Internet of Things, the advances in new technologies, platforms, and tools that we witnessed in 2018 will continue their exponential growth with more and more feedback and useful data culled from more and more mobile app users.
The statistics are impressive and paint a picture of useability that has never been seen (let alone analyzed) before. The usage patterns of millions of mobile app users is constantly being collected and processed so further development can be engineered to perfection.
- Did you know that roughly 67% of smartphone users use some type of entertainment, news, sports or gaming apps?
- Did you know that 52% of gaming app users are women with an average age of 36 and who spend on average an hour a day playing their favorite games?
- Or that people are on average using about 9 apps per day for about an hour, mostly during their relaxation time?
And it’s just not news, sports or entertainment apps anymore. According to Think with Google, increasingly users are hunting for apps that will do everything from manage their finances and their health, diet and exercise regimens to help them plan a family or their next vacation as well as to learn everything from a new language or how to play guitar like a rockstar.
Importance Of Mobile App Testing
Studies have found that offering an app increases the chances of customers to place an order while other studies show that 61% of people have a better opinion of brands when they offer a quality mobile app.
With users spending almost 90% of their time on mobile devices in apps vs. 10% on mobile web browsing, it is clear that standalone apps have become the dominant way that users interface with their devices. It is also becoming increasingly clear that for the first time users will be;
- more in control,
- more empowered and,
- will continue to keep having a larger impact on app development,
which shines a light on the importance of mobile app testing. Just as the development landscape has exploded with new technologies, new coding languages, new ways to evolve their app’s functionalities, the mobile app testing industry has equally exploded to:
- help support these various teams,
- help streamline design processes,
- help debug code and troubleshoot problems,
- help connect designer with user,
- and in the end help to save what is most valuable in any development process: time and money.
Think of it as the mobile app testing has surfaced to aid the development industry much like our superheroes all need sidekicks like Batman and Robin who can partner together and double their crime-fighting powers. But they also help each other if one gets in trouble and of course keep a close eye on each other’s backs -- all to ensure the smoothest development and implementation process that will be worry-free to launch and meet the customer’s various needs.
Or in other words: “In mobile app markets today, users have an instant, strong, and public vote on the quality of an app through star ratings and comments. Interestingly, they don’t often complain about failed unit tests – what matters is any impact on their experience. Be sure to focus on integration, network fault tolerance, the device, other apps, and most importantly, user perception and expectations” writes Jason Arbon, CEO at test.ai
What Is Mobile Application Testing?
Mobile Application Testing has evolved to cover a spectrum of testing methods and processes that have really become an integral part to the overall software development process. In brief, testers make sure every part of the process has an automatic double-check, a check which balances the concerns of the creators as much as the concerns of the end-users.
At its core, app testing involves linking the various interests, understanding the complex array of user demographics and useability, as well as being completely familiar with the diverse mobile operating systems landscape and increasingly the many new flavors of these systems.
“The top reason we should care about diversity in our testing teams is because the demographic of a computer user is more diverse than ever before”, advises Lanette Creamer, owner of Spark Quality.
One way to think about or group types of testing sourcing would be this way: In the Lab Testing and In the Wild Testing.
In Lab Testing can occur in-house which eases communications but most agencies find it difficult to maintain adequate collections of devices. Increasingly, firms have begun outsourcing their testing needs to professional testers who have access to a range of devices and expertise but of course they come at a cost.
In Wild Testing allows firms to get free testing from the users of their apps from a wide range of devices, carriers, OS, and locations, such as with Beta Testing and Crowdsourced Testing but this feedback, although sometimes helpful, is not technically diagnostic.
Most development and testing partnerships choose a blend of these strategies based on their end goal, end-user experience, and of course their time, staff capacities, and budgets.
Types Of Mobile App Testing
The spectrum of mobile app testings services has really evolved in the past year and promises to continue to diversify, not only by service but by skill sets and areas of expertise.
First, let’s look at what we think we all agree might be the most important type of mobile app testing needed: Load Testing, which once analyzed, lowers the overall risks of system failure and it has been shown to improves scalability.
Related tests would be Endurance Testing which looks to enhance long-term performance as well as Volume Testing which checks system tolerance levels or their ability to handle higher volumes of data.
A new form of testing is known as Stress Testing which intentionally challenges the performance of the mobile app by manipulating and then analyzing different parameters such as performance of 2G vs 3G vs 4G vs wifi, memory or battery drainages and other interruptions to functioning such as incoming calls/SMS, low signal problems, plug or unplugged cables -- all tested by Interruption Testing specialists.
