How to Nail Mobile Testing in your Startup

How to Nail Mobile Testing in your Startup

Majority of tech startups created nowadays use mobile devices as business platforms and it’s no surprise having in mind the enormous importance mobile phones have in our lives. Maybe you yourself are thinking about building an app and starting your own company. Well, make sure to read this article as it will help you navigate through the complicated world of mobile testing and delivering a quality product/service to your customers.

The mobile device revolution is well and truly upon us. When the radio was commercially introduced to consumers it took 38 years to reach 50 million users. Facebook took three-and-a half-years to reach 50 million users. The ‘Draw Something’ mobile app took 50 days.

For the keen startup or entrepreneur, let’s be realistic

For a startup not every possible mobile device and operation types have to be covered for your first release of software. Your market research may indicate that a solid proportion of your target market may use an iPhone 6s with an iOS8 Apple operation system. Android related devices could easily be catered for in a latest software release. As I mentioned in last week’s blog, this could be your minimum viable product or MVP.

THE PROBLEM

Here are the common problems with moving into and testing mobile applications:

A mobile application fails to install on the desired device, losing you a customer.
Mobile applications once deployed experience defects or faults not observed during testing, damaging your reputation with your customer.
The user has a poor experience of using your mobile application which hampers your success.
Your business does not have the time and resources to monitor trends and changes in the mobile device space.
The complexity of so many operating systems, browsers, telecommunication providers and devices is a challenge for many businesses to cope with.
(Corporates face the exact same pressures and challenges as small business.)
Worst of all, a user may have a negative experience with your application or web page via their mobile device. They simply will never engage with your brand again, because they never supply feedback. This is not uncommon and you never know that you have lost a customer!

These problems have a dramatic influence on:

Customer satisfaction
Revenue
Brand reputation
Brand loyalty.

Business owners repeatedly link a poor mobile user experience with poor customer satisfaction.

THE CAUSE

The complexity of the mobile marketplace, or uncertainty about the future path of the industry, cause most of the problems listed above. However, some problems may occur because the business:

Underestimates the time and resources required for a mobile initiative
Does not understand which mobile devices their customers use
Does not engage with network carriers to determine which new phones they are encouraging their customers to adopt at the end of their contract period
Do not understand the complexities of building a mobile application for every popular device.

The following diagram presents the mobile universe in practice:

mobile_universe

These problems are shared between business and IT in any business. A business sees its competitors rolling out fantastic mobile applications and wants to do it, too. Then they have unrealistic expectations of how long it takes an IT project, developer or provider to create and test these applications. At the same time, IT doesn’t control the expectations by explaining the complexities and resource requirements of such an initiative. The result can be missed delivery dates, disappointed customers, damaged brand image and resources wasted.

This happens in businesses of all types and sizes.

THE SOLUTION

Virtualisation had already lowered testing costs, increased efficiency and sped up delivery of software to end users and now has gone further with mobile devices with Software as a Service (SaaS), where the software exists in the cloud and you use the software when you need to for a service fee.

Global SaaS testing companies Perfecto Mobile, DeviceAnywhere, and other similar businesses, offer a service where you can log onto their website to remotely access or test any mobile device,

operating system and browser combination within seconds. This frees your business from having to invest in multiple mobile devices for testing, and the maintenance nightmare they may become. With SaaS you only pay for the resources you need at the time you need them.

Utilising a company like this can be a significant cultural shift for some businesses. Particularly in situations where businesses like to own and control everything in-house. The key business decision makers need to understand that companies such as Perfecto Mobile and DeviceAnywhere have spent years researching and developing their technology and it would be uneconomic to replicate that for your business. In addition to the financial considerations, brands like Perfecto Mobile and DeviceAnywhere have relationships with device manufacturers and carriers that allow them to pre-empt changes in the marketplace.

In practice you or your IT capability can log onto the SaaS or cloud user interface. It can display a list of devices on your screen with the associated attributes as follows.

mobile_device_list

A variety of devices, Operation System versions and network locations are available at your fingertips.

Further to the above, the SaaS or cloud-user interface provide access to real devices similar to the screen below:

mobile_cloud

Here you can press buttons, browse the web and do all the normal operations as if the device was actually in your hand. This is powerful technology.

If you are unsure it would be best to trial the service through a proof-of-concept to begin with. The great thing is these SaaS companies offer free trial periods. Perfect for startups also!

Assuming you have successfully moved past the proof of concept stage, how do you best leverage the capability? From my experience, there are several inputs required before commencing a test strategy:

If an existing business you need a report outlining which phones, operating systems, and browsers are used by your customer base (online services such as Google Analytics can assist with this research)
If a new business you will need to work with your SaaS supplier to review their future mobile device changes or risks (They can assist with which devices to prioritise for your project or target market)
Prioritise devices, operating systems and browsers around what your customers will be using at launch time and clearly communicate that decision to the business and customers to manage their expectations
You may want to consider using a hybrid of SaaS and manual testing – to include older or locally significant devices
Ensure your IT capability has access to a sufficiently high-speed, high-capacity internet connection to be make use of the SasS capability.
Another affordable option or mobile testing alternative available to you as a start-up is accessing crowd testing services. These businesses or communities around the world can test your newly build software with physical users and associated mobile device mix. While addressing your testing needs, at the same time you are also gain valuable user feedback of your software prior to market launch. Certainly a value add proposition.

Current limitations of SaaS mobile device testing technology include:

Not all your customers’ phones are offered on the service – so you have to decide how important those few users are, or what you can do to provide them with an alternate service
There may be issues around sending data offshore to your SaaS provider or crowd testing community – be sure to check your risk exposure regarding security policies and any external regulatory issues
Some telecommunication carriers in your local area may not be supported by the technology on the cloud at this time. This must be factored into your business strategy.
We must not forget the expanding device channels around wearables (glasses, watches) and the Internet of Things or (IoT). Basically any electronic device with access to the internet will become a channel by which consumers can be reached. This area is entire subject for another article, but something that should be monitored within your business research.

These are all limitations that can be managed in the short term for any capability and should not stop you from utilising the service now. SaaS will only improve in the future.

CONCLUSION

With your business, IT and testing capability make sure to:

Research your market.
Have a mobile testing strategy.
Know what devices your market is using or will use upon market launch of new mobile applications.
You may need to prioritise the devices to build, test and deploy your software upon. (This can depend on your budget or a staged market release approach)
Review customer satisfaction survey results of your mobile users E.g. Reviews on mobile app stores. Feed this information back into the software development process continuously.
Communicate to your customers regarding the roadmap for future application releases to particular mobile devices.

By applying SaaS in your business you are helping to minimise the risk exposure of poor-quality applications to your customers. The initiative will encourage positive customer satisfaction and speed up the testing process when so many devices are involved.

For recommended cloud virtualized mobile access, please visit the below websites. Both offer affordable monthly packages:

http://www.perfectomobile.com
http://www.keynote.com/solutions/testing/mobile-testing

If building a static website and require screenshots of different devices/browsers, please visit the below website:

https://crossbrowsertesting.com

For crowd testing options, please visit the below website:

https://crowdsourcedtesting.com
https://www.crowdtesters.com/
https://bugwolf.com/

As a free alternative you can also use the inbuilt browser simulation tools. This all depends on your testing strategy and software you are building.

Michael is software testing professional, entrepreneur and author. You can find Michael at his website www.mikehamilton.com.au. You can also download his book “It Should Just Work – Customer Satisfaction & the Value of Software Testing” from Amazon and iTunes.