Apps developed nowadays have to be launched in a marketplace that’s never been as varied and dynamic as it is presently.
The startling diversity in situations and environments that your app can be used in means that testing has become increasingly important to ensure that it will operate at consistently high levels of technical performance and customer satisfaction at all times.
In this blog post, I share eight testing tips that will help mobile app developers ensure they create software that works equally well inside and outside the lab.
Develop a test plan that’s all about usability
Testing for mobile apps is an aspect of the profession that’s in rapid flux as new technologies hit the scene every other day.
For this reason, it’s always a smart move to draw up a comprehensive test plan that considers both features as well as the usability you intend to achieve in your new app project.
As a matter of fact, usability accounts for a good chunk of the end-users’ acceptance of your app, yet most testers insist on focusing mainly on cramming as many features as they can fit. Counter this tendency by picking ONE purpose for your app and nailing it to the best of your abilities.
Consult frequently with your users while testing
Surround yourself with the users of your new app as early as possible in the project cycle. The biggest pitfall when you’re creating a new app is that you only listen to your motivations and ideas, effectively creating an app with a user base of one!
If you intend to make any money off your idea, then you must make sure you’re delivering the kind of value your users want. Engage often with them to ensure you have their buy-in long before the app is available for sale and build an accurate model of what users really want from and how they intend to use your app.
This knowledge will be essential not only during the development and testing phase, but also when your start implement growth tactics and try to convert users to paid versions of your product.
Users can help you find the best ‘look’ for you app too
A follow-up to the previous idea – engage your user in the app design as well!
The application interface is one of the strongest selling points of a new app, so make sure it looks and feels ‘just right’ by getting user input and build a blueprint for an optimal design.
Grids are an important design concept you can use to help you and your users figure out exactly the best placement of the elements in your app interface and find which arrangement is the most attractive and effective.
Remember to test designs across different platforms to ensure your app has a unified and consistent visual identity, even though in certain cases you’ll have to match the design with the operating system the app will operate on.
Be smart when writing your test cases
Here at ReQtest we’re vocal advocates for including testers as early as possible in the project. We recommend that writing test cases should occur in parallel with the requirements gathering and design phase. This ensures that each requirement written down is testable.
We also suggest that testers write test cases for both valid and invalid conditions so that as much of the diversity in behaviour possible from an app will be tested — even that which is unexpected!
Share these test cases with the developers to help them get thinking about the best way to develop an app. This exercise can save them precious time spent re-coding the app if bugs are found.
Another smart move is to group your test cases so that it’s easier to carry out regression testing later. Every minute spared when the team is knee-deep in developing and testing the app prior to its launch translates into money saved on time and effort wasted in low-value activities like sorting out stuff.
Make scalability an integral part of your app
If it’s successful, your app will grow and mature long after its launch. You should anticipate future needs by testing for your apps compatibility with add-ons and different technical specifications of the mobile devices available on the market – from the low-end to the high-end of the spectrum.
In some cases, scalability could also mean having a ‘lite’ version of your app for users with budget devices that is complement with the possibility of upgrading to the full version once they purchase a more sophisticated device.
Preparing for the possibility of future expansion will minimise the costs associated with app redesign, as well as the time spent implementing them. By the time your revamped app would be ready, new advances would have already been launched or announced, sending the team spiralling down a vicious cycle of ineffective and tardy redesigns.
Prioritise on security testing
Testing how secure the data stored on your app and the communication channels it uses are should be a standard component of any mobile app testing plan.
Data encryptions, compliance with security standards and the ability to geo-locate and lock or disconnect devices when they’ve been misplaced or stolen are all features that need to be tested extensively to guarantee the users complete safety and peace of mind should their devices get lost.
Test early, test often
As soon as you have a version of your app that does its job sufficiently well, show it to your users and walk them through what they can and cannot do with it and how it works. Note down anything that they particularly enjoy using, don’t understand or are plain disappointed or unimpressed with.
These testing sessions conducted with your users will yield a tremendous wealth of information and arguably propel your app on the track to profits for the first time since its inception!
Listen closely to what your users have to say will ensure that you’re straying true to their requirements and tweak your prototypes accordingly to their wants and needs.
Test apps in a real-life environment
The definitive test of user experience and usability isn’t with virtual emulators but by installing and monitoring the activity of your app on real devices.
Although it can be difficult to set up logistically, particularly for start-ups, I believe that the benefits of testing in a real-life environment far outweighs the costs involved, even if it’s conducted under restrictive conditions.
Among the issues you should be on the look-out while testing your app across different devices and platforms there are:
- Differences in user interactions
- Integration with preloaded/other software and notification systems
- Overall performance in relation to the underlying hardware characteristics (including memory consumption and sensor functionality)
- The effect of different display types and device orientations on the app interface
- Results consistently across different devices and platforms
- Interactions with networks, including Wi-Fi and mobile data plans
- Offline functionality
Testing has become a concern for every team member in your organisation. Testers, developers and users all have a role to play in creating apps that satisfy expectations in terms of usability and functionality.
Actively engaging all these players and getting them to pull the same rope for your app will make a significant impact on its success on the market and the kind of the reception it earns by the media and the wider user community.