Five Must-do Tests for Mobile Apps

Dec 312014
Research shows 57% of users abandon a mobile app after waiting three seconds for it do something – and surprisingly, 80% of those users never return. Testing your mobile app is a critical step to not only ensuring the longevity and success of your app, but also to providing a positive user experience. Here are our five expert tips on must-do tests for your mobile apps.

Dominos delivers. Pizza. They have for a very long time. But the way Dominos delivers has changed over the past year or so. These days you can log into their sleek, intuitive mobile app and design your pizza from scratch. The interface is elegant and easy to use. There are cutesy graphics representing every conceivable topping from pepperoni to pineapple. And it’s simple to give special instructions like easy on the olives, please. What’s more, tracking the ‘life’ of your pizza from its inception is the process de resistance. You’ll know when the cheese is being piled on, when they slide that doughy wonder into a pizza oven, and the exact moment the fresh spicy pie reaches your front door. Overkill, you say? Seems the marketing folks at Dominos wondered about that too. And then they tested. And tested some more. Turns out, customers felt the status updates were relevant, and fun! Who would have thought that? And the testing didn’t end there. This app went through the full gamut of tests, including performance, compatibility and more. So, as you contemplate the testing phase of your shiny new mobile application, be advised that comprehensive testing is an absolute must.   

Here’s why. 57% of users abandon a mobile app after waiting three seconds for it to do something. And…80% of those users never return. Never. The immediate negative impact can be huge. Consider the potential loss to Dominos if first time users had fled the app never to return. Catastrophe. But the    testing dynamics of an app build are not easy or simple. The thing is, there are so many moving parts. Device variance is huge. Each contraption has its own quirks – including resolution, graphical interface attributes and processing capabilities. Then there’s device OS versions, a vast array of screen sizes, inconsistent battery consumption specs, and more. Plus, when it comes to mobile networks, low bandwidth and high latency are kind of the norm. Not really the best scenario. Yea, lots of parts, moving.   

So listen up, here’s where you’ll want an experienced testing partner to concentrate their efforts.   

Usability Testing: these tests focus on user-centered interaction. Often input from users is provided, as well as usability inspection methods where experts employ different means to evaluate user interfaces without involving users. Both are (by definition) performed from the users’ point of view. Since individual perspectives vary widely, some believe that usability cannot be tested, only validated. These tests typically consider ease-of-use, aesthetics and speed. During this testing phase, you’ll learn whether your app gets favorable responses from users, and how to course correct if need be.   

Functional Testing: test cases here emphasize whether an app can do what it’s built to do. Essentially does it work as expected? User commands, data manipulation,  searches and business processes, and integrations are most often involved. While functional testing covers the obvious surface type of capabilities, these tests should be designed to assess back-end operations as well.   

Compatibility Testing: sometimes referred to as rendering testing. These work to validate the app across a breadth of mobile devices, OS’s and OS versions, screen sizes and resolutions. The idea is to have the app respond with relative consistency no matter the device, OS, etc. Not only is this a mammoth development challenge, but setting up effective testing processes is extremely demanding. No surprise due the multitude of configurations available, and the fact that these technologies are in a constant state of evolution.   

Performance Testing: the point here is to determine how well an app actually performs. Many things must be considered and the impact of each one can be super significant. This testing area evaluates factors like server connection changes (3G to 4G and beyond), shared image sizes, battery consumption, and memory leaks. Device resources (think cameras and GPS interactions) are also carefully studied and measured. It’s important to note that network attributes play a key role in performance testing. Here’s an example; when network congestion occurs (as it always will) and data fails to make its way to the end point, what happens? Data loss. And many apps will freeze, close, or miss navigation cues as a result. But these responses aren’t a foregone conclusion. Clearly defined behavior of the app with respect to network issues can help mitigate these outcomes. Since performance of mobile apps is impacted from the client’s side (device) and the application’s server side (app host system), these tests must assess both in granular detail.    

Accessibility testing: ensuring your app is accessible and effective for users with vision loss, hearing loss, motor control loss, and even information processing challenges is essential. To this end, you’ll want to test for Section 508 Compliance. This government guidance offers a set of rules and tools to steer your efforts. For example, make the contrast of site elements, specifically information vs. background, high enough for recognition by those with sight disabilities. And seek to make all graphical elements meaningful, although a subjective task. Ultimately, your app should test well for integration with assistive technologies; like VoiceOver for iOS, Narrator for Windows and Talkback-Android.   

Now let’s pause for a second. All this testing babble causing your stomach to growl? Hang with me just a bit longer. The intent here is not to suggest that marketers become experts in the various contingents of mobile app testing. Rather, to acknowledge that a certain level of fluency in the topic can significantly improve the impact of your latest mobile application. The worst outcome is to launch an app that isn’t intuitive, doesn’t engage users, offers sluggish performance, works sometimes but not always, freezes, or shuts down abruptly. Even one of these issues is one too many. Bottom line is, if you want to entice the most users possible, you’ve got one shot to get it right. One. So, don’t pinch pennies when it comes to testing. And consider this as well, your developers are there to build a stellar application, that’s it. Wisely employ them (specifically) for that purpose. When it comes to devising and executing test strategies, look for someone who has broad experiences in the discipline. An added benefit will be the complete objectivity they bring to the process. Ultimately, your app will be scads better for it. So go ahead. Build an app. And test it like crazy across all categories. It’s the only way to ensure that, like Dominos, your new killer app delivers!