Eran Kinsbruner, Mobile Technical Evangelist, Perfecto, explains how testing for usage patterns and environments are critical to improving mobile quality.
Whether mobile, web or desktop, digital apps are more prevalent than ever. The largest app store, Android’s Google Play, now offers users over 2.2 million apps alone. In such a crowded space, it’s no wonder that users are not easy to impress and retain, with the average app retention rate being less than one-in-four after 90 days.
Despite the challenges, however, creating a great digital experience for your user that keeps them engaged is more important than in previous years. Statistics from 2015 show that the total time spent on digital platforms has grown over 53% since 2013, and that this growth is spread across mobile and desktop.
These figures go a long way in explaining why a recent Perfecto study of 1000 enterprise web and mobile professionals found that 81% of respondents view the digital experience as crucial to their business success. Whether your apps are designed to generate profit through sales and subscriptions or to build brand engagement and product recognition, the burning question facing businesses today is this: “how can I make my digital apps succeed?”
Know your customer
At the core of your digital app strategy needs to be a deep understanding of your user. This means anticipating their needs, most desired functions, preferred forms of engagements, most commonly used devices, and more. Luckily, this doesn’t have to be guess work.
Businesses now know more about their customers than any other time. With the sheer amount of data being generated, collected and analysed, leaders have far deeper insights into the behaviours of their target users. What’s more, understanding your customers – as well as the functions your business needs to incorporate – shouldn’t be the sole responsibility of the technical teams, but a combined effort by the wider business.
Marketing and sales teams’ insights on core target audiences, their expectations from apps, and use patterns are invaluable when creating apps that will be used again and again.
Test, test and test some more
Most businesses’ app testing and quality assurance (QA) teams carefully test the ‘functional’ aspects of their apps, i.e. making sure that critical functions such as downloading to payment processing, and everything in between is working. Whilst this is important, developers know that when it comes to mobile, they are no longer creating applications that will be run from devices with steady power supplies and stable internet connections.
By their nature, mobile apps will be used from different locations and under different conditions, forcing your teams to consider various factors and user conditions. This in turn requires the ability to test in environments that accurately mimic real user conditions. And although 79% of developers are testing in these environments, nearly all view it as challenge to some degree.
The top conditions that teams are currently testing their apps for, in descending order, are:
- Apps running in the background.
- Switch networks from 3G to 4G to wi-fi, etc.
- Call and text message interruptions.
- Low memory.
- Spikes in mobile traffic.
- Dying battery.
Testing for these unique usage patterns and environments are critical to improving mobile quality and preventing user churn. And in ensuring the quality of your digital experience it’s essential to test for the real user conditions that your customers experience every day.
Remember that digital means web and mobile
With 4 out of 10 purchases now involving more than one device, the purpose of digital must be to unite web and mobile assets and deliver a memorable, consistent user experience across channels. And although 76% of businesses surveyed by Perfecto have a digital presence across both web and mobile, 67% still cite delivering a reliable and consistent digital experience across these channels as a major challenge.
In addressing this challenge, businesses should first of all be unifying their mobile and desktop test teams. That over half of businesses are now doing so is an encouraging trend given that when mobile and web teams are combined and using the same tools, it’s easier to spot differences across devices and platforms.
Responsive web design (RWD) is another great way to make sure your digital products will work on new devices. RWD done right will deliver a seamless digital experience on every screen, but must include rigorous testing. Three RWD testing scenarios to keep in mind:
- Visual testing to make sure content looks right on every screen.
- Client-side performance testing to measure the time it takes website objects to render on different screens.
- Navigation testing to verify that the website performs expected functions correctly on all devices.
Keep up with the market and keep testing
Digital app development and testing is a continuous process. Once teams have defined the target personas and implemented their test code correctly, they’ll need a detailed and actionable rich report to continuously drive improvements. Such a report should include network logs, device and app memory and battery consumption details, and timers showing how long it took certain actions to take place.
As well as testing continuously improving your apps, you will also need to keep up with the market’s release cycles, planning accordingly around market calendars. In keeping up with release cycles and continuously testing, automation is simply a must for your company. A big bank or airline can lose hundreds of thousands of dollars if their app is slow to market.
Automation tests can be done quickly on many devices simultaneously through one script, and can be repeated at no additional cost. However – a majority of organisations have automated less than 40% of their mobile testing. And the picture is only slightly better in web testing, where just over a third of organisations have automated 61% of their testing.
It’s important that test automation be spread across the entire SDLC (software development lifecycle). For developers, that means automating unit tests and BATs (build acceptance tests); for QA, that means automating functional tests; and for IT ops, that means assuring performance and integration testing. The ultimate benefits of strong automation are that your team gets more tests executed earlier, meets release deadlines, and prevents defects from making it to customers’ screens.
The growth of the digital landscape and its own continuous development makes it hard for businesses to keep up and ensure that users have a consistent experience no matter the device or conditions they are using. And in keeping up with the rapidly changing market and increasingly demanding users, testing and continuous development will need to be at the core of any business’ digital strategy.
A thorough understanding of your customers’ needs and creating the web and mobile applications that meet them will be the first step. But to keep users engaged, visiting on a regular basis, and avoiding having your apps resigned to the discarded pile, will require the ability to test and deploy quickly and continuously because successful apps aren’t just built once, they’re always getting better.
Edited for web by Cecilia Rehn.