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September 01, 2015

Key Considerations for Effective Mobile Testing

By Special Guest
Shyam Ramanathan, Director of Software Quality Assurance, Virtusa

The World Quality Report mentions that “testing is becoming ever more critical as consumers expect a seamless end-user experience across multi-channel applications and devices in an ‘always-on’ world.”

Mobile testing has no doubt exploded in the last four to five years with more users moving towards mobile. Users are very particular on the standards required for a mobile app to be functional. If you don’t get the users’ attention within the first 5 minutes, the user will delete the app without ever coming back to it.

There are generally three types of mobile apps: native applications, Web applications and hybrid applications. A lot of organizations are going for the hybrid apps so that they can cover a large array of platforms. According to Gartner more than 50 percent of deployed apps will be hybrid by 2016. 

Here are the key factors to consider while planning for mobile testing:

1. Think like the end user: When you are testing on mobile it is absolutely imperative to think from an end-user perspective. This means usability is of paramount importance when testing mobile apps. The look and feel of the screen, the size of the font, the color on the screen and other characteristics have to be thought through to finality. This is why exploratory testing is so important to ensuring a good user experience. It is also important to listen to customer complaints and act on them immediately.

2. End-to-end testing: The development team will do some unit testing before handing over the app to QA for further testing. In most cases the unit testing would never suffice and that is why the QA team has to perform complete end-to-end tests to ensure the user gets the best experience from the mobile app. The QA team is responsible to provide a good user experience on a large number of devices which will then lead to the app being welcomed by the user.

3. Emulators vs physical devices: A lot of the testing is done through emulators as it is an easier option. According to many mobile testing experts, the preferred option is always to test using physical devices wherever feasible. Of course unit testing and smoke testing are ideal pieces that can be tested using emulators. However, QA should be using the physical devices wherever possible as this mimics the end-user experience perfectly. Also, physical devices should not just be tested within the mobile lab. Field tests will clearly indicate the presence or absence of connectivity or usability issues.

4. Platform knowledge: As a tester it is important to know the various operating systems of the mobile world, namely Android, iOS, Windows and BlackBerry. Each of the QA testers should have working knowledge on all these platforms to ensure all test scenarios are covered. Device clouds can be used or internal devices can be set up by the company. I recently read in  Flurry’s latest report  (with China-based iPhone users as a baseline) that Xiaomi smartphone owners spent 7 percent more time with apps, while Samsung users spent 14 percent less time and HTC users spent 27 percent less time. All this information is very useful when you are trying to test different devices on multiple platforms.

5. Automation: There are many open source tools that can be used for mobile testing automation. Automation is needed to ensure quick results which are imperative in an agile DevOps environment. There should be a strong collaboration between the QA and development teams to ensure that the timelines are met and the automation pays off. Most of the mobile automation can be achieved with open source tools like Appium, Calabash, Monkeytalk, Robotium etc. and they should be chosen based on the operating system being tested. You can build one test and then execute multiple iterations of it on a plethora of devices. This quickens the overall testing life cycle and ensures projects’ success.

6. Security: Security remains a key factor when considering mobile testing. With the advent of the Internet of Things, security must be at the forefront of QA teams so that there is no breach on the mobile devices in use. Some of the keys with respect to security are to make sure that data integrity is maintained, to find out how the data is encrypted, to carry out authentication by finding out how users are authorized, and also to keep track of all the user credentials in the system.

To conclude, mobile testing is here to stay and it is the organizations that provide a first-class, end-user experience that will thrive in this new normal. The fact is, many organizations do not have the technical know-how or testing specialists required for effective mobile testing. According to the World Quality Report, 55 percent of organizations now test mobile apps, up from 31 percent last year. Yet, 56 percent lack effective testing procedures. This is why, as an organization, it is important to develop a separate mobile testing lab with experts in mobile testing. For organizations, the only way to compete and successfully create an engaging mobile experience for customers in the current market is to understand the challenges of mobile testing and develop a world-class team of mobile testing professionals. Organizations which focus and invest in mobile testing will be far more likely to supply a differentiating experience to its mobile users. 

Edited by Dominick Sorrentino

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