With hundreds of thousands of mobile apps in the market – and most of the top 250 apps in both Google Play and Apple’s App Store coming from established developers – its clear that a great idea is not enough in itself: you also need quality in delivery and effective marketing to succeed in today’s competitive app market. The App Quality Alliance (AQuA), the mobile industry’s independent association for QA, has analyzed years of data on why apps fail to develop a range of free tools to help developers improve app quality. In this post, AQuA’s Executive Director Martin Wrigley identifies the top reasons apps fail, and describes some of the free tools available to help developers avoid common pitfalls and stand out from the crowd.
We’ve all seen that great looking mobile app, and read the reviews that say it is a great idea, but then found it just doesn’t work very well – or worse still crashes and is unusable. If you’ve ever had that happen for one of your apps – well, you’re not alone! Many developers, if not most, are great at development and producing a superb set of functionality, but aren’t experts at testing – and why should they be?
So what has AQuA found to be the top ten failures in apps over the years?
- User interface inconsistency
Make sure menu options, button labels, ‘soft keys’, menus etc are consistent and clear.
- Lack of clarity of graphics and text
Make sure that all the text is readable, clear and not cut off by the edged of the screen or overlapping other screen items
- App browsing confusion
Although the navigation through the app is obvious if you’ve been working on it for weeks or months, not everyone else may find it so clear.
- Language inconsistency and spelling errors
If you support multiple languages, make sure that it is consistent and you don’t have the odd label in English hidden away… And use a spell checker!
- Hidden features
Doing stuff behind the scenes without letting the user know will never win you any favors, even if your intentions are good.
- App crashing
You would be surprised how may apps can be made to crash when even some simple things happen on the device, memory cards, attachments, keyboards are common causes.
- Help is not there
Whilst it is obvious to some, other people like to read help information and so providing help is a must.
- Network connection: lack of notification
Again, so many people don’t test the phone dropping out of coverage. If you miss it and the app dies when the connection drops, the user ends up re-booting their device. With new networks and more handovers between technologies this is going to be a new hot topic.
- Screen orientation distortion
Surely everyone checks this one? No sadly not. Distorted images when changing from portrait to landscape and vice-versa still manages to hit our top ten simple errors that let apps down.
These top ten fails are all really problematic, as much to the developer as the user, and can impact the long term success of an app. Luckily they are also all quite easy to avoid through building a good QA process. AQuA aims to help developers achieve two of the three crucial elements required for a successful and financially sustainable app development business:
1) Good idea – ok, well that’s up to the developer, AQuA can’t help you there.
2) Quality in Delivery – you need to do your functional testing, but then use the resources to help you get it ready for market, such as AQuA’s test criteria.
3) Effective marketing – putting your app into the Quality App Directory is one thing you can do to help in this.
As a non-profit industry association is run and funded by its members, which include AT&T, Orange, Oracle, Motorola, Nokia, Samsung, Sony Mobile and LG, AQuA draws upon years of mobile industry experience. With its members, AQuA has built up a set of best practice guidelines for producing a quality app and sets of platform-specific testing criteria to back them up.
Using the AQuA best practice guidelines and the test criteria gives an app developer a pre-defined set of tests that complement the functional testing that every good developer does as they go along. In essence it defines the non-functional tests that many developers might not think to carry out, but things that real users do…like taking the memory card out of a phone whilst using the app, or receiving a phone call in the middle of watching a video…
More recently AQuA launched two new initiatives: a Quality App Directory and badge of endorsement for quality apps. The directory isn’t a shop, and it won’t cost the developer to list their app but to be included the app must have gone through and passed a good QA process. The badge is a stamp of independent recognition that developers can use in distribution channels and marketing.
For the numerous developers who utilize AQuA’s tools both in the QA process and in marketing their apps the benefits are significant.