There are about 5 million apps available in Google Play and Apple’s App Store alone according to Statista earlier this year, so you can imagine the fierce competition to produce applications with the highest mobile quality that can attract and retain the most users. Because without high mobile-quality app experiences, which requires exceptional mobile app functionality and app performance, mobile apps simply die from just one-time use.
As businesses continue to further their understanding of why mobile testing matters, the approach toward mobile app testing is not as clear cut. This is because mobile quality is defined by end-users, industry regulation, and even competition, which are unique to each business.
To reduce production risks, utilizing the different types of mobile testing will assure mobile quality is achieved and optimal digital experiences are delivered.
The Software Development Lifecycle
To understand the different types of mobile app testing, it is important to understand where it fits in the Software Development Lifecycle (SDLC). There are 6 phases in the SDLC process:
- Requirement-gathering and analysis - Establishes standards for functionality and performance of the application
- Design - Wireframes are created for development while QA analyzes and establishes strategy for testing
- Implementation - The application code and test framework are created
- Testing - The application runs through QA’s test audit
- Deployment - The application is released to the production environment. Deployment can be to a public app store or for internal use in an organization
- Maintenance - While the application is in the hands of end users, monitoring and testing performance occurs to uncover and fix unforeseen errors in the production environment
After a mobile application is released, feedback is collected in the form of customer reviews, crash logs, and statistical analysis reports. Leveraging the feedback and improving efficiency in the SDLC improves delivery and reduces time-to-market. Feedback is also used to help create new requirements as the cycle repeats. The process is meant to exponentially improve a mobile app throughout its life.
Types of Mobile App Testing
Testing practices assure teams are not sacrificing mobile quality. The cost of failure in a production environment far outweighs the time, effort, and cost of good testing practices. Here are some types of mobile testing every organization should be practicing.
Unit testing, as a form of functional testing, focuses on the small testable parts of a mobile application. By conducting unit testing, teams verify that fragments of their code or specific features are functioning correctly. For instance, if an application has a login screen, the unit tests would all be testing the functionality of the login. There can be a test for a failed password, failed username, failure for both, and a test for a successful login. While some choose to conduct manual unit testing, it is preferable to use automated testing tools to reduce inefficiency and minimize the risk of errors when running the same manual test cases over and over. Unit testing isolates bugs and finds problems before running a full regression.
Functional Regression Testing
Functional regression testing occurs when unit testing is complete, any new feature is developed, or enhancements are made to the mobile application. It is also occurs when a bug is resolved to verify the fix didn’t create issues anywhere else in the software. Conducting mobile regression testing ensures no changes affect the functionality of any other component of the mobile application. Like unit testing, test automation is the ideal means to perform functional regression testing of mobile apps.
The goal of performance testing isn’t to find and isolate bugs, but to eliminate bottlenecks limiting your system during a specific transaction. This establishes baselines for testing in the future. Performance testing of mobile apps is a process in which mobile testers analyze feature sets of a mobile application and then model controlled scenarios for execution. It occurs when your mobile application is stable enough to handle these scenarios. System-critical components are the best candidates for performance testing of mobile apps, as they have the biggest impact on the bottom line.
Build Acceptance Testing and Continuous Integration (CI)
Build acceptance testing (also called build verification testing) occurs after each release or iteration, whether it is a development or production build. BATs should audit the mobile functionality of an application’s build. These mobile app tests should always be automated. When a mobile application build process is complete, through continuous integration, BATs can automatically kick off. If all aspects of the software pass, it is acceptable to deploy the mobile application to a production environment.
Exploratory testing is the processes of testing a mobile application without a formal test plan. Generally, this is a form of Beta and User Acceptance Testing. For that reason, it is best to conduct manual testing. The best exploratory testers are the ones that have a nagging ability to break things. Given loose guidelines, mobile testers try to emulate as many combinations of user interactions as possible. The most effective exploratory testing occurs on real production builds on real devices. The mobile application should be the same one being shipped to production.
Mobile Test Tools Help Reduce Production Risks and Time-To-Market
There are plenty of mobile testing tools to compare on the market today to streamline the different types of testing. The ideal test tool enables mobile testers to deploy their application and run the same unit and functional regression tests for all combinations of device/OS platforms. Furthermore, since telecom companies regulate mobile applications differently, a good mobile test tool can handle testing across multiple carriers and give teams insight to uncover any functionality issues specific to a data provider.
Functional and performance testing, whether manual or automated, are a necessity for all organizations regardless of industry. Test automation is not meant to eliminate manual testing by any means but eliminates monotonous tasks, reduces costs and production risks, and shortens release cycles. And then there are still certain test types that can only be done manually, like exploratory testing.
When looking for the right mobile testing tool, it’s important to find a cost-effective solution that will ensure your mobile app is running smoothly across as many hardware and software variations possible. Since it is not practical for mobile testing teams to maintain hundreds of real mobile devices, device clouds allow quality assurance to target specific device pools and run manual or exploratory tests.
For functional regression testing, mobile test tools enable quality assurance teams to run manual testing. And with a comprehensive testing tool, mobile testers should also be able to write automated regression test suites using the framework of their choice. Appium and Selenium, for instance, are free open-source test automation frameworks that integrate with a powerful mobile testing tool like App Experience. HP UFT, Microsoft Visual Studio and Team Foundation Server (TFS), SAP Mobile Secure and others can also integrate with App Experience to kick off functional regression tests, making it one of the most robust solutions on the mobile testing market.
Build acceptance testing/BVT through CI tools can be streamlines through mobile test tools as well, and best if run on real mobile devices. Supporting test automation is essential to making it through the SDLC faster and more efficiently without sacrificing quality. Through Jenkins and continuous integration, BATs can automatically be kicked off and run on App Experience.
And finally, mobile performance tests run on real mobile devices should be automated with mobile test tools. The number of users accessing a mobile application or feature at the same time can drastically affect mobile performance. Mobile test tools allow mobile QA teams to ramp up or down the number of threads conducting operations. A tool that tests zero-rating and data consumption gives teams the ability to see how much data their mobile app uses. Battery life, roaming capability, and wireless connection are all circumstances that can affect performance. Comprehensive solutions like App Experience help quality assurance teams analyze these scenarios.
Gaining a strong understanding of the SDLC will help move software into production faster and more efficiently. Testing is the most important phase and is crucial to the longevity of a mobile application. Unit, functional regression, performance, and exploratory testing are some of the most important types of testing in this phase. Improving efficiency through the SDLC with test automation makes the process more lean and agile, reduces produce risk, and decreases time-to-market and costs. Through continuous integration and build acceptance testing, mobile testers ensure error-free mobile apps are making it into production.