As the pace of mobile device use among workers and consumers accelerates, enterprises are challenged to develop applications and websites for devices beyond PCs. Unfortunately, as mobile gains in importance for the enterprise, companies sometimes cut corners in a key area in order to get their apps and websites to market quickly: testing.
Consider the cautionary tale of the Romney campaign’s supposed “killer” mobile app, Orca, which was intended to deliver data and help with get-out-the-vote efforts in battleground states. The app was never tested and thus suffered crashes throughout Election Day. Compare that to the approach of healthcare company Humana. To ensure its 22 million customers have reliable access to information when they need it while doing so cost effectively, Humana now insists on testing its mobile apps and websites using a proven cloud-based platform.
Some companies may quickly build apps or websites without testing and deploy them through an app store, risking low app ratings and treating first users as testers. This is a sure way to get negative feedback for your app. With readily available mobile testing and spot-checking tools available, there is virtually no excuse today for such high-risk practices. Taking the risk of skimping on testing can be detrimental to a mobile app, and internal IT organizations have less time and resources to manage the complexities of the “Bring Your Own Device” (BYOD) culture. Testing is crucial.
Proper mobile testing requires dedicating the right resources in terms of staff and equipment, and the amount of time needed can be significant as well. Mobile apps multiply the complexity because of device diversity, platform diversity (iOS, Android, BlackBerry or Windows) and network challenges, among others.
To meet the relatively complex testing demands of a growing mobile market, companies are looking for alternatives to maximize their testing efficiency while keeping budgets in check. Some companies are outsourcing testing overseas to reduce labor costs. Reliance on overseas assets for mobile testing introduces its own set of challenges. Hardware and network access become much more difficult to manage. Rather than sending test cases overseas, enterprises are now reaping the benefits of sending them to the cloud. Cloud testing is now growing in favor as it offers both lowered costs and increased resource productivity.
It’s a simple idea. Real devices connected to live mobile operator networks are electrically integrated into specialized hardware hosted in a centralized location. Integration lets a remote user control the device with a keyboard and mouse. Because the screen output is also captured, a remote user can see the actual rendering in real time. Users can therefore tap directly into real devices to test mobile functionality on different devices and platforms.
Rather than hours or days of in-house testing (and monitoring), testing becomes an on-demand activity. Developers can access mobile devices from any desktop in the world to test a mobile website or service while simultaneously testing multiple devices for functionality. This approach significantly reduces the costs and headaches associated with purchasing, managing and maintaining mobile devices, all while speeding up the testing process. Leading cloud testing platforms provide additional testing tools and advanced metrics, and they stay abreast of the latest devices to hit the market.
Cloud testing assures that companies have continual access to the right tools for the job, greatly reducing the amount of time needed to get to the root of most issues (and solve them) by having real-time access via the cloud to a broad set of devices and networks. In addition, testing can begin immediately, with no limitations in terms of geography or time zones. Companies can find out precisely how their mobile apps, websites and content perform on actual browsers, networks and mobile devices using on-demand test and measurement products and services. Even better, testing can ramp up and scale back quickly, which would be very difficult to replicate outside of the cloud.
Beyond cost savings and productivity, cloud testing also provides flexibility. New devices, platforms, firmware releases and technologies are constantly being released, but companies still need to be assured that their apps and websites function consistently and correctly, not putting any user data at risk of leaks or unauthorized access. Meanwhile, images and text must display correctly on the many different mobile devices.
For example, the iPhone 5 introduced a new screen size and iOS 6 introduced new features, thus prescribing testing for a new form factor and updated operating system. Using cloud-based testing assures companies will have access to the most popular devices on the market, accommodating every upgrade and patch. Leading cloud testing platforms will also provide access to older versions of each device model, enabling functional and regression testing across a representative sample of devices out in the market.
While cloud testing can provide simplification and efficiency, one shouldn’t walk away assuming that that a platform is a one-size-fits-all solution. Every company will have a different set of application, performance, security and compliance requirements, sometimes giving them reservations about trusting the cloud. Security, in particular, is often a concern. Fortunately, top cloud testing vendors can build a test system behind a customer’s firewall (for security) while still delivering the cost savings that companies need.
Companies should investigate the cloud testing capabilities of any vendor they are considering. The best vendors will make sure that when customers are using a device, no one is able to see that device screen except those who have been invited to do so. Good cloud testing solutions execute automated cleanup scripts that wipe the device at the end of each session. Such scripts clean the device, deleting all downloaded or installed applications, clearing the browser cache, and removing other usage footprints like text or picture messages.
One final consideration for moving your testing to the cloud is scale. As your mobile presence grows, so will the demands of your testing platform. A good cloud testing platform will grow with you. When you’re ready for automated testing, it will let you conduct more tests on more devices in significantly less time. Automation also reduces human error, resulting in better quality.
Look for an automation solution with an intuitive scripting interface. A comfortable, usable interface will increase the ease of creating automation ultimately resulting in a higher percentage of automated test cases. Also, look for a solution that can scale beyond the needs of the individual tester. The same cloud testing solution may also serve as a website or app-monitoring platform. Within your organization, those with responsibility for performance and availability may also find great value. Sharing a resource could further reduce overall costs and provide additional value to the enterprise.
Companies that are not testing to ensure the user experience of mobile users should seriously consider adopting a mobile-testing strategy. What’s more, companies reliant on in-house solutions should evaluate the benefits of moving their testing to the cloud. Cloud-based testing of mobile apps and websites is a practical and proven solution that can improve both the cost and quality. After all, it’s not the smart devices that drive business innovation, but the apps, websites and services that run on them. In this demanding but hugely promising era, mobile functionality is only as good as how well it’s been tested.
Josh Galde is Senior Manager of Mobile Quality at Keynote DeviceAnywhere, which offers cloud-based services for mobile and Web app testing.