Today’s mobile enabled users expect instant access to product information and support – anytime, anywhere. For brands, this is both, a challenge, and opportunity – to reach out and stay connected with consumers through mobile apps and content. With millions of apps available in leading app stores, ensuring user loyalty for apps is not easy. Users expect mobile apps to load faster than web pages, be easy to navigate, consume less memory, and be efficient, even during peak usage. With most mobile apps gaining access to personal user data on devices, privacy concerns must also be adequately addressed.
Can Mobile Apps Create a 24×7 Sales Force for Your Business?
Given this competitive scenario, brand apps, with new and robust features, are continuously trying to capture their share of storage on users’ mobile devices. Surveys have shown that mobile app user experience is considered a determining factor for increasing the app usage and retaining customers. As a result, mobile app blueprints are no longer just about functional specifications. Usability, accessibility, security, and performance are equally important. The plethora of device and operating system combinations – from vanilla cupcake to ice cream sandwich – present compatibility issues for developers to address. Are traditional development and testing approaches adequately equipped to handle these multi-faceted mobility challenges? A set of modern testing interventions can help develop robust mobile apps that can strengthen your brand and also create a 24×7 sales force for your business.
Usability: The most important factor for customer retention and delight, usability is about ensuring consistent and easy to use interfaces across both desktop and mobile versions of application screens and web content. With most sites and apps moving from static to dynamic content, minimalist design with context sensitive imagery works best. Given the small screen sizes of hand-held devices, features that are not core to the app’s functionality can be shown on secondary screens, instead of the app’s home page.
Responsive design a set of style sheet tweaks that drive dynamic content display, and automatically resizes content and interface elements based on the screen size – is an important trend, which has fast gained momentum and seen wide acceptance. Instead of maintaining multiple web pages for different devices, web developers are turning to responsive design to cut down development cycle time, while ensuring consistent look and feel across desktop and mobile devices.
Accessibility: Ensuring an accessible mobile application can help reach out to an under-served user base. Features such as alternative, screen-readable text for images, vibrations, visual notifications, and voice recognition can help companies cater to requirements of users with disabilities. The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) are a good starting point for building in Accessibility principles in mobile apps. Another widely used standard is the Section 508, part of the Federal Acquisition Regulation of the United States.
Performance: Apps must be designed to minimize their memory and device computing power footprint, and ensure consistent performance, even during peak usage. Performance depends on three components – server, network, and the app itself. Testers do not have control over the network, hence the server and app are tested first. While server performance can be automated with commercial load testing tools, app testing can be simultaneously done by connecting real devices to industry available tools that capture device metrics such as memory consumption, app load time, and battery usage.
Security: Mobile applications may communicate over an insecure network such as an untrusted wifi, mobile hotspots, or cellular networks. The types of connectivity available for mobile devices include Bluetooth, 3G, 4G, Wi-Fi access, among others. This has broadened the entry points available to virus sources. Unless data is adequately secured in transit, it may result in discloser of sensitive data. Mobile security testing assures the integrity and confidentiality of user data residing on the mobile device. It is important to secure this data, as it can reveal vital behavioral and personal details of users. Apps must ensure continuous, need-based, and role-validated access to confidential user data residing on mobile devices. Security testing techniques include subjecting app source code to Static Application Security Testing (SAST) methods, and validating app runtime behavior with Dynamic Application Security Testing (DAST) methods. Server-side web portal security is also important. Weak server-side controls, transport layer insecurities, insecure data storage, client-side injections, improper session handling, poor authorization, and compromised authentication are defects that must be caught early in the security testing net.
Functionality: Agile development methods have significantly reduced the app development cycle, resulting in rapid development and release of new apps. Functional testing too must evolve and keep pace with agile methods, ensuring maximum test coverage in minimal time. While emulators and simulators running on desktops can be used for basic usability and interface tests, rigourous functional testing with maximum coverage is possible only when the app is tested for all device, processor, screen and operating system combinations a tough ask. Enter cloud computing.
With its ability to scale on demand, without upfront capital investment, and offer mobile device farms with all possible device and OS combinations, the cloud, with its pay-per-use pricing, may just be the right-fit solution for mobile testing.
With right-size testing, simplified content, easy interfaces, and bug free functionality, apps could well be your brands representative in constant touch with your customer – 24×7. When that happens, your customers become brand advocates, and your business gets a 24×7 sales force.