With the mobile app market on the rise, developers strive to bring their products to market as quickly as possible. As a result, quality assurance teams are under more pressure than ever to effectively utilize their resources and deliver app testing with more speed and accuracy.
Teams might be dealing with tens of thousands of testers who need to be directed through the testing process. Getting feedback about the mobile app’s functionalities before it is published is crucial. But it's also important that testing teams learn how to reduce the cost and effort of app testing.
Here are three ways to manage a mobile testing project with resource efficiency in mind.
1. Consider the main testing challenges
My team and I have been testing mobile applications for a while now, and we have become aware of testing challenges that are unique to the mobile environment. To ensure the high quality and performance of the end product, a testing team needs to take these a couple of main aspects into account.
The first is significant device fragmentation. Contrary to desktop or web apps, mobile applications will be used on a variety of devices and platforms. And don't forget that operating systems come in numerous different versions as well. The fragmentation of mobile devices is a huge challenge for developers who want to create different versions of the same app and ensure that it works correctly with different versions of a given operating system. QA departments need to remember that such operating systems have different capabilities, making it harder to secure and manage the app.
Mobile testing tools and resources also have to be considered. We often decide to outsource selected testing areas because of tool availability. Advanced testing tools and efficient methods that allow for testing with multidevice compliance in mind are simply unavailable to in-house testing teams. That's why so many organizations choose to bring in the talent and tools through working with a testing partner.
Because testing budgets aren't increasing and deadlines are steeper than ever, those who decide what the testing process will look like need to seriously consider outsourcing testing activities. Outsourcing can be a good option because it provides developers with access to qualified professionals and testing tools, but it takes a while to find a partner that can be trusted.
In our experience, outsourcing certain testing activities can be a huge help to reducing testing costs. Most of the time we choose to outsource marginal app elements and properly focus on the core activities of the app in house.
2. Decide between emulators and physical devices
Another critical decision in developing a testing strategy concerns the choice between physical devices and emulators.
In the early stages of development, we usually use device emulators because they allow us to quickly test different components of our apps and work well in agile development environments. Emulators are cost-effective and are perfect if what you have in mind is testing basic application functionalities. We often use device emulators while developing app features as well.
But that doesn't mean we avoid using physical devices altogether. Experience has taught me that there is no way you could publish a successful app without testing it on a physical device. If you fail to test your app on actual devices, you will never truly understand how its activities play out in real-life scenarios. Only physical devices allow you to test factors such as different battery states, multiple networks ranging from Wi-Fi to 4G, or network density. Physical testing also gives developers a glimpse into how users interact with the app and how the app works on different devices. That type of testing environment simply can't be re-created on an emulator.
Therefore, the best strategy to test an application in an efficient and cost-effective manner is by mixing device emulators and physical devices. The right balance depends on what your QA team needs.
3. Secure beta testers
That brings us to the topic of beta testing and beta testers. It's smart to start looking for beta testers among users who are already loyal to your products, such as people in your online forms or who communicate with your company on social media. In my experience, one of the best ways to identify users who regularly interact with an app is through the help desk. These are often people who are actively engaged with your app, and many of them will be more than happy to become beta testers for your next release.
Some companies use crowdfunding platforms to source beta testers for their apps. They prepare the app in alpha stage and publish it on a platform like Kickstarter to drive awareness, possibly securing more funding as well.
Another way to get an unbiased set of beta testers is a limited launch. Distributing your app to only a specific country or region lets you test new features of your app before a wide release.
However, getting the best selection of beta testers doesn't guarantee good results if your app doesn't include monitoring or analytics tools. That's how you can track the ways in which users interact with the app and check which features aren't working properly.
It's smart to build that feature of your app in a way that enables you to switch on and off different app functionalities. This way, you can have one group of beta testers test one feature and another group test a different feature. That's the best way to get a realistic view of how the app performs when tested in the wild, and it's more effective than asking users to report on their activities or fill out surveys.
Developing a testing strategy for a mobile app means facing multiple challenges that are part of the field. But by employing these three strategies, you can get valuable feedback about your mobile app’s functionalities before it is published—while still keeping time and budget in mind.