Simplifying Native App Testing
By Eoghan Phelan, BrowserStack Champion - September 29, 2023
User expectations in apps are higher than ever. A mere hiccup in an app’s functionality can prompt users to abandon it, with little chance of a return. This behavior underscores the criticality of flawless app performance.
During the delivery of a native application, testing is a critical phase in the software development process that ensures the quality and functionality of an app before it reaches the hands of users. Testing can initially feel quite daunting and complex. You must consider many factors, including supported OS versions, device specifications, and security concerns.
In this article, we’ll explore key aspects of native app testing and provide insights into making the process more straightforward and effective. The aim is to simplify the planning and testing of an app and create an easy to follow framework for implementation.
- What is Native App Testing
- Guide to perform Native App Testing
- Step 1: Understand the App
- Step 2: Gather Clear Requirements and Designs.
- Step 3: Identify Supported Versions and Platforms
- Step 4: Assess App Behavior on Different Devices
- Step 5: Address Localization
- Step 6: Determine a Testing Strategy
- Step 7: Test Using Best Practices
- Step 8: Promote and Implement Continuous Testing
What is Native App Testing
Native app testing involves assessing and evaluating the functionality, performance, and user experience of an app designed for a particular platform, such as iOS or Android. These apps are referred to as “native” because they are designed to take full advantage of the features and capabilities of a specific OS.
The goal of native app testing is to provide the delivery team and stakeholders with confidence in the app’s functionality, and overall quality. Through robust testing, this minimizes the risk of critical issues, and enhances the app’s success in a competitive app market.
Breaking this down into manageable steps can significantly simplify the overall experience.
Guide to perform Native App Testing
Step 1: Understand the App
Every successful app serves a specific purpose. Whether it’s solving a problem, providing a service, or enhancing productivity. Discover the primary goal and objectives of the app. This goal and objectives should already be clearly outlined at a more elevated level, encapsulating the applications overall vision.
Additionally, knowing your target audience is crucial for tailoring your testing approach. Consider the behaviors of your intended users. Are they tech-savvy, busy professionals, or older individuals? Understanding your audience will help you build out a test strategy that aligns with expected users behavior.
Step 2: Gather Clear Requirements and Designs.
Begin by engaging with all relevant parties – product managers, designers, developers and stakeholders – to gather as much information as possible. Ideally, a requirements document should be in place for the app. This should include the app’s purpose, core features, target audience and any other specific dependencies or functionalities it needs to support. This document serves as a reference guide for the entire development and testing process.
Designs of the app should be in place at the planning stage. Visual aids serve as solid reference points during testing, ensuring that the app’s appearance aligns with the intended design and branding. The designs should also align with the requirements document. With both of these references, your testing strategy should become clearer. We will discuss building your test strategy further on in this guide.
By investing time in gathering clear requirements and designs, you lay the groundwork for a smoother testing phase. A shared understanding of the app’s purpose, functionality, and design reduces confusion and helps focus testing efforts on validating the app’s core features and user interactions.
Step 3: Identify Supported Versions and Platforms
This step involves determining which specific versions of operating systems (OS) and devices your application will be designed and built to run on. There are a large variety of OS’s and devices that users could have. Based on technical feasibility, your app may not be able to support all devices. This is where market research will come in useful to ensure the apps are being built to cover as wide of a scope of devices as possible, while also ensuring the apps utilize the features supported in those devices correctly.
Newer OS versions often introduce new features and architectures. These might not be backward-compatible with older versions. This is why determining a minimum version of your app is very important.
Consider a scenario where a team takes two weeks in reworking a feature to ensure robust functionality on Android version 9 devices. However, after completion, they find only a mere 0.2% of their users are on this version. This build turns out to be a very costly undertaking, yielding potentially minimal benefits in return.
The support of multiple versions also introduces complexity and overhead in testing. The testing team would need to ensure they have enough test coverage to confidently sign off on each testing build to support these versions. This is quite costly, as the team may need a large quantity of physical devices. Browserstack can come in very useful here to ensure device and OS coverage. Supporting multiple platforms means that bugs might manifest differently depending on the platform. For example, a bug that persists on iOS 14 may not exist or be reproducible on iOS 16.
The decision about which versions and platforms to support should be driven by your target users. Analyze the user base and market share of various platforms to determine where your app will have the most impact.
Step 4: Assess App Behavior on Different Devices
Users will utilize your app on an array of devices, from low-end to high-end smartphones and tablets, even foldable devices! This step involves gaining insights into how the app’s functionality, performance, and user experience are impacted by variations in device capabilities.