Increasingly, mobile app testing firms have begun to specialize in Scalability Testing to ensure your app can evolve and grow over time as well as Installation Testing to make sure that a botched install is not a hi then goodbye from the user.
A/B testing or split testing
A/B testing or split testing is also commonly being deployed where two versions of an app or functionality are released and then compared (e.g. Click-through rates) to optimize and streamline a better user experience armed with special tools such as a suite of them called Blazemeter which allows for in-depth user behavior analysis including real-time monitoring of every user’s swipes and clicks.
Security & Auditing Testing
A majorly important area of testing expertise is Security & Auditing Testing to ensure the mobile app stays safe from a host of security threats out there which can wreak havoc not only to your app’s functionalities but could pose a threat to the privacy and important personal data of your users.
These security experts specialize mainly in penetration testing and vulnerability scanning and can offer valued risk assessments to keep your app and data safely backed up and threat-free.
Mobile Web Apps, Native Apps, Hybrid Apps
Now let’s talk a bit about the different kinds of apps under development: Mobile Web Apps and Native Apps and increasingly we are seeing more the development of Hybrid Apps that attempt to take the best of what both mobile and native apps have to offer.
Native apps are by far the most popular but also the most problematic to launch and face numerous testing challenges such as ensuring the useability across every device, operating system and screen size, which in addition to being time-consuming and expensive, often can be frustrating especially ensuring backwards compatibility. Being able to make multiple versions of the app across different platforms already needs programmers who can code in various languages and often access to other APIs need to be rigorously tested to be implemented successfully.
Native Apps are also seen as more high profile, especially with placement in the various app stores such as Google Play and Apple’s App Store. A graphical representation of all the different flavors of Google’s Android currently on the market.
Mobile Web Apps
On the other hand, Mobile Web Apps offer firms a quicker, less problematic but ultimately a more generic and unfortunately slower user experience by developing the app to run on the web. Although it forgoes the installation process, its browser-based development environment is a bit easier to troubleshoot but the loading has to get faster as some studies show as many as 60% of users expect sites to load in less than 3 seconds, or they are gone.
“Apps have the obvious downside of requiring more development resources, especially to be truly optimized for each device. If a company doesn’t have enough resources to do this right, it’s better to have a nice mobile site than a lame app” reports Jakob Nielsen.
Hybrid Apps try to bridge the gap by taking the best of both worlds and trying to offer solutions that involve users interfacing with both their native apps and the mobile web apps. Lie Luo of the Global Intelligence Alliance writes, “44 percent of respondents only offer a native application, as compared to 22 percent that offers a Web application, or 35 percent that offer both".
Here’s a look at how these apps compare:
Automated vs. Manual App Testing
Automated App Testing
Another trend to take note of is how testing has become more and more automated with specific software designed to ease every aspect of the testing process with the ability to sometimes run multiple tests simultaneously.
While this is valuable and more cost-effective especially for larger mobile apps that have scaled up their services, the downside is it takes some degree of configuration to design automated tests and always they will never be able to report user experience factors such as app crashes and user interface quirks.
Manual App Testing
For now, Manual Mobile App Testing continues to be the most reliable form of testing that allows for more accurate user experience results by actual people using actual devices. Testers can examine every aspect of the app’s user interface all while checking the app’s performance on a certain device with a certain memory and battery limits as well as certain multitasking capabilities.
The drawback to manual testing is that it is very human resource intensive and to really test across all devices and systems, as we mentioned above, that requires a rather large laboratory just to hold all these devices, a lot of different hardware running a lot of different software flavors.
Though their market share doesn’t even compare to Android or iOS, it has to be noted that Windows Phones as well as Blackberry must all still be tested. And as with anything involving humans, results are never 100% accurate.
"Engineering and quality best practices defined during the PC and Web eras are not well suited to the agile and mobile environments of today. Only dinosaurs will blindly port the practice they are comfortable with to mobile – it requires a re-imagining of engineering to be competitive, efficient, and relevant" summarizes Arbon.
There’s no single approach that is right for all projects or teams or situations. It all depends on your target audience, the app’s functionality, and of course time, budget, and IT resources. But no matter how complex a project, there are tons of options to incorporate these essential testing specializations into your mobile app development projects.
Whether you outsource it to professionals at first in hope to learn how best to blend these testing protocols into your existing workflows or while your firm can save up enough to invest in its own in-house testing teams, it is vitally important to stay on top of the game by having a solid testing strategy and of course keeping abreast of the latest and greatest developments in this exciting field which will continue to grow larger in 2019.