In May, Emergence Capital Partners released a visual landscape of the mobile business app world. The chart included about 90 companies across 4+ industries and a handful of app types. Six months later, ECP has updated it’s snapshot of business mobile apps – which now includes 150 companies producing apps. The most noticeable uptick has been in healthcare and real estate. And so many productivity apps have been created that the chart now divides that category into five sub-categories.
Last week I asked where apps should go next. If you haven’t cast you vote, feel free to add your 2 cents. Of those who already voted, 21% said appliances and 7% voted for somewhere completely new and uncharted. That segment of the population will be pleased with TechCrunch’s Gift Guide for the Home Automation Enthusiast.
The guide includes Nest’s thermostat and security system, a smart light bulb from Phillips, internet connected outlets, speaker options and a few other things.
The important thing to remember as more and more of these smart devices, gadgets, appliances and doodads hit the shelves is that the apps that accompany and control them need thorough testing. As homes become more automated, testing in-the-wild will become even more important to ensure devices and apps don’t interfere with each other.
This is uncharted territory and instead of jumping in blind companies need to invest in heavy testing. If they don’t, users will lose faith in home automation devices and the budding industry could fail. Users don’t want something that doesn’t work. Don’t let them down testers.
Presented by Colt McAnlis, a developer advocate at Google, at from HTML5DevCon earlier this year. Colt says it all when he says this talk matters to people “if you work in an environment where the performance of your application matters to your companies bottom line.” Some great stats and great advice.
The Federal Communications Commission is the latest organization to leverage the power of in-the-wild testing to obtain user feedback under real-world conditions. Last week the FCC announced that it will be using ordinary folks like you and I to assess mobile broadband speeds. The free “FCC Speed Test” app is designed to capture device performance metrics such as download speeds and latency. The app will run in the background and is designed not to exceed 100MB a month so that it won’t overuse a customer’s data plan. Individual users can view their own device’s performance within the app. Currently, the app is only available on Android but an iPhone version is expected to be released in January 2014.
The purpose of the initiative is to develop cumulative, nationwide data on mobile broadband speeds. Right now, there is a lack of unbiased data regarding the subject and carriers can claim their download speeds based on their own controlled lab tests. By utilizing testers in-the-wild, the FCC can accurately gather metrics from consumers operating their devices under actual conditions. This will provide consumers with valuable statistics when choosing a service provider.
What does this mean for you as a developer or tester? You already know that connection speeds vary by location and they certainly aren’t as reliable as lab connections. Once the full FCC data becomes publicly available (reportedly sometime next year) you’ll have a road map of trouble spots.
Use this information to guide your own in-the-wild testing. Perform extra testing in areas that have poor connectivity levels or focus extra testing on carriers with spotty networks. This information will empower you to make your app better by making sure it works in the hands of all your users, no matter where they are or what type of connection they have.
Picture this: You’ve spent hours painstakingly developing an awesome mobile app, only to find that it has been met with lackluster app store reviews. What went wrong? One of the first questions you should ask yourself is “Did I bother to test it before launch?” While that may seem an obvious question, take a quick look at the reviews of low rated apps and it’s clear to see that some have skipped this crucial step.
Josh Galde of App Developer Magazine has created a list of some of the essential testing steps and it’s a worthwhile read as a quick refresher. Here’s a snippet:
Testing for Variables
During development, it is important to consider the varying factors that will apply to your target audiences when they are ready to use your app. For the best understanding of the functionality and feel of your mobile app there are several key factors to keep in mind while testing your mobile app including; device type, OS’s, screen size/hardware and connectivity.
Device Diversity – While it seems that testing on the most popular devices should be standard, it isn’t. It is crucial to address the diversity of the devices’ software, multiple OS’s (Android, iOS, Windows Mobile, BlackBerry etc.) and different versions within each, and in Android’s case, the various device manufacturers. To compound this, consumers of mobile products don’t consume applications in a uniform way. When asked what types of mobile technologies they are using to deliver their products (web, native, or hybrid), most customers answer “all of the above.” In these cases, a strong quality assurance strategy should include the ability to understand and support mobile across all of these technologies.
Hardware Diversity – The reality is, with the growing presence of hardware diversity, you should run your mobile application through several tests to ensure that it functions and appears as it should, regardless of screen resolution or available controls. In many cases, customers testing mobile applications across different handsets often identify bugs that occur in the device, rather than identifying bugs in the application itself. That is why it is important to test across several devices, ensuring that your mobile product works across the many smartphone and tablet configurations that exist in the market today.
As consumers continue to flock to mobile for different needs, well-established companies are re-thinking their customer engagement approaches. This rethinking almost always includes a larger emphasis on mobile and a unified omni-channel brand presence.
Staples recently realized that a quarter of its online traffic currently comes from mobile and expects that number to reach 50% soon. Because of this trend, Staples is revamping its online offerings to make it easier for shoppers to have a streamline experience throughout the shopping process. From Mobile Commerce Daily:
Staples is overhauling its digital touch points, including a new mobile site and application, to provide a more fluid and simple cross-channel shopping experience that will enable shoppers to start an order in one channel and finish it in another. …
“Mobile is central to our strategy as we see it as a core part of our omnichannel offering, along with our stores and desktop site,” he said. “As the second largest Internet retailer in the world, we know that every channel is important, but mobile will be a key component of our plans going forward, as we know it’s the most rapidly growing channel.”
Staples has already tackled a traditional websites redesign and will soon be starting in on mobile web and native app revamps. Once the overhaul is done, site speeds will be improved, the experience should be cleaner and less cluttered, shoppers will be able to order online and pick up in a store and GPS capabilities will point shoppers to the nearest location.
This is a good move for Staples, but it will require a lot of testing. Beyond your typical functional testing, Staple will need to run some mobile usability tests to make sure the new site and app layouts are intuitive an include the right features and they’ll definitely need in-the-wild testing to ensure those GPS and on-location pick up features work correctly in the real world.
There are a lot of arguments you can make as to which testing type is more important. If the app doesn’t function correctly that’s obviously a problem. But if it’s not intuitively usable (or just plan not usable), then it’s also useless in the eyes of users. If it can’t handle heavy load you’ll lose some users forever. If it leaks data you have upset users and the media to contend with, and your company’s reputation can’t handle that hit.
So which app testing type is the most important? You tell us. Vote in the poll and leave your opinion in the comments.
Mashable has a nice series called Ask A Dev. While most installments are development-centric, earlier this month they had a video about how developers and testers can best work together. Enjoy!