Mobile App Testing: Challenges and Solutions
Today smartphones are ubiquitous. With it the application landscape has undergone a revolution, churning out a large number of applications to keep up with the user's needs and wants. Businesses are increasingly finding it necessary to have an application to remain relevant and connected with their users. Additionally, your user’s handset has progressed beyond an application working in its confines. Applications now work in tandem with wearable tech, vehicles, and home appliances. Your developers are facing their challenges, but your testers are dealing with no less. With the evolving context, we work in today, a one-fits-all solution is a thing of the past.
And don’t forget, testing of mobile applications is more complicated than testing on your traditional desktop or even your web applications. This shouldn’t spur you into ignoring your testing needs. Look at the market today; there are enough apps out there who claim to do almost exactly what your app promises. What sets you apart is the service you layer over the purpose your app is meant to serve. Testing will determine the quality of your service. Convincing your target consumers to download your application won’t prove as challenging as convincing them to keep using it once they encounter bugs, below-par performance, functional defects, device compatibility problems all leading to a bad user experience. Don’t make the mistake of compromising on testing. It’s no longer about launching a well developed and tested application. You have to keep upgrading and improving the service you provide to ensure your users never consider leaving. Let’s take a look at the challenges faced while testing mobile applications.
Many businesses don’t have the time or ability to navigate the burgeoning maze of multiple OSs, platforms, services, and devices. Even so, when they do come to terms with how necessary testing has become and decide to do the needful, these are the challenges often faced.
1. Device, Platform, and Operating System Fragmentation:
It’s no surprise this point has claimed the first place on this list. There are about 2 billion Android devices and more than 1 billion iOS users out there. Android boasts of more than 4000 different devices, and iOS comes with its alarming numbers. Nevertheless, device fragmentation is more an issue for the Android operating system. These figures encompass handsets, mobile phones, IPads, tablets, wearable tech, etc. Of course, this problem will only get more challenging as the market grows to accommodate more devices and platforms. This diversity makes it impossible for your quality team to assure you whether a tested application will work similarly well on another device from the same well-tested product family since the CPU, memory, screen resolution, OS optimization and hardware could be different.
I’m certain you’ve come across this image. You’ll find it wherever device fragmentation is discussed. This image puts a picture to your challenge. It represents a data chart of about 12,000 different Android devices which existed in July 2013. Compare it to 2012, which had about 4,000 devices. With numbers dominating the market today, we understand the pressure your engineering team is under, whose aim is to provide a smooth user experience to your users across different platforms, devices, and operating systems.
2. Different Mobile Application Types:
Your mobile application could be Native, Web-based or Hybrid. Each of their test case scenarios will vary since their implementation is different from one another, especially when you are doing performance, stress, compatibility and conformance testing. Native applications have lesser scope for testing, hybrid and web apps, on the other hand, require both on and off platform testing. Web applications have to be tested more on the choice of browser versions and Native, Hybrid apps for execution, download, compatibility, platform interaction and updates.
3. Mobile Network Operators:
You probably tested every function of your application, and they all work perfectly. In the real world, when your user tries to use a function and your app executes it as it has to, but 8 seconds too late, because of bad network or load issues. Your user might assume it’s faulty and delete it anyway. Your app should work well online, offline, real-time and anywhere else in between. Consumers today use apps on the go. Imagine everything you have to contend with, changing networks, roaming, weak signals, etc. Fragmentation is a lot dicier here than when we discussed different operating systems. Network emulators will give you a little more clarity, providing you with a basic level of testing. Testing on real networks is still crucial.
Your users store and share their personal and critical data on your applications, it’s imperative you take measures to ensure data privacy. Testing your application on a secure and private cloud will provide the necessary access to your testing team to ensures data breaches don’t happen. This will help you recognize security issues faster. Fixing these problems before production will help you save money since a bug fixed before production saves about 20 times the cost than fixing it after production.
5. The daunting number of Testing Tools available:
What is the one automation tool to satisfy all your mobile test automation needs? Or more like is there one tool which can do the job? Honestly, no, one-size doesn't fit all anymore. There are so many tools in the market. It’s become hard to choose unless you have a sound mobile testing strategy and understand exactly what you need to prioritize. You’ll soon realize, although there is a range of third-party and open source tools for mobile testing, each come with their limitations, and you’ll have to customize it to suit your testing needs. Take some of the popular open source tools. They don’t have image comparison or slow script execution for the iOS platform and more.
- The amount you invest in your mobile application testing will decide how flawless your customer experience is. The rising intolerance amongst consumers means they won’t forgive a single bug, no matter how amazing your application is. They even tend to associate your brand with the error. No matter how daunting the challenges of testing mobile applications seem now, the solutions are fairly straightforward and boil down to how well you understand your context.
- The success of your application depends a lot on the simplicity of the UI. Most applications have to deal with regular mobile testing challenges, the easiest way to avoid additional complexity which comes with multiple app architectures, is to eliminate the frills.
Find your audience. Identify the targeted consumer base in the location you’re targeting and find out the most common device used. You’ll save a lot of time, and it’ll help you zero in on the issues you need to address first.
- Performing testing must be done extensively. How does your app perform offline? For instance, if your app saves boarding tickets to a flight and your user isn’t connected to any network, how will he access it? How much do the various Wifi speeds, signal strengths, 2G, 3G and 4G networks impact the performance of your app? What happens when your users switch to 3G network or if the network drops? Security while sharing and storing data under varying networks must be studied, too.
- Mobile simulators and emulators are necessary testing tools, allowing us to perform regular regression testing and verify general functionality. But with emulators and simulators, testing is conducted in an environment which is simulated and not real. The benefits provided by these tools are limited and never a substitute to “in the wild” testing. Use emulators and simulators along with real world testing and it’ll the results won’t disappoint you.
- Automation is a boon when used judiciously. But how much of it? Test automation is increasingly being used to reduce test cycles and shorten the time required to get your product out in the market. However, it’s not wise to automate everything. Automation is more about understanding when and where to use it in your project lifecycle, but it’s not a replacement for manual testing. To exploit all the advantages of automated testing, utilize the cloud to make your mobile testing team more efficient and productive. Picture your tester with his desktop on which resides a mobile testing suite consisting of automation, network virtualization, and load tools helping your tester complete the job in record time.
- Your QA’s objective is to ensure a great experience on the most popular interface between your user and your business. A happy user is your best sales guy, and mobile testing is what converts them into your brand ambassadors. A tester should think beyond what he’s traditionally learned and interact with the business analysts and marketing team to understand what parts of the app are troubling the customers, and the parts they’re happy about. Having an application which stands out from the competition is a bona fide way for smaller companies to battle against larger ones.
An effective mobile testing strategy will form the backbone on which you deliver reliable, high-performing apps. The challenges of mobile testing are often unique to each business, and hence the solution too will depend on your context. The solution will be a mixture of tools, frameworks, platforms, and people, eventually striking the best balance between cost, quality, and time-to-market. End of the day, nothing helps tackle challenges faster than partnering with the right associates.