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The solution to speedy mobile app delivery? It's crowdsourced testing

Sometimes you just need a lot of users playing with your app to find out how it's really working. Enter crowdsourced testing. It's the latest strategy to speed up your mobile dev.

Startup mobile software development company HomeMe had a dilemma common to most startups: it needed a team of people to test the app rigorously, quickly and in the area where it was actually being released. The solution was crowdsourced testing.

At a time when the pressure to develop, test and release mobile apps quickly has never been more intense, the idea of crowdsourced testing is growing in popularity. The concept is simple: A crowdsourced testing company can offer thousands of testers in different locations around the world a wide swath of devices, and by literally throwing a "crowd" at the problem, testing that might take weeks with a small internal team can be done on a weekend, said Peter Blair, vice president of marketing at Applause. And it's an idea that has apparently caught hold. According to data from market research firm Gartner Group, there were 30 crowdsourced testing companies operating at the end of last year, offering fully vetted (qualified) testers, up from just 20 companies in 2015.

Priyanka Halder, director of quality assurance at HomeMe, is no stranger to crowdsourced testing. She participated in a number of "bug battles" at uTest, a software testing community that also offers crowdsourced testing opportunities. So when she joined the small startup HomeMe she immediately began thinking about a crowdsourced testing solution.

"We're a pretty small company and we needed a larger number of people looking at our app and on a tight budget," she said. "This is the perfect model for us because we can't afford a big team on our site."

People just do things that no system, no automation and no engineer could ever predict they'd do.
Peter Blairvice president of marketing, Applause

With crowdsourced testing it is all about the big team. Blair said Applause has over 250,000 fully vetted testers, most of whom are QA professionals with full-time jobs who do this on the side. These testers are located around the world, and are paired with "pretty much every mobile device you can think of," he said. So a crowdsourced customer wouldn't have to worry about having access to every single version of an Android phone, which Blair said is a huge selling point.

But the biggest issue, he said, is that companies are hungry to see how real users actually interface with their products. "People just do things that no system, no automation and no engineer could ever predict they'd do," he explained. "Customers who've used us just to augment their teams many times end up staying on because they like seeing the results of our exploratory testing," he said, and they can't get that information easily any other way.

Halder said she looked at a number of crowdsourced testing options before settling on Applause. The biggest plus for her was how easy it was to get the testing feedback and how mature the company's process was. "It can be a nightmare to coordinate how to get the information back from the testers. This ended up being a way for us to get more people actually using our app for less money and get all the feedback we need."

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