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Test Strategy for Mobile Applications: Automation vs. Manual

Test Strategy for Mobile ApplicationLast updated July 28, 2016

As with most things mobile, developing and testing mobile apps is a bit of a balancing act. On the one hand, development and QA teams are tasked with quickly deploying apps that have been fully tested and perform according to plan. On the other hand, app development times can run longer than anticipated, putting increased pressure on QA to run comprehensive functional and regression tests across all device types and operating systems with far less testing time than originally planned. This puts extra pressure on the QA organization since they still need to keep a close eye on budgets, app backlogs and manage high expectations for app acceptance and usability.

It should come as no surprise that enterprise QA teams are also trying to determine if manual testing alone is the best approach. The very nature of mobility, with rapid changes and multiple form factors, paired with the pressure to quickly deploy numerous mobile apps, makes automation a popular test strategy for mobile applications. Organizations can quickly realize value from an automated mobile application testing approach because it can minimize the time it takes to get apps ready for release.

However, just because automated mobile app testing is a possibility, it doesn’t mean that it’s always the best fit for all enterprise testing needs. Mobile apps come with a lengthy list of outside variables. Until testers have isolated and addressed these variables, manual testing still has its place in the testing process. Perhaps the best option is a hybrid approach. In order to find that balance between manual and automated testing – both for software and mobile applications – consider the following key concepts:

  • New functionality? Use manual testing – If  an app contains new functionality, it should be tested manually. With new functionality, testers won’t know what type of automated test script to write prior to performing a manual test.
  • Only testing once? Make it manual – Obviously, if only one function of one mobile app is being tested, it doesn’t make sense to spend the time and energy to create an automated testing script. Although manual testing may take longer than running an automated test, script creation takes time. If there isn’t a case for re-use, there is really no need to tie up automation experts with script creation for a single test case.
  • Regression tests are good candidates for automated testing – Each time a developer releases new code, a regression test is needed. Because regression tests are repeated, automated testing is a perfect fit. While there is some time needed on the front end to develop test scripts, testers will  save time because they won’t have to start from scratch with the test each time.
  • Automated tests are essential for complex tests – Complex tests have multiple components that need to be tested at once. After testers familiarize themselves with the app’s functionality, an automated test script can help them run through a variety of tests quickly to speed the testing process.
 Once automated testing has been identified for use with a particular app, QA teams should implement a test automation tool in high risk areas first and then move down through levels of priority. High-traffic and heavy use apps will benefit the most from the quicker testing process yielded through the use of automation. Considering the time it takes to put a test together, it makes sense to save automation for the apps that see the most action.

With these guidelines in mind, it’s easier to find the right test strategy for mobile application testing.

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Michael Ryan

Michael Ryan serves as Mobile Labs’ chief technology officer. In this role, Ryan provides the technological vision and drives Mobile Labs Trust’s product road map. Ryan has more than 35 years of experience in leading software development teams that design and build robust and market-leading solutions for large-scale enterprise customers among Fortune 1000 companies. Most recently, Ryan was with Fundamental Software where he worked on large-scale systems CPU emulation architecture, design, and implementation. Prior to Fundamental Software, Ryan was director of development, Sr. VP of R&D, and finally, Chief Technical Officer for CASE tool vendor KnowledgeWare, Inc. Ryan served as senior staff systems engineer, field manager, and regional technical support manager for mainframe manufacturer Amdahl Corporation.

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