Millions of people use mobile and desktop apps every day–usually without thinking about the behind-the-scenes work that went into creating them. And though users certainly notice when a bug makes it through and negatively impacts their experience, not many people stop to think about how nice it is when an app isn’t buggy.
Habits of successful software testers
The unsung heroes who work to make sure you don’t ever think about them: app testers. They’re the people who put an app through various challenges before it’s released, in order to identify potential vulnerabilities or features that don’t work properly.
Interested in becoming an app tester? Here are a few tips for doing it successfully.
1. Keep user experience at front-of-mind.
The best testers think like users, envisioning all possible scenarios that could occur. What will potential users want from the app? How will they use it? Will anything confuse them? Is there anything they could do that would “break” the app? Answering these questions first is important for a successful app test.
Ragu Masilamany, Vice President of Network Virtualization at Amdocs, notes that this isn’t always easy. “Imagining the user’s experience is especially challenging when developing new types of products that do not have established usage patterns or a defined user population,” he says. However, he continues, “Those who aspire to be software testers need to be able to imagine how the product will be used and the perceived user experience.”
2. Design your tests to fail.
In school, nobody wants to take a test they’re meant to fail. App testing is a whole different story. The harder the test is to pass, the more effective it will be at rooting out weaknesses.
Leo Laskin, senior solutions architect at Sauce Labs, says, “Don’t get upset or lose excitement when something you’ve been coding for a while does not work. In fact, design tests to fail. This will help ensure you’ve attempted to eliminate all bugs and problems when your product is released.”
Titus Fortner, fellow senior solutions architect at Sauce Labs, says to design the test in such a way that it imparts useful information whatever the outcome: “Make sure that any test written gives valuable information both when it passes and when it fails.”
3. Keep tests small but more frequent.
There’s no need to create long, complicated tests. Smaller tests can be just as effective, and they make it easier to actually test while the app is still being developed (and adjust accordingly) rather than waiting for it to be done. Laskin says, “Keep tests small. After you’ve written code, it means time to test. Don’t think you have to run a large elaborate test every time. Keeping tests small allows a quick turn around and gives you more time to focus on creating code.”
4. Automate testing when possible.
If frequent app testing is required at a company, automation can save a lot of time and work. Many teams are already adopting this process. “Recent software development practices are adopting a high degree of automation, using robots to test software products,” explains Masilamany. “As a result, software testers not only need to identify ‘sunny day’ and ‘rainy day’ scenarios to test; they also need to develop the software that automates these test scenarios so that the product can be tested by machines many, many times during the development and quality assurance phases for the best results.”
Laskin agrees with the benefits of automation: “Today, automated testing can provide speed and efficiency and test a variety of scenarios quickly. The ease of automated testing also means that beginner developers can learn to execute and master tests without expert knowledge.”
A few of Laskin’s tips for successful automatic tests: “When writing automated tests, keep them small so that they run quickly–you want to be able to provide results to your teams as fast as possible. Align with your developers and confirm they’re on board with writing code that is optimized for automated testing.”
However, Fortner notes that not every test can (or should) be automated. “Be judicious in what and how you decide to automate,” he says. “Automated tests should be short, focused and repeatable.”