If you’re a smartphone owner, there are, at least, default platform-specific mobile applications installed on your device. Thus, even if you are not an active gamer or don’t exploit any third-party applications like fitness trackers, you’re still bound to use some of the helpful built-in software every day, like calls, phone book, alarm clock, calculator, etc. There is no reason not to use them and, of course, each of us wants such applications to work smoothly, accurately, quickly, and without freezing, even if the device has rather modest technical characteristics. Comfortable and seamless experiences are the priorities of any software user. Ensuring problem-free and smooth operation is quite a headache for developers and, the more complex the app, the bigger challenge it presents for testing.
If you are in any way familiar with the process of software validation, you know this already: it is impossible to completely find all the bugs in the tested application (unless it is quite primitive, of course). Fortunately, technology does not stand still. In the last few years, large IT companies have periodically blown up and impressed the public with more incredibly advanced tools and techniques for testing. In this article, these tools will be discussed.
Testing, Quality Control, and Quality Assurance: Basic Concepts
Before we begin to analyze the most effective testing techniques for mobile applications and mobile app testing tools, let us look at three fundamental concepts within the framework of software development.
- Testing. This is the process of the actual verification of the created software, which allows for the detection of defects, and also takes timely measures for the elimination of such (that is, before the software is delivered directly to the end user).
- Quality Control. This set of activities, called Quality Control, is aimed at analyzing the software being created and verifying its compliance with documented (and, in some cases, undocumented) requirements.
- Quality Assurance (QA). Mobile software Quality Assurance involves more than just examination. This is a process-oriented activity that requires the application of a whole set of approaches, methods, and standards to the creation of software, directed at obtaining a quality product that is maximally adapted for potential user requests, as a result.
One can come to the conclusion that only the correctly chosen strategy, together with respective tools for mobile application testing, will help to create a really successful application. Below, we will consider the most advanced techniques and software solutions that help testers (and other affected employees) in solving such a difficult task.
Top Nine Mobile App Testing Techniques
In this chapter, we will consider the most effective, in our opinion, iOS and Android app testing techniques, without which the release of any modern software solution would be unthinkable.
1. Automation Testing
As practice shows, none of even the most experienced and "pumped" software testers are able to detect every error and inconsistency in a fairly complex mobile application, within a limited time period. On the other hand, it is quite obvious that no process of development can last forever. How can we eliminate the dissonance between these two factors? The answer seemingly lies on the surface. It is enough to simply use as much working resources in the proving process as possible. In particular, such mobile testing methodology as the synchronous running of a mobile application on several devices simultaneously allows for a significant increase in the level of the test productivity. But even this does not eliminate all problems. For example, in cases of software containing a large number of complex computing operations, such an approach will require far too large a staff of testers, which may prove to be a very unprofitable measure for the investors of the project. What do you do in this situation? It is very simple - find experts to create scripts for test automation. Many business owners believe that this development process innovation is expensive and not justified. Nevertheless, according to the experience of IT companies actively implementing this approach, you are more likely to get a correctly working application as a result of running series of autotests than with manual testing (in case of a volumetric software with really complex algorithmic constructions, of course).
2. Alpha and Beta Testing
In many situations, organizing the work of testers in relation to the mobile application can be quite a challenge (in particular, when you hire a separate team of employees). The Android platform offers a wonderful solution to this issue. You can simply upload your application to the dedicated section of the Google Play Market. In this case, only the users who agreed to participate in the examination will be able to access it. As for iOS developers, they can employ the services of TestFlight. This software solution is suitable for beta testing by trusted persons (up to 25 people can be granted with an extensive access to the application), and an external group of testers (up to a thousand people). Simultaneously, the developer can test up to ten applications. This and other similar services are discussed in more detail, below.
3. Universal Testing Templates
As the operation of the IT company progresses, testers increasingly face similar challenges. Many programs are, more or less, similar to each other, so your employees can develop a test suite to be run from app to app (for example, the security vulnerabilities discovery package), augmenting it with new test scripts. either in response to changes in development tools, resources, and methodologies, or tied to the unique functionality of a particular software. Make this approach mandatory in the activities of your QA department. Employing such mobile application testing methodology allows you to save a lot of time and pay more attention to those tasks that previously had less practice.
4. Cloud Testing
If you create mobile software for business, it is very important to ensure that, when it is actively used, the entire operating system of the user device does not "hang." Experimenting in the cloud is a great way to find bugs in it without risking real hardware. From an economic point of view, this approach is very expedient. In large-scale projects, it allows for savings of tens of thousands of dollars, even despite charges by network providers of cloud services.
5. Installation Testing
It may seem irrational to pay special attention to only one of the types of testing for mobile applications, but let us explain the reason behind this. Even the most bugged applications can be further corrected and improved if the user has the opportunity to run it on their mobile device. If the application, for whatever reason, does not download to the smartphone or the install process cannot be finished, it is guaranteed to be deleted. That is why your quality assurance team must pay special attention to this type of testing, starting from the earliest stages of development when only the first "raw" version of the product is being prepared for release.
