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Mobile App Testing: The Human Touch and Automation

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Almost all Mobile Labs customers are working with test automation for their mobile apps. Despite the popularity of automated testing, why did we work to make our manual testing speeds the best in the business? The answer lies in your hands.

GigaFox™ and the revolutionary graphics performance of its GEM give testers and developers super productivity when using mobile cloud devices, whether the device cloud is on the premises or in a Mobile Labs hosting center. A remote device, controlled and viewed on a desktop viewer, now performs like one in your hands. This new speed benefits developers, automation script writers, and so-called “manual testers” under all kinds of network conditions. Almost all of our customers are working with automation, and we want to be “Your Appium Success Company.” Why, then, would we work to make our manual testing speeds the best in the business?

Manual Testing and The Human Touch

To start with, I’m going to suggest we might deep-six the term manual testing in favor of recognizing the human touch needed to get an app up and running and out the door. I do this because the term “manual testing” is sometimes fraught -- often denigrated by vendors in our space that sell automation tools and sometimes by industry analysts as well. In many circles, manual testing can have a bad reputation as being inefficient, expensive, and error prone. I have often joked that, for some people, value associations place automation next to motherhood, apple pie, and the spirits of the angels and place manual testing next to an old dirty ashtray.

Well, not really, but you get the idea. Yet I believe there is a way to understand the issue without arguing that either kind is always wrong -- and to strongly argue that we need both. Most of the good stuff said about manual testing is true when describing things scripts can’t do. Most of the bad stuff said about manual testing is true when describing things scripts can do.

Implications of the Human Touch

Applying the human touch means professionals try to think like users by doing not only the expected things, but also the unexpected, unanticipated, ‘outside the box’ things — in short by trying to break things. Script writers, on the other hand, often try to prove that an app is working by writing scripts that run successfully. The conundrum raised is, “But I thought the point of testing was to find bugs!” Guru99 says manual testing is prerequisite to automation. In the future, artificial intelligence (seen in nascent form, maybe in ‘crawler’ tests that click at random) may encroach on what we’re delegating here to human beings.

But until that day comes, we will have issues that need human judgment -- and the speed and convenience of a device cloud can significantly shorten the time needed to apply it. For example, designers or standards groups can quickly check apps or websites on a variety of devices to ensure they meet aesthetics and usability standards, something scripts cannot yet do. Just as important is trying out accessibility features. A human touch is also needed to judge whether an app will enhance competitiveness and profitability, whether it is easy for people to understand and use, and to determine if the overall user experience will be positive for the company brand. These issues will likely still require the human touch even if we automate the initial bug-hunting that is done manually at present.

The Human Touch vs. Test Automation

If manual testing aims to show that an app is correct and ready in the first place, what’s the use of a script that shows it still works? In a word: regression. Scripts that run, to perfection, can be an invaluable and efficient means to see if recent changes to the app have introduced bugs.The human touch helps answer, “Does this new thing work?” Automation is able to efficiently answer the question, “Does it still work? Especially after we ‘fixed’ it?” I recall refusing a team the OK, after a code freeze, to change a single comma on a login screen. Right or wrong, this reflected a veteran’s paranoia (schooled by the ubiquitous Murphy and his law) that any change, no matter how simple or easy, is the change that may render an entire product inoperable. If automated regression had been available, I might have been able to approve the change.

Trying to find new bugs with scripts is a misapplication of automation and argues for the necessity of manual testing. The “human touch” finds new bugs in new code by trying both the expected and the unexpected and must assess suitability for both users and the business.

Trying to perform regression testing manually is a misapplication of manual testing and argues for the necessity of automation. Manual regression is inefficient, error-prone, and consumes massive amounts of resources over and over with inconsistent and often unreliable results.

So, to answer why we care to make both kinds more efficient, Mobile Labs knows that delivering high quality, high performing mobile apps requires both a human touch to validate new code, and an automation touch to perform rapid regression testing. That’s why we optimized GigaFox for both, with cloud-based manual testing that delivers the real-time experience of a device in-hand. And GigaFox’s automation prowess is just as impressive via its fully supported, built-in Appium server and tools that deliver efficient Appium workflows and the best Appium performance, reliability, and concurrency. We want to be both your “Human touch success company” and “Your Appium Success company.”

No matter where you are on your testing journey, we have resources that can help. Learn more about the human touch with manual testing or check out our "All About Appium" section on our blog.

Michael Ryan

Michael Ryan serves as Mobile Labs’ chief technology officer. In this role, Ryan provides the technological vision and drives Mobile Labs' 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.

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