Everyone agrees quality is an essential component of every tech project. So regardless of the outcome, no one sets out to design a buggy system. Although the level of effort that goes into the QA phase of a project still depends on many things. Yes, contributing elements are skill level and knowledge about test planning. However, the project risk level can be an overriding factor. To minimize risk, we explore 6 critical areas you need to test before launching your native mobile app.
In this article we discuss:
- Why mobile app testing is different
- What makes testing so important
- Why these specific test items
- List of items to test
- Top tip to be successful
Mobile app testing is distinct
As we agreed with upfront, quality usually is part of every managed project. However, a mobile app can be much different from an enterprise app or even a public website. The primary difference between the other projects and a published mobile app will be the high level of exposure to risk all mobile apps will have. For example, if your marketing team has done a great job, you could easily have thousands of people downloading your mobile app each week. With so many eyes exploring every corner of the app, the users will likely surface all undiscovered bugs.
What makes testing so important
These users might love 99% of your app, but if 1 thing goes wrong guess what they talk about? Bugs often make up their first public comment. It’s hard to get a majority to like the user experience of your app. But look out if there is a real performance issue or bug for a critic to bite into. Not to mention that in order to do a huge amount of damage, a lazy reviewer only needs to give you a 1-star rating. Go below a 4-star rating, and for all but the luckiest few, it means total failure. The result is any investment made into producing your mobile app will not earn a profit.
Why test these specific items
As previously concluded, finding and fixing all observable bugs is a key priority. Observable bugs are the worst because evidence like posted screen captures will never go away. In contrast, immature features can be enhanced and made better. They are so much different than a bug. So this is why the categories we list are critical for the obvious reason of their combined ability for lowering risk. While the 6 items are not complete or even an extensive list, they outline the deciding areas that will deliver the biggest positive impact on your QA resources.
More to think about
While we want quality built into our product roadmap, we recognize that we do not have unlimited resources. In that light, some dev teams may have only one QA specialist on the team. As such, we focus on taking into account the fundamentals of the device your app will run on. So firstly, we must recognize that the device is both a phone and a smartphone. This means it will have interruptions from callers, notifications, and operating system alerts. Your app must deal with these pauses and even cut off points seamlessly. Secondly, we are dealing with a variety of carriers, network capacity, and screen sizes. Accept this and optimize accordingly. Finally, our list is thinking about the user working with the device. They will have high expectations that go beyond your app and its functionality. These considerations will be mostly about personal identity and data security. These fundamentals concerns all point to why we focused on the list below.
1. Intuitive design & excellent user experience
Any competent user acknowledges that their personal data and privacy is a critical element to their online experience. Regardless of knowing that, a user will not enable malware protection if the software is impossible to figure out. This is especially true if users have to invest any amount of learning steps only to discover an obvious bug in operations. Abandonment rates expect to be high when bugs are present.
2. Compatibility with various devices
A lot of effort, time, and money goes into developing a mobile app. A good portion of these resources gets committed to ensuring all users enjoy a very similar user experience. Compatibility issues are both challenging and impactful. Some key areas around compatibility include:
- Content – fitting and collapsing to each resolution
- Navigation – implementation flexibility
- Accessibility and readability
- Component behavior is consistent and functional
Agree that the practice of manually shrinking the screen is not enough for testing purposes. Expect that the view or page layout and design that you see on the smaller smartphone screen to be totally different as viewed on a tablet.
3. Smooth operational functions
Testing installations, updates, and data backups are often overlooked areas during QA, especially when there is a lack of formal planning. Moreover, consider reviewing battery usage and app permission settings. Testing these types of operational components contributes to the total success of your app.
4. Security of data and privacy
Every Product Manager worries about data breaches. Even more so, those supporting native mobile apps often dwell on analyzing vulnerabilities. Again, by the nature of native apps, development apps are often expected to perform offline. Being disconnected means using a micro database, which is often the target for hackers. Encryption is the primary defensive tactic. While this can be the primary means to protect data, additional elements are needed to make up an overall protection strategy.
5. Performance baselines met
Baseline refers to the benchmarks agreed to at the start of the project. Usually, a tester can validate screen load times with free performance tools offered by companies like Google. Screen loading standards are getting competitive, where anything higher than 2.5 seconds will is considered slow. Set baseline numbers before measuring any result. Additionally, keep a record of your findings for tracking trends. If you have performance issues, define short and longer-term improvement goals. Include quantitative elements.
6. Follow Google Play and App Store guidelines
While publishing your app to the public may seem outside the scope of testing, the truth is that it is a critical component of your success. Expectations are typically set with marketing, customers, and investors that the app will launch by a specific date. If that date gets missed because of non-compliance issues, the consequences might be severe. Practicing the actual release might not be possible. However, work on knowledge sharing and generate risk awareness. Finally, making a pre-launch checklist related to compliance as part of your test plan.
Top tip for successful test plan
We often hear about dev teams and their new, slick automation testing tools. Meanwhile, we can easily feel stuck in the stone age. Perhaps we feel behind due to the lack of tools or sophistication. The key is to react positively. Do this by making step improvements to your QA process. Identify a tool and convince management to invest in it. This should be simple to do when you show them it will lower risk and save money in the long run. Select your tool of choice depending on the biggest need. Perhaps it’s a simulator for code testing or maybe a performance tool for measuring scalability. Whatever you choose, make sure you master it. Demonstrate a return on investment. Do this and see your toolset grow. Lastly, we repeat our mantra: Perfect testing makes perfect mobile apps.