Friday, 21 August 2015

Mobile Testing Pathway

This pathway is a tool to help guide your self development in mobile testing. It includes a variety of steps that you may approach linearly or by hopping about to those that interest you most.

Each step includes:
  • links to a few resources as a starting point, but you are likely to need to do your own additional research as you explore each topic.
  • a suggested exercise or two, which focus on reflection, practical application and discussion, as a tool to connect the resources with your reality.

Take your time. Dig deep into areas that interest you. Apply what you learn as you go.

STEP - Mobile testing ideas using checklists & mnemonics

When testing mobile applications, we need to switch our thinking. When planning our testing, instead of generating functional ideas about how the software works we should think of mobile-specific test ideas. This change in thinking will test the unique aspects of mobile while also covering the functionality of the application through a different lens.

There are a number of practical resources to help generate test ideas for mobile applications:

[2 hours] Select a mobile application. Spend 30 minutes using these resources to come up with a set of test ideas for the application you have chosen. If you're unfamiliar with the application you may need to explore its features in parallel to generating test ideas, but try to tour rather than test. Once you have a set of ideas, spend 30 minutes testing the application. Prioritise execution of the mobile test techniques that you have never tried before. Note any questions you have or problems that you discover. After you complete your testing, spend 30 minutes debriefing with a mobile tester. Discuss your plan, your testing and what you discovered; ask questions and develop your understanding.

This is a good exercise to repeat against different mobile applications as you progress through this pathway. Practice makes perfect.

STEP - Mobile test approach

At a level above test ideas, the mobile tester has to develop an approach to the problem of testing an application. Learn more about how other people test, and get a broader understanding of the challenges and considerations of testing on mobile:

[1 hour] Reflect on the articles you have read and research any areas that you're interested in learning more about. Consider whether there are any gaps in the checklists and resources to generate test ideas based on these new resources. Look back at your previous mobile testing, how would you re-prioritise your activities now that you have a slightly broader understanding of the approach to mobile?

STEP - Device fragmentation

Device fragmentation is a common challenge in mobile testing. The number of physical handsets and diversity in mobile operating systems means that there are a large number of different devices that could be running your mobile application.

Here are some starter posts that illustrate device fragmentation and explain the problems it creates:

[1 hour] Find a copy of your latest organisation analytics pack to understand device fragmentation in your customer base. Look at the differences in device use between different mobile applications offered by your organisation, and between your responsive public website and mobile applications. Which devices do you think you should test against in each area? Once you have done some research, take your lists to someone in your mobile team. Discuss how analytics drive decisions about device fragmentation.

STEP - Emulators

One of the ways we can tackle device fragmentation is through the use of emulators. There are pros and cons to using emulators instead of real devices. Get some insight into the arguments and use a common emulator:

[1 hour] Access a responsive public website using the Chrome dev tools device mode. Investigate the features of the emulator, see which aspects of mobile it represents effectively, and identify cases where the emulation fails to reflect reality. As you investigate the site across different devices and resolutions, note any problems that you discover. In addition to test coverage of the site, try to explore all the options of the emulator tool bar.

STEP - Mobile automation strategy

Another response to device fragmentation and the rapid pace of mobile development is the use of automation. Here are some varying opinions on what types of automation are useful and why you might use them:

[2 hours] Spend some time investigating the mobile automation in place for the iOS and android versions of an existing mobile application in your organisation. Read any associated documentation for these suites, or overviews of how they work. To get closer to the code and see it in action, ask someone to give you a demonstration.

[1 hour] The "device wall of awesome" is an ambitious goal for mobile continuous integration. Investigate which continuous integration practices are currently in place for your mobile applications. Research some other options for continuous integration in mobile. Talk to your mobile team and share your ideas.

STEP - Testing mobile design

There are significant differences between web and mobile user interfaces with design for mobile devices considering smaller screen size, environments for use, etc.

Here are some starter posts for mobile design and usability:

[2 hours] Considering the devices that you test against, apply a thumb zone heat map to one of the screens, in one of your mobile applications, for each device. Look at the placement of your user interface elements within the map. How has the design considered the placement of widgets to accommodate use of the application on different devices? Take your maps to a mobile designer, talk about what you've discovered and learn about the other design considerations for mobile.

STEP - Mobile First

We talk about becoming "mobile first", but what does that actually mean and how will we implement it?

[1 hour] Reflect on what you've read and consider how "mobile first" might alter your existing development approach. Talk to a someone who sets strategy in your organisation, share your thoughts and discover their opinions about what "mobile first" will mean for you.

STEP - Wearables

The release of the Apple Watch has accelerated the growth of wearable technology. In this emerging field there are interesting opinions about the influence of wearables:

[2 hours] Find out whether your organisation has an application for Apple Watch, what features are included, how many people use it, who developed it, and how it has been tested. Try and find somebody with your application installed on their very own Apple Watch!

STEP - Screen capture, mirroring & recording

Tools that capture the screen may be useful, especially in situations where a bug is observed by cannot be reproduced. There are a number of tools available:

[2 hours] Try installing some of these tools. Explore their functionality. Determine whether there are any that you prefer. Talk to someone in your mobile team about which tools they prefer and why.

STEP - A/B testing on mobile

A/B testing is a method for testing in production where we present alternate builds to our users and use the data about the differences in how people react to each build to make informed decisions on what changes to make or keep:

[2 hours] Talk to someone in your organisation to find out more about how you've used A/B testing within your applications. Discover application flags and how you interpret user analytics. Talk to the a designer to learn about the situations they might recommend as appropriate for A/B testing in mobile. Talk to someone in your mobile team about how they've used A/B testing within your mobile applications in the past.

STEP - Performance & Stress

As in your desktop applications, performance on mobile is important.

[1 hour] Talk to someone in your mobile team about how they deal with performance and stress testing now. Based on what you've read, share any ideas you have on how the process might be improved.

STEP - Following the future

Mobile testing is a vibrant field with new articles and trends emerging regularly. Here are some suggestions of people to follow on Twitter who are active in mobile testing:


  1. Hi Katrina,

    thanks for this great post!


  2. Very Informative and Useful Links to understand in depth

  3. Thanks for the post, very nice summary, already put all the twitter accounts to my source_of_wisdom filter on tweetdeck :)

  4. Great article and great links too. I have shared this with other members of my testing team. Thanks!

  5. Thanks for the post Katrina!