Mobile App Testing: Improving Functionality and User Experience

Mobile app testing is definitely a must in your app development lifecycle.

Whatever the level of the developer, releasing the app without testing is simply not an option.

And mind you, this is where you have to be quite finicky – and there’s simply no way around it.

You just got to do it, mate!

How Important is App Testing?

The goal of mobile app testing is not just to find errors, but to make sure that your app works the way you intend it to be, and it functions to the needs of the users.

Of course, every app is not perfect, there will be always slight errors, but through the testing process, it ultimately improves the app’s function and user experience.

Things to Monitor: Functionality, UX and UI

In the context of mobile app development, it’s important to test the app in 3 categories; namely – functionality, the user experience and the user-interface.

These three will help determine the app’s success on the app store.  And a well-tested mobile app (with minimal number of bugs) prior to release, has better chances of success.

As app developers, it’s your job to find errors that make your app undesirable to your customers.

It only takes one or two bugs to make your app’s user switch to another one. (You’re literally a tap or click away from being replaced other apps)

So we can’t really over-emphasize the importance to app testing.

Always keep in mind that your customers expect a well-polished, full-functioning app upon release.

It’s not their job to give feedback on what works and what doesn’t work.

If they’re happy with your app, they use it, and they share it with their friends. And in the end, and this is the best part – you make money.

Happy and satisfied app users will keep your app and use it, while unhappy ones will simply delete it – and you’ve lost one customer.

To further improve your mobile app development process, we recommend using the Lean Startup methodology.

Testing Your Mobile App

Mobile App testing in particular does have a unique set of challenges. The tester must first be aware of how the ideal function of the app is. If you know what it should at a specific comman

With these challenges are different approaches and different tools that help testers get the job done more efficiently with better productivity.

However every testing strategy has it’s own pros and cons. One can use a single testing method based on the needs of the application or come up with a testing strategy that employs a little of every test optimally to achieve the best overall testing results

 Today, we will look at several app testing methods, while also touching upon the different factors that should be a part of your testing strategy.

Understanding Firmware – What is it?

Let’s first understand what a Firmware is.

It is simply a set of applications and operating system that control how a smartphone or tablet functions.

Since they are designed keeping the framework, they offer better user experience and optimum functionalities that can easily make use of the devices’ limited hardware/memory capabilities.

Native Apps?

Though native apps have the dual benefits of providing rich user experience and profitable developer experience, it’s usually the testing team that is faced with the task of testing the app thoroughly to justify its value on the app store.

They need to test the app for a number of parameters include the following:

a. Transition from the app store to the smart device

b. The user experience and user interface

c. The communication with the backend and server

d. The actual performance vs. the desired benchmarks

e. The app’s uniformity across devices

The Difference between Testing Native Apps and Web Apps

Each native app is designed for a specific set of devices on which it will be used; hence the best testing can be done with the app actually downloaded to the device.

One also needs to see that the same app can be used on the older generation devices to in order to expand the market coverage.

Also you need to decide upon the appropriate feedback mechanisms that will help you to rapidly move in whenever an issue is reported with (how will users report it, how will it be conveyed to you, who will users get acknowledgement etc.)

Native apps are standalone applications that are usually installed on your device via Google Play or Apple’s App Store.

On the other hand,  Mobile Web Apps run on browsers running HTML5.

Though they may look like a Native Apps, they are just similar to viewing a website on your desktop.

It may have a function of installing on your device, but it’s really just a bookmark to the site.

Since we’ve covered that, let’s move on..shall we?

Native App Testing:

It usually consists of the following:

  • The test starts with app installation and launch

  • For some mobile devices, test access to Device ID

  • Functionality and Usability Test(OS, Screen size, themes and interuptions.

  • Test API access

Mobile Web Apps Testing:

  • No installation needed

  • Runs on device’s browser

  • Internet connection dependent

  • Loading Time

OK. Great!  How About Testing for Different Devices?

Now, with tons of different devices with different versions, there’s a lot of things to deal with in terms of it’s ecosystem.

The sheer variety and versions and sub-versions of the devices being used by different smartphone users across the world make life unbearable for testers. Though they can be bucketed into categories and thus reduce the overall list, however this is a calculatedrisk of overseeing a vital category altogether. Three approaches help you work around the device problem –

a.  Test using actual devices

b.  Test using emulators

c.  Test a combination of both

Let’s examine each of the three options:

a.  Using Actual devices 

This is the best way for a testing team to check for bugs and flaws in the app.