The user’s experience can vary depending on screen size and screen orientation. If not designed or built with these in mind, the user’s overall experience in the app could be hindered by poor navigation or display. Users with poor vision may also use the device’s screen magnification feature. Testing a scenario like this should not be at the top of your testing priorities, but also should be addressed. The content in the app should be well-organized and legible regardless of the device being used.
If your app relies on specific hardware components, you will need to ensure robust testing coverage across devices to cover even the extreme edge cases.Working with hardware components can be tricky, as there is a lot of variation depending on the device. For example, if your app requires the camera, but a supported tablet device does not have a camera. How will the app respond? This is a question that should be steered back to the designers and product manager. However, asking these questions at the early stages of the app build will prove extremely valuable in building a stable app.
Read More: How to perform Mobile Compatibility Testing
Step 5: Address Localization
Localization testing is commonly an overlooked step. Depending on what part of the world your app is available, you need to ensure accuracy, functionality, and overall seamless user experience when it is adapted to various locales. The following are some considerations to take when planning for effective localization testing:
- Language Support
Identify the languages supported by the app. For each language, where possible and within the testing scope, validate the accuracy and appropriateness of the content. Look out for edge cases, such as languages that read from right to left – how does your app respond? How does the UI and navigation flow operate? If the number of supported languages are too extensive to accommodate for testing, determine the most widely utilized languages and validate those.
In almost all cases, your app should provide compatibility for both 12-hour and 24-hour clock formats, along with accommodating both “month/day/year” and “day/month/year” date formats. If your app does any event scheduling or displaying time deadlines, it is essential the appropriate date and times are displayed correctly for each locale.
- Geographic Support
If your app has features corresponding to geographical information, ensure scenarios for this are covered. For example, consider cases where a distinction between miles and kilometers is necessary, as well as scenarios involving Celsius and Fahrenheit temperature scales.
- Local Regulatory Compliance
Regulatory compliance ensures that the product adheres to the specific laws, regulations, and standards. These should be set at the security and risk analysis requirements level, but constantly adhered to at the product delivery level. Different regions have varying data protection laws and requirements.
The product should be tested to ensure that it handles all data in accordance with local data privacy laws, such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in Europe, the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) in the United States or the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) for medical information.
Some testing examples for this are to ensure the appropriate consent mechanisms are operating correctly and that sensitive data collected is stored appropriately.
Step 6: Determine a Testing Strategy
With all of this information gathered, you should now be in a place to create a solid test plan with clear objectives and scope. This will involve creating well-defined test cases that should encompass a significant variety of user interactions and scenarios. The aim of this testing strategy is to ensure all requirements are met and that the app performs optimally and delivers an exceptional user experience.
The following types of testing are ones in which you should include in your testing strategy:
Test all features and user flows in the app. Ensure all user flows adhere to the requirements specified, from both a functional and design perspective. At this stage, some areas of confusion, such as navigation issues, page loads and clear opportunities for improvement will be identified. Ensure to share all feedback and this will only enhance the product in the long run.
- Compatibility Testing
Test your app on a variety of devices and supported versions. Check for layout consistency, responsiveness, and performance across different screen sizes and resolutions. Work completed in steps 3 and 4 should supply the necessary information to carry out this testing. It is also worth carrying out some edge case testing on unsupported devices too. If users use the apps in these scenarios, it is important to ensure the appropriate prompts and messages display to direct them to where they can access our app on a supported version.
- Security Testing
Security testing is vital for identifying vulnerabilities and potential breaches in your app. By subjecting your app to various security tests, you can uncover weaknesses that could be exploited by malicious parties. Security testing can become quite complex. A useful guide in security testing is following the OWASP Top Ten. This list is compiled by the Open Web Application Security Project, an organization focused on improving software security.
Users are impatient. Any sort of inconvenience in using something could cause a significant drop off. This underscores the significance of performance within your app. Establish predetermined load times, response times, and resource consumption levels that will serve as failure thresholds during testing. This should be determined at the planning stage of building the app, but these values should be used as a factor to determine if a feature is fit for release. The screen at the end of the loading spinner could be as slick and cool as ever. However, if it takes 5-6 seconds to load, your users won’t stick around to see it!
Gather Test Data
Test data provides the means to simulate real-world scenarios and interactions, enabling comprehensive testing of various features. Both real and simulated data should be used. Real data refers to actual information that represents typical user inputs and scenarios. This data should accurately mimic the way users interact with the app. Simulated data is generated to emulate specific scenarios or conditions. This data is useful for scenarios where it could be time-consuming, especially when a substantial quantity is needed. For example, if your app has a streak feature, simulated data could replicate a ten-day streak.
