Bid old test rules goodbye: New mind-set needed to test mobile apps

Test professionals must move quickly to acquire the new skills and mind-set needed to test mobile apps, said STARWEST 2012 speaker Jonathan Kohl.

If you're looking for predictability, repeatability and stable technology, mobile testing is not for you. That's the message of consultant Jonathan Kohl's keynote address, "Tapping into Testing Mobile Applications," which he delivered on Oct. 3 at the STARWEST 2012 Conference in Anaheim, Calif. "Wireless technology is incredibly complex, and it is common to believe you can test mobile apps the same way you test desktop apps," he said.

At first glance, mobile test projects appear to be scaled-down versions of desktop projects, but nothing could be further from the truth, said Kohl, whose Calgary, Alberta-based business offers consulting services for software and test professionals. "Mobile test projects involve hundreds of combinations of device types and operating systems, and it's almost impossible to repeat in the lab conditions that are found in the field."

Kohl, who will unveil his book Tap Into Mobile Application Testing at STARWEST 2012, also runs training sessions. To help test professionals get the message on mobile testing, he makes participants get up and move around. "They think they are dealing with a PC or Web apps running on a small device. But then they see how mobile app behavior changes when the conditions in which it is used change," he said. For example, apps with input sensors behave differently if the user turns and faces the opposite direction, he added. He wants class participants to experience what happens when they use a device under different network conditions, when they move from one network to another. "There are literally thousands of different conditions that impact mobile apps," he said.

To test mobile apps, testing professionals face daunting challenges, Kohl said. It requires not only new skill sets but a new mind-set as well. You cannot keep conducting quality assurance testing the same old way, and test professionals that don't embrace the changes mobile testing demands will get left behind, he said. He noted that IT professionals haven't played a leadership role with mobile applications in general. "In the '90s we had Web access at work before we had it at home," he said. But with mobile apps, the opposite is true: "Enterprise mobile apps lag behind mobile apps designed for casual use," he added.

That gap has left software development teams playing catch-up, according to Kohl. Apps designed for casual use have set the standard for what all mobile apps should look like and how they should perform. "Enterprise users expect apps that are location-aware, that offer fast access to social media sites, and that provide entertainment features, such as games and videos."

Kohl encourages test professionals to arm themselves with mobile test skills and knowledge so they can test these apps effectively and lead their test organizations forward. "A major shift is under way -- the testing landscape is the new Wild West," he said. "We are blazing new ground, creating our future, and that's fun."

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