Testing is an important, sometimes overlooked, part of developing a great app. Ideally, your app should be tested a variety of ways both automated and with actual human participants. In this post, we’ll cover the basics of app testing, focusing on human testers.
In July I wrote about a handful of human beta testing services for mobile apps. They develop test cases that include testers who provide bug reports and other feedback. They’re great for rapid testing because they employ testers from all over the world using a variety of devices. And they’re free. To get feedback before publishing your app, you don’t have to use a paid service.
The beta testing process can be formal, using written test case documents. Or you can simply provide your testers with an informal, basic outline of your app’s functions. One of four services I mentioned, uTest, has an excellent guide to writing formalized test cases. (You can get it from the link below.)
If you don’t want to, you don’t have to set up formal testing. You can invite people to provide general feedback. But you’ll need a way to keep track of their reports as well as a method to protect your app’s source code. You’ll also need a way to inform testers of the actions you’d like them to take. Google Forms works well for simple — and again, free — bug reporting. Using the resulting spreadsheet, you can analyze results and determine which bugs to attack first.
Beta testers are often early adopters who are ready to try new technologies. Though early adopters are great testers, they’ll provide very different feedback than those less familiar with mobile products and apps. Choose your testers based on your app’s target user, though you can certainly get feedback from people in both categories. No matter who signs on, you want them to review at least a handful of your app’s common tasks. For instance:
- How does the screen orientation affect the display of the app?
- Is it obvious what the app is supposed to do when first opened?
- Are menus easy to navigate, and do they make sense in relation to other information presented on the screen?
- How is video playback handled across devices?
- Is the user interface consistent throughout the app?
- If the app includes social tools, do sharing options take advantage of Android’s built-in contact handling?
- Does the app perform well with third-party tools?
- For apps that can run in the background, like music players, do they reliably work while you’re performing other tasks on the device?
- Do camera operations or filters produce the desired effect?
There are plenty of other good questions to ask regarding functionality. The answers you require will be based on the app’s intended use. Working backward from that provides an excellent outline for testers, even if your group includes a number of close relatives.
Once you’ve published your app to the Google Play Store, you can submit it for review on the weekly App Clinic show hosted by Android Developer Advocates. They’ll pick it apart and provide detailed feedback to help you make it better. The following week, those whose apps are featured get a chance to respond during Developers Strike Back, another show hosted by Android Developer Advocates. Before submitting your app for review, it’s best to watch previous episodes.