Automating your test runs provides significant advantages in terms of testing efficiency, accuracy, and coverage. By implementing tools like Appium, you can streamline various testing processes, including regression testing, functional testing, and compatibility testing.
Bug Bash & Release Testing
A bug bash should take precedence over release testing. This is a collaborative testing event that brings together your team, and even people outside your team to “bash the product” to expose last minute bugs before releasing. It is also a great opportunity for everyone to use the app before releasing and for some free UAT.
Final testing should be planned on the release candidate before the app is rolled out to Google Play Store and Apple App Store. This is an opportunity to run the app on a non-testing environment and validates any environment specific configurations are operating as expected. This should not be extensive testing, running through some smoke tests should be enough. Sharing an interal beta app can prove useful to share among the team for release testing.
Read More: Bug Bash: A Guide to Planning and Organizing
Step 7: Test Using Best Practices
Once the app is available for testing, it is time to execute your test strategy using industry best practices in testing. The objective of testing is to elevate the quality and functionality of the app, guaranteeing the fulfillment of all requirements and enabling the release of the app with the highest quality.
When first testing a new feature, it is to not initially follow the structured set of test cases created. Instead, dedicate a set amount of time to “bash the product” and try to expose as many bugs as early as possible. A user will never have a set of specific scenarios to follow when first interacting with the app, so this is an impactful way to reflect real behavior. This also provides early feedback to developers and builds towards a quality product faster.
When reporting bugs from apps, you should gather as much information available as possible when reporting bugs. Mobile bugs can be complex as different behaviors can occur on a variety of devices and OS versions.
All issues reported should include the following information:
- Device name and OS version
- Screen resolution, if reporting a visual bug
- App version
- Steps to reproduce
- Expected vs actual behavior
- Screen recordings of reproducing steps or screenshots
- Captured exceptions or errors from monitoring tools
When testing on a physical device, follow these few best practice guidelines:
- Have the device connected to your machine. This proves more convenient when capturing screenshots, screen recordings and network/device logs.
- Use tools such as Vysor and QuickTime for screen mirroring and recordings.
- Your team may have the apps connected to some monitoring tools. However, to capture real-time errors and exceptions, I suggest using easy-to-plugin command-line tools such as PID Cat for viewing logs from an Android device to capture these exceptions and report back
Testing should be performed on as many devices as your testing schedule will allow. Browstacks App live feature can significantly aid this. Your app can be easily uploaded using Browserstack’s API. From there, you have a wide choice of devices to choose from to test your app on. The app will automatically be installed on device initialization, so the configuration on the testers side is very light.
Browserstack also captures device logs while running and has multiple integrations with applications such as Slack to report issues directly to developers from Browserstack.
Read More : Best Practices for Test Automation : Checklist
Step 8: Promote and Implement Continuous Testing
Automated tests ensure that the app’s functionality and performance remain consistent across all releases. As the app evolves, testing that is routine and repetitive can become exhaustive. Additionally, freeing up QA teams from mundane testing and allowing them to focus on more complex scenarios that require human judgment is a more efficient use of time.
In continuous testing, the product is tested throughout the software development life cycle. This promotes a quality first approach when it comes to building and developing your software. There are multiple ways that continuous testing can be implemented in order to aid a quality first approach in building your app:
- Unit Tests: Developers write tests as they write the code itself. These tests focus on testing individual components or functions of the codebase.
- Integration Tests: This testing verifies interactions between different components or modules to ensure they work together correctly. Tests for this can be built by the QA team using frameworks such as Selenium and Appium.
- Continuous Integration (CI) Tests: These tests could fit into a built CI process that should exist in your team. Whenever a developer commits code changes to a repository, a CI server (such as GitHub Actions, Jenkins, Travis CI, etc.) automatically triggers a series of CI tests. If any tests fail, the CI server notifies the team, indicating that some new code or code change has caused issues.
The overall goal of continuous testing is to allow teams to address problems early, before the issues propagate further into the development process.
While not all the details in this guide might perfectly align with your team or processes, try to incorporate elements of it to cultivate a quality-centric approach to development in your team. This will ultimately contribute to the creation of a super app!
The following are key points you should take away from this article:
- Native app testing does not need to be an overwhelming process.
- Gathering as much background, requirements and information about the app as early as possible is key to laying a solid testing foundation.
- Spend the time to determine a structured test strategy using best testing practices.
- Leverage app test automation techniques. This is a key contributor to efficient testing.