6. Usability Testing
For mass consumer applications, it is very important to ensure the highest level of UX/UI. Are all of its functions operable with a single hand? A single finger? How many clicks does the user have to make before getting to the needed functionality? Think all these details through before the application gets released.
7. Compatibility with Various Devices and OS Versions
Compatibility testing is an essential step in the verification of any mobile software. Everything is quite simple with iOS-based devices. Firstly, there are not many varieties of them and, secondly, in order to fully test your mobile application, a single Mac station with Apple iOS Simulator installed would be enough. In its turn, in the case of the Android platform, you have to invest notable effort: the wide variety of different gadgets and OS versions makes testers spend a lot of time for this procedure. Note that the emulator intended for this platform (included in the Android Development Tools package) has a fairly high input threshold and, therefore, may be difficult to master for beginners.
8. Compliance to I18N and L10N
If your application is targeted to more than one national user group, you will definitely need to test it in accordance with the L10N or I18N processes. This procedure will help to make sure that your software product will be available in other countries, and in their native languages.
9. Performance Testing
Determining the level of efficiency of a mobile application is a very important part of the process. Ideally, your application should run smoothly, even on the device with the most primitive technical characteristics. A completely different matter is the question of how realistic this is. Developers of cross-platform software are regularly faced with this problem, as they often suffer from a lack of performance, in comparison to native counterparts. Fortunately, for developers who actively exploit React Native framework, a special React Fiber algorithm appeared recently, which allows for notable acceleration of the visual rendering process. There are a lot of other similar program methodologies, but the performance shortcomings should be mitigated as much as possible.
Of course, we did not list all of the existing testing techniques, above; however, if you take into account those we’ve mentioned, your mobile application could reach the ideal as closely as possible and in a reasonable time, providing the highest level of UX. Now, let us move on to discover the most popular and effective mobile app testing tools.
Top Five Tools for Mobile App Testing
Mobile application testing tools are no less important than the techniques themselves (in fact, they are used in the union). Below we will consider the most convenient and advanced of them, which allow for providing an extremely effective testing process while upholding the productive interaction between QA engineers and programmers.
At the beginning, TestFlight was available to developers on both platforms - Android and iOS; however, after the service was purchased by Apple, it became unavailable to the Android. This software solution has many advantages, including the fact that it is absolute free of charge, has the ability to create a group of up to 1000 beta-testing volunteers (access to the functionality of TestFlight is provided through an invitational email with a link), offers direct downloading of app beta versions for up to 25 users, supports access level differentiation (administrative or technical), simultaneously runs the application on several devices (up to ten units), has the ability to automate the user feedback collection and many, many others. This service is suitable for those who work with iOS version 8 and newer (does not support OS X devices).
This software solution’s free account is ideal for use by small IT companies, while larger enterprises will have to purchase a premium subscription. Within this service, testers can attach to the descriptions of discovered issues video clips, in addition to standard screenshots, as well as fully record the failures in the software running on the client side. What is the way to get access to the TestFairy functionality? It is very simple: through an email invitation. Note that TestFairy is available for both Android and iOS developers.
3. Google Play Beta Testing Service
2014 was somewhat significant for Android application developers: they got access to the functionality and settings of Google Developer accounts. Activation of this costs a mere $25 (a lifetime personal account subscription payment). The administrative console provides access to lots of helpful features, including email notifications, recommendations for performance optimization, a plethora of monetization methods for your application, in-depth analysis of user feedback, SEO, etc
HockeyApp is a great tool for the beta testing of software for mobile platforms such as iOS, Android, Windows Phone, and Mac OS. This service starts with a one month free trial, with further usage charges starting at $10 monthly for a basic subscription, which allows for the collection of bug reports for up to five apps, simultaneously. Additional apps are charged at an extra cost. Despite this, HockeyApp has mass benefits, including access to unlimited storage and an unlimited number of testers who can view, create, and modify data. In addition, the version control option allows users to find problems in the current version of the software rapidly.
Ubertesters software solution offers an incredibly advanced set of tools for collaborative tracking of bugs in the software verification process. This is a cross-platform product which is suitable for software developers on iOS and Android platforms. Both free and premium accounts are available. Users of this service receive such features as bug report analysis, automated update distribution, message exchange between team members, and even involving employees from external IT companies into the testing process.
Need a Team of Experienced Testers for Your Mobile Software? We are ready to help!
Not all IT companies have their own staff who are able to test complex mobile software qualitatively. Moreover, as practice shows, even experienced testers are not always able to implement automated testing processes which are extremely important, in many situations. Is there a solution? The answer is simple: find a separate team that can implement comprehensive mobile application testing. Why not try us? Applikey Solutions is an advanced Ukrainian IT company that successfully leads the process of mobile application development from the moment of agreement with the customer towards the release and subsequent maintenance. Do you want to start the project as soon as possible? No problem! We are always happy to work with new teams, and will take great pride in the opportunity to work with you on your project!