Mind the gap in mobile application testing

As written by Canadian CIO, September 2013 Issue

The world has unquestionably gone mobile, creating significant opportunities for businesses—in both new and traditional industries—to evolve and create new revenue from prospects that simply didn’t exist before.

In fact, phenomenal growth continues to take place in mobile-based business, and the opportunities the platform provides, according to industry watchers. Juniper Research expects the value of commerce conducted using smartphones or tablets to more than double to more than US$3.2 trillion by 2017 (from US$1.5 trillion this year).

It is an era of exciting possibilities, but one still intimidating for many organizations as they forge new paths to understand how to best manage this new investment area. According to the World Quality Report 2012-13 conducted by French IT services and consulting firm Capgemini, just less than one-third (31%) of companies surveyed are formally testing their mobile applications, despite a heightened focus on mobility.

This is surprising given the significant opportunity from reaching mobile customers, but especially considering the industry’s maturity and the high expectations of those savvy, sometimes fickle, mobile users.

“Mobile isn’t just a box to check in a broader marketing strategy; one must consider the work to be done,” says Deb Gill, mobile services program director at Wavefront, Canada’s Centre of Excellence for Wireless Commercialization and Research. “Companies that are putting mobile first are seeing a marked increase in the revenue that they are deriving from this channel – payback from their commitment to holistically understand and develop the mobile opportunity through all phases of the application lifecycle.”

As such, she adds, “It is crucial that mobile apps perform seamlessly across all supported devices, platforms and networks.”

Anthony Hall, product quality assurance manager at QuickMobile, agrees. The Vancouver-based firm develops mobile solutions for events, meetings and conferences. He notes that in the mobile world, one never really gets a second chance to impress.

“Look at the maturity base of the mobile users out there. They are very suave when it comes to their devices, and are far less forgiving. This is because they are simply saturated with applications,” he says. “If yours doesn’t work, they’ll find one that does.”

He says the lack of investment that goes into mobile application testing is shocking. “It’s like any development. You need to be testing. You may need it even more with mobile, since there are so many variables. But for some reason, some businesses treat their mobile development testing as a second thought.

“It is often only during testing that QuickMobile is able to learn the nuances of how an application behaves on various devices. Even with the same operating system, an application might work perfectly on three devices, and not on a fourth due to subtle differences,” he notes.

In fact, the countless variables, such as device model, operating system version, resolution and orientation, can represent a significant development and testing challenge, says Chloe Morrow, associate vice president of product development at Central 1 Credit Union. The organization provides online banking and payment software for the credit unions of B.C. and Ontario, as well as selling its solutions in other regions.

She notes that mobile transactions offer an excellent opportunity for the credit unions she serves to better compete against banks—making them a must, regardless of the challenge. Mobile applications allow the credit unions Central 1 serves to overcome the advantages banks have in branch numbers and locations, reaching a wider member demographic.

Still, when developing the credit union’s first mobile application, it was important for Morrow’s team to set expectations around handsets and operating systems supported. “We went into developing our mobile applications with a specific set of handsets and orientations that would hit the biggest scope in terms of market.”

She adds that it’s not simply during the development process that testing is required, but during the full application lifecycle, including updates to the application, device and operating systems. “But how do you have enough devices?”

It’s a challenge echoed by Hall. “How do you cost-effectively test on all the devices you are going to support? Because simulators just won’t cut it—they miss issues.”

Part of Hall’s solution is to use the mobile application testing platform through Perfecto Mobile, which includes virtual access to Wavefront’s national library of over 1,000 mobile devices, and the ability to test over multiple networks in Canada and around the world. The lab tests actual devices, not simulators, and can easily automate testing for repetitive tasks across all mobile platforms.  Using the latest releases of the platform, the hosted MobileCloud platform can also be taken ‘on the road’ to test real-world scenarios involving the device’s physical features as well, including built-in cameras, video and NFC technology.

One of many valuable aspects of the mobile application lifecycle platform, Hall uses the tool today to assist with customer support. “It enables us to actually dig in when a customer has a problem with an app. We have a finite amount of devices at any given time, and we can’t go and buy a handset that’s being used on a customer’s network. This is where the Perfecto MobileCloud helps a lot.”

Through its commitment to customer service and dedication to changing the way events are experienced through mobile interaction, QuickMobile has received numerous industry awards and become trusted by many of the world’s most powerful brands across a wide range of industries—marquee clients that include Disney, Goodyear and Microsoft, as well as top hotels, the Sundance Film Festival and TED Conferences.

When focused on testing as part of a mobile application lifecycle, the challenge of developing, designing and testing applications for a mobile platform can be easily overcome, allowing businesses like Central 1 Credit Union and QuickMobile to reach new customers, find new revenue, improve satisfaction and compete like never before. For information on mobile application testing visit  http://info.wavefrontac.com/mobile-testing-roi-analysis.html.

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