Testing is an integral element of any mobile app development process. In the following discussion, we have highlighted certain salient features of app testing. New developers, in particular, would find the following information really useful.
Any decent mobile app company has a specialized team of app testers. Once the beta version of an app is developed, it is sent to the testing stage – where bugs and malware, if any, are ironed out, before the application is submitted at the store. Given the immense importance of mobile app testing in the overall creation of an iPhone/Android app, it is only essential that developers should have an in-depth idea of the testing procedures. The following discourse throws some light on that:
- Need for app testing – Let’s tackle the question that any new app developer might have – what’s the big buzz about testing mobile apps? Well, if bug(s) remain undetected in an iPhone app in its final form, it will be immediately rejected at iTunes. At the Google Play Store, buggy apps can be sneaked in – but as soon as users detect those bugs, the concerned apps are uninstalled, and a negative buzz is generated about the developer company. Thorough app testing minimizes such possibilities.
- Difference between app testing and hardware testing – The term ‘mobile testing’ is generally used to cover both – and that is a source of confusion for many professionals new in the domain of mobile app development. While mobile hardware testing involves the check of its specs and features (e.g., wifi settings, camera, Bluetooth connectivity, etc.), app testing is all about making sure that a particular application is working properly on its targeted devices.
- The importance of emulators – Many developers consider that testing apps on devices is the only thing to focus on. This is another folly. While most mobile app development frameworks offer real-time code debugging support, using emulators to test mobile software across different environments is also vital. Emulators can be broadly classified under three heads – OS emulators, Device emulators, and Browser emulators. (Note: emulators are also referred to as ‘simulators’ by many app developers).
- Types Of App Testing Required – Once the prototype of a mobile app is ready, it should first be manually tested in a focus group. Most app development companies form such focus groups for app-testing from their in-house personnel. Automated testing, and testing the app on the cloud network are also necessary, to make sure that no bugs remain untraced.
Elements Of Mobile App Testing
Contrary to what many people believe, mobile app testing is not a single process in itself. This phase can be broken up into multiple smaller checking tasks – each of which have to be performed with due care by the testers. Here are the most important components of testing a mobile application:
- Functional Testing – Android and iPhone app developers require functional testing to find out whether there is any problem with the included app content (ranging from text and links, to images and videos). Detailed functional testing is also important for monitoring app analytics later on.
- Interface Testing – For this, proper collaboration between the coders, UI/UX designers and the app testing department is essential. The in-app navigation flow, including the arrangement of menu buttons and other tabs, is checked at this stage. Most developers follow a thumb rule that final users should not have to tap/click more than 3 times to reach the app screen they are searching for.
- Ongoing manual testing – Leading iOS and Android app developers opine in favor of using SCRUM methods for manual/automated testings. These tests need to be conducted on an ongoing basis. At pre-specified time-intervals (say, 10 days), the developers would submit the software they have created thus far to the testing/QA team. Tools like JIRA are used for quickly finding out errors and rectifying them. Continuous testing in this manner eases the final stage of checking the app.
- Performance testing – Another potential source of confusion – since by ‘performance’, many new app developers understand the user-experience that an app is likely to deliver. In truth though, the scope of ‘performance testing’ is a lot wider than that. It includes checking whether there are any bugs/problems in the client-side architecture, server-side setup and the network functionality of the application. In summary, all forms of front-end testing of an app come under performance tests.
- Device/Device Interoperability/Compatibility Testing – Probably the trickiest part of mobile app testing. When a developer creates an iOS app, (s)he has to check whether the app is compatible with the latest flagship iPhones (6 and 6 Plus), as well as iPhone 5 (decisions on further support for older models have to be taken by individual mobile app entrepreneurs). Most iOS apps have to be compatible with iPad and iPod Touch as well. For Android apps, device interoperability testing is even more challenging, due to the sheer range of new Android devices made available by different vendors every year. A list of all the popular handsets has to be drawn up, and the app has to be tested on each of them. During the development stage too, testing the codes across multiple browsers is advisable.
- Operational testing – What if an app has good enough features – but causes loss of unsaved data in case the phone battery runs out when it is being used? Or what if there is a screen freeze (ideally, this bug should not be present at all)? To counter the potential risk of loss of app data, operational testing is essential. The overall data backup and recovery process of a mobile app is examined at this stage.
- Beta testing – The component that is often mistaken as the only form of mobile app testing. Beta testing, however, is only the follow-up to the manual/automated testing stage. A certain group of (preferably, reliable third-party people) are requested to install the new app on their devices, browse through each and every screen, and report complaints/performance bugs (if any). Provided that this focus group is large (say, 60-80 individuals) and sincere enough, this phase can double up as the most useful form of app usability testing stage too.
- Load testing – Although load testing is ignored by many at present, its importance is going to rise in 2015 and beyond. It might very well be possible that a mobile app is being simultaneously used by a large number of people. Thorough testing is done, via separate metrics, to find out how the response times, functionality, server load, and other features are likely to be affected in such cases. Multiple test scenarios are created, to compare expected with actual usage levels of an app.
- Security testing – With the rise of m-commerce apps and finance-related enterprise applications, the value of security testing has also spiralled. In order for a business app to be successful, it should boast of foolproof data security and integrity features. The data stored in the app (or in associated hybrid cloud) should never be accessible to any unauthorized individual/organization.
- Interruption Testing – Any Android or iPhone app developer worth his/her salt would know that phone calls/text messages/emails can, and probably will, ‘interrupt’ users as they are checking out a newly installed app. Hence, it only makes sense that a portion of mobile app testing is dedicated to find out how the app handles such ‘interruptions’. Interruption testing has to be done via emulators as well as on actual devices.
- Installation testing – If the first encounter of a user with a new app is not a nice one, (s)he won’t be spending extra minutes to try learning about that application (after all, there are thousands of alternatives available at the store). Prior to submitting the app at iTunes/Play Store, the installation and validation steps should be double-checked. A person should not face any problems in installing the app.
- Memory testing – Yet another factor often overlooked by new app makers is the memory and bandwidth issue. Since mobile devices typically have a fraction of memory resources compared to desktop systems, apps that hog too much of memory and consume excessive bandwidth are likely to be slow, and have a propensity to crash often. For iPhone app development experts, memory testing can be done by installing the app on a device, and connecting it to a compatible Macbook. Testing the memory usage of Android and Blackberry apps is fairly easy too.
Effectiveness (the ability to deliver unique value), Efficiency (speed, navigation, lack of crashes and freezes, etc.) and overall user-satisfaction are the three factors that the usability testing of a mobile app is all about. The results from the ongoing app tests are recorded by the QA/testing team of app companies in a Test Summary Sheet. If a company has diversified international presence, proper mobile app testing requires collaboration between the software personnel from all its branches. In case a bug is reported even after all these forms of testing, developers need to release a rectified, bug-removed upgrade as soon as possible.
Developers should never try to submit their apps before thoroughly testing the software. Buggy apps, after all, can never be successful!