Mobile App Quality Assurance: Challenges and Solutions
With over 6 million mobile apps on the market, the difference between success and getting uninstalled is often good quality assurance.
Join the DZone community and get the full member experience.Join For Free
Mobile devices have already replaced a considerable number of instruments and gadgets through apps. Trends show that functionality and entertainment will continue to grow exponentially in the next few years. In early 2017, there were about 6.5 million apps available, and almost 3 million are on the Android platform while over 2 million are designed for iOS. In such a dense market, thorough testing and mobile app quality assurance techniques make the difference between an app that receives a lot of praise and one that is quickly uninstalled.
Every developer should aim to create user-centric apps which honestly fulfill the promises in the description. Best practices highlight testing for connectivity and performance, seamless integration with other platforms and excellent compatibility with the most popular devices in the target market. Security and data protection remain the most significant concerns of users, followed by resource consumption.
In this article, let’s discuss the industry’s best practices and the most important challenges of creating a great app.
Positive User Experience
A successful app is self-explanatory about its role, is intuitive, and has no surprises in store for the user. Responsive design enhances consistency in colors, fonts, reactions, and transitions for a broad range of screen sizes. Each step of the user's journey is expected to be in line with previous and subsequent ones. Simple navigation means highlighting the most likely option and engaging in a virtual dialogue. Predictability determines user satisfaction, therefore warning about slow loading and preventing unwanted deletion helps.
People use apps on the go; therefore, the developer should
Adjust the reactions to screen orientation, and hide controls when unnecessary.
Avoid login requirements or provide simplified versions through social networks.
Add a search option to any long list and minimize scrolling. Aim to create an interaction pattern requiring minimal input from the user.
Do not redefine any predefined actions, such as "home."
Mobile Performance and Connectivity
With a decreasing attention span, users demand fast loading, instant reaction, and no interruption of the app during use. Similar to websites, slow or unresponsive apps are abandoned, uninstalled and negatively rated. A way of eliminating such behavior is planning in detail the necessary tests for the app's quality. These should include the most common real-life situations, as well as extreme scenarios.
Pay attention to internal and external resources; it’s important to test memory and CPU, as well as app behavior in low battery or low connectivity situations.
Work with a broad range of networking scenarios, including EDGE, 3G-4G, Wi-Fi, hotspot tethering and airplane mode.
Record the behavior of the app when in range, out of range or changing connectivity source.
Test assumptions related to data saving in such situations.
Platform Compatibility Issues
Compatibility of an app with hardware and OS is sometimes a gamble. The possible combinations of the platforms and software are numerous and require time and budget. As Pavel Novik explains, during the first stage of the app's design, by narrowing down the target market, you will also select the most likely devices and OS. Be specific about a user's age, geographical location, and consumer trends when choosing the most suitable devices. Test the resulting list of devices using emulators and cloud testing, which give a good approximation of the behavior for the initial stages. Before deployment, only tests on real devices can ensure perfect replication and bug fixing.
Mobile app quality depends on the specific combination of hardware and operating system. The most common errors are network connectivity, unexpected app closing or freezing, resource consumption, and general stability when the app is running. If the device is overheating, the user is unable to answer incoming calls or push messages don't arrive, fix these bugs before launching the app.
Identity theft, data loss, and privacy violations are all the main concerns of app users. A study by the Ponemon Institute reveals that more than half of users are afraid of hackers. They are right since only a third of developers test their releases for security issues before production. In the wrong hands, user-granted permissions to an unsafe application correlated with context (geolocation, timestamps, keyloggers) can grant hackers access to sensitive information.
Instant messages, remote storage or unexpected downloading and data transfer are the most vulnerable actions. Warning signs include accessing files outside the app's sandbox, running in the background or pushing notifications without the user's approval. The app should not divulge personal information of the user such as IDs, passwords, or location.
Compatibility, Interoperability, and Portability
Compatibility represents the ability of an app to run in the same environment as others without interference. This feature is important for the user since it prevents system crashes. In compatibility mode, apps don't interact with each other; they just coexist in the same system.
Interoperability requires apps' collaboration and poses different problems including file exchange protocols, used ports and downloading data. The primary source of inconsistent results is different standards on different platforms. The most common issues during testing are information transmission problems, incompatible formats, and exceeded memory limits.
Portability represents the code's ability to function according to specifications when used on another platform. For example, the same app can have Android, iOS and Windows versions. If the target is to cover a vast and diverse market, this feature defines a high-quality mobile app.
The market of mobile apps is highly saturated and ultra competitive. Standing out in such an environment requires satisfying users' demands and ever-increasing expectations by providing excellent quality and reliability.
App stores are true meritocracy places due to the fact that users are not tolerant with bugs and crashes. Mobile app quality assurance is achieved only by iterative testing on different levels of the five items discussed. A development team should put the user's interests first and build a robust, portable, and safe solution around it.
Opinions expressed by DZone contributors are their own.