Why thinking “Testing my app is unnecessary” is wrong…
by Martin Wrigley, Executive Director, AQuA
Last week it was reported that close to 60,000 low quality apps had been removed from the Google Play Store. The details behind this aren’t entirely clear, but are presumed to be as a result of Google improving how it scans the 700,000 apps in the store.
Many developers love Google Play because there’s no approval process required unlike in the Apple App Store. But as this sweep out shows, quality in Google Play needs to improve.
It’s said that the average cost of developing an app is $6,500 but only 60% of developers ever make that back and only 50% make a sustaining income from their development business. Much of the discussion on why this might be has focused on discoverability – how to stand out from the crowd. But if this sweep out signals a clamp down on quality from Google then the conversation must switch to QA and testing.
So what can developers do to avoid being counted as a low quality app to be swept out with the dross?’
Don’t rely on users to test for you
Because of Google’s open approach, many developers release untested apps and fix them through updates, essentially relying on users to do their testing and in the process throwing away their first generation of users. This might have been OK while the consumers were keen early adopters, but it isn’t good enough in the rapidly-maturing industry of developing mobile apps.
It’s clear to see from ratings postings within app stores in general, that many, if not most, of the customers of the stores have no patience for apps that don’t work properly and, unlike the early adopters, they rarely provide helpful feedback – they simply post a bad rating, get a refund, delete the app and pick the next app on the list.
Follow best practice
The typical successful developer today is no longer the hobbyist in the garage developing apps that simulate noises of bodily functions, but is part of a professional organization systematically delivering high quality apps. In fact, only 3% of the top 250 apps in Google Play are developed by newcomers so it’s clear that experience matters. And with the top developers making up to 15x their development cost back, it’s clear that the reward for those who get it right is significant.
Following professional software engineering best practices is a sure fire way to improve app quality and is important in a number of areas. The most obvious one that’s been focused on for a while is User Experience. There are now many guides for user interface design, and a great UX design is very sexy – but that’s not enough.
Two other areas often overlooked are:
a) The importance of technical design
b) The importance of good QA in your app development process.
There are various helpful, cross-platform best practice guidelines for mobile design and development covering aspects from technical design, performance and, of course, privacy. AQuA publishes a set of Bet Practice Guidelines that is widely used by developers as do AT&T and the GSMA.
These offer valuable advice and tips for design and implementation across a range of platforms, with huge benefits and gains, but even that isn’t enough.
Follow a testing criteria
The implementation of a good QA practice is really the core to ensuring that apps are up to scratch. Just like any other product, the principles of improving the quality of production of a product remain the same and structured testing of the app during development and before releasing it to the market is a vital part. Testing the app isn’t just about checking the obvious functions work. It involves a whole range of tests with criteria that cover everything from the download and install, the app start up, the functionality, and even the app’s behavior with an incoming phone call.
AQuA helps in this area too by providing a structured approach to testing an app – the AQuA Testing Criteria.
Using the AQuA Testing Criteria to form a QA test plan will catch the majority of common errors. The test cases in our Testing Criteria have been developed over time with input from experienced Operators, Handset manufacturers, Test Houses and developers. They are designed to be ‘Right Sized’ to have enough test cases to prevent errors, but not so much that they are over-bearing. The Testing Criteria defines the minimum level of testing that should be done to make sure an app will work well.
In addition there is the AQuA Quality App Directory, a listing of apps that pass the Testing Criteria and so reach this level of quality. An app that has been tested by an approved Test House will be awarded the App Quality Badge that developers can use to demonstrate a commitment to producing a quality product.
In order to compete in this market every developer has to raise their game and improve the quality of their output. Those that don’t risk being swept out as Google has demonstrated.