Since you’re using the intended device,  you get immediate feedback on your outline objectives.

You can see if your app has the right layout that fits device’s screen dimensions.

This is also a good test to check and gauge if the app runs optimally on the devices.

(Questions to ask- is the app consuming too much load time? )

Remember that hardware compatibility affects the app’s functionality, and has an overall impact on user experience.

b. App Emulators  

Emulators are much more simpler to operate and maintain.

These applications allow the hardware/software profile of a given device to be emulated,  the app is ready to be tested as if it is being done so against real devices!

The additional edge provided by emulated devices is that they were designed specifically for testers and hence would have the appropriate technology to help in a more effective testing and  output detailed diagnostics.

On narrowing down to a problem, you can easily correct it on an emulated device.

On the other hand, there’s going to be some characteristics available to actual devices that’s missing with emulated softwares and devices.

For example, the rendering on emulated device might not be as accurate as on real device.

Another thing is that emulators won’t  be able to correctly show the responsiveness of the app. Also, location specific behavior attributes will not be possible in emulated devices.

c. Combination testing

Combination Testing provides you and your team the best of both worlds in app testing (i.e. Actual Device Testing and Emulator Testing) This is probably the most ideal of app testing.

The first step would be to bring in emulated device testing to check for –

a. Speed of testing and increasing the instance of test iterations

b. Range of device testing

c. Correct testing at a low cost in the initial stages

Actual device testing can form a part of later development to check for real world functioning within the device and validate that all development and business goals have been met.

We’ll wrap up this article with some recommendations that can help build an effective testing strategy.


Now that we’ve provided all the details and steps of testing on native and web applications, let’s look at some additional  ways in which these challenges can now be lessened to a great extent and get the best out of your testing process.

To start off there is no one approach that can meet your testing needs.

You need to list down your developmental goals, budget constraints and time frame and then decide on an appropriate mix of testing tools to extract the maximum out of the different approaches.

Here is what we recommend:

1. Device emulators

The controlled environment provides an exhaustive list of testing procedures that can assure you of a well rounded and comprehensive testing to be carried on your apps.

When selecting the emulated device look out for critical parameters such as

a. Does it offer network bypass?

b. Does it support use of live network over the Internet?

c. Does it provide a good scripting ability that allows multiple iterations of generic parameters testing?

d. Does it provide flexibility for instrumentation and networking options?

e. Does it offer diagnostics ability to narrow down the problem and ensure effective fixing of the same?

f. Does it possess a good list of device profile and is relevant to the current technological ecosystem?

 2. Using the Cloud!

In the current technological context, real devices on the cloud offer all round and most cost efficient way to test your devices.

Since they are available on the rental model, development companies need not incur huge acquisition costs for each and every type of device profile.

 3. Automation Tools

This is again proving to be a cost effective solution for long time developers and mobile app testers who can easily spread the initial costs over a number of projects and gain a clear advantage over manual testing.

A solution that offers a blend of actual device and emulated device testing presents significant time saving, higher productivity, better efficiency and superior return on investment.

Using a Test Case / Activity for your Apps

Creating a test case /activity is a must for testing mobile apps.

On using Test Cases, you provide a detailed outline of how the app should work – every functional behavior needed to guide the user experience.

For additional information on How To Create a Test Case, here’s the link

More Cool Stuff ! – Additional Tools for App Testing:

App Testing Documentation

Another important element in app testing is documentation.

With every function being tested on your app, it helps to have a system you can rely on keep track of everything – from notes, bugs and the like.

Check out DoneDone – their service really helps out.

Crowd Testing

Now, if you don’t have a team of experts to do mobile app testing and look for bugs, then you can try crowd testing.

One service that you should check out is TestCloud. You simply sign-up on their page and have your app submitted.

The cool thing about this is that real experts will test the app under normal conditions, and will even point out suggestions on what to improve.

So this service makes testing more accessible to low budget developers.

 Do you have any mobile app testing experiences and stories? We’d love to hear about it!

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Logan Merrick is the co-founder and Director of Buzinga, as well as one of Australia's most recognised entrepreneurs, keynote speakers, investors and mentors. His writing on startups, technology and mobile marketing has been featured in The Australian, Business Insider, Startup Smart, Smart Company, and more.