Article / SD Times

SD Times Special Report: Failure to Test

“DevOps is a powerful metaphor. We think there needs to be another one for mobile: DevTestOps, or DTO, as we’re calling it. Otherwise, you’ll be provisioning very quickly and agilely, but your customers will go away and you’ll never see them again,” said Tom Lounibos, CEO of SOASTA, a cloud testing company that, along with much of its competition, is moving nimbly into the mobile testing space as a diverse new market for app-testing tools begins to form.The need for quality control as mobile apps proliferate is obvious, but developers aren’t getting the message yet. In his April 2013 keynote at the first-ever Xamarin user conference in Austin, CEO Nat Friedman said that a survey by his company found only 8% of developers were testing their apps prior to release.Is that shocking figure an exaggeration? New York City-based senior software engineer Greg Shackles doesn’t think so. About half the developers at his mobile testing talk (also at the Xamarin conference) said they were testing, “but that was a self-selected audience of people interested in testing in the first place. I’d definitely agree with Xamarin’s saying 8% over 50%. One of the problems with testing mobile is that it’s a pretty difficult thing to test.”‘This is not the Web’
There are many reasons why mobile apps are different from Web software. The first one? The way app stores (there are now more than 70, according to Mobyaffiliates’ directory) funnel approved executables to consumers’ tablets and smartphones.

Former Web developer Arlo Leach launched Set List Maker, a show-planning tool for musicians, for iOS after teaching himself Objective-C. He wholeheartedly believes that app marketplaces make it easier to sell software: “It’s a pretty unique opportunity. I built a lot of products on the Web and they just sat there, and I felt powerless to spread the word. I’ve done no promotion for these apps and they found an audience on their own in the App Store.”

failure to testThe ease with which highly functional apps that meet a specific need can find success is exceeded, however, by the risk posed by poorly tested apps that garner bad ratings. “The problem has been that companies are putting mobile apps out with minimal testing, and that’s increasingly coming back to bite them. Failure is extremely visible and costly,” said IDC analyst Melinda Ballou. She plans to write a mobile-testing market report soon, but said the current market is “eclectic,” with major players just beginning to announce tools and strategies.

There are bigger risks than just being sunk by bad ratings. Buggy, slow or downright destructive apps can be hard to fix, once released. “This is not the Web,” said Shackles, who works at OLO Online Ordering. “I say that because I find it to be a good comparison point. I’m a Web developer on top of being a mobile developer. With the Web, if you push out a bug, you can fix that, and the next time the user hits that page, it’s fixed. With mobile apps, you have to go through the submission process. In some cases you can expedite it, but even then you still have to wait for users to update. There’s a very big barrier to getting emergency fixes out to users.”

Further, unlike cloud-based software, apps, be they native or hybrid or even HTML5-based, are dependent on device-specific form factors, browsers and operating systems. Google allows hardware manufacturers to customize the Android OS. The platforms themselves are changing constantly, and at a pace unheard of in the PC era, where OS upgrades happened every five years or so. (As an example, Apple released iOS 6 less than a year after iOS 5.)

Apps gain privileged access to APIs, storage and other resources, unlike Web applications, according to Localytics, a mobile analytics tool. Apps are designed less for passive information consumption, revolving primarily around actions and multi-tasking.

Finally, there’s the aesthetic question. As Xamarin’s Friedman told his user conference audience, enterprise apps are starting to “suck less” thanks to the consumerization of IT. There’s a newfound expectation that apps won’t just function, they’ll be beautiful and immersive.

Related Search Term(s): mobile, testing

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