Mobile app performance testing – A Definitive Guide
One of the most important tests that can be conducted on digital products is performance testing. In these mobile apps, you can easily notice the changes in performance due to varying factors like the location of the user, the quality of internet connection, the traffic load on the native app, and more. In the case of mobile applications, they need to be tested on various devices to check whether the change in the dimensions of the mobile screen affects the performance of an app or not. The experts of software testing say that quality assurance services is a cost-effective process, if done efficiently. It can boost the overall SDLC, deliver consistent codes,increase the speed and efficiency of the development. Therefore, in this blog, we will explore the best testing methodologies including the concept of performance testing for mobile applications, why you need to do it, how you can do it efficiently, and so on.
What Is a Mobile Application?
Software that is specifically designed to run on mobile devices like smartphones or tablets is called mobile apps. There are two types of mobile applications – independent apps and web-based apps. Mobile applications are just software with limited capacity, comprehension quality, and one-screen constraints that seldomly allow users to multi-task.
You can always port the mobile-based project into a PC application but by doing that, you won’t be able to avail all the advantages of mobile device-specific features. So it becomes mandatory for the developers to create mobile apps right from the scratch.
What is Mobile Application Testing?
Mobile app development is not an easy task but developing a bug-free app is a more tough and complicated feat to achieve. Behind every app development project, the goal is to offer a seamless experience to the users. And to ensure that, the mobile app is tested under a simulated environment to analyze its performance. You can say that the test results are the mirror to the user experience once the app is launched publicly.
For testers, the performance test means checking how the app works in severe conditions such as traffic loads. For that, the app testers run some parallel tests on the system and analyze the response given by the app on a wide range of devices. The QA analysts also check how the mobile application runs with a poor internet connection and whether or not it supports certain transactions on the device. Allow me to explain the entire process. The process is divided into the following stages:
Understanding device-specific characteristics
There’s a wide range of variety in the screen dimensions of mobile devices from 5 inches to 13 inches, smartphones and tablets included. Apart from that, you must also consider other technical specifications like the GPS, the touchscreen capability, camera quality, the range of supporting features, and more. Every tester must understand the specifications of all the devices on which the app would be used and in what way they might influence the user experience of the mobile app.
Mobile performance app testing
The quality of app performance varies across devices and a major gap is seen in the results between the high-end and low-end mobile devices. App developers make sure that their application performs well on devices that have low capacity but they also have to ensure that the mobile app can handle the high server loads. They also have to secure their app from bandwidth modifications and latency changes.
In this stage, load testing is conducted to test mobile apps for stable response under the hostile situation of an increase in incoming traffic. It is a rule that the approach for this test must be either integrative or modular.
Nowadays developers build cross-platform applications that can run on multiple operating systems. Therefore the app needs to be designed keeping the needs of an operating system in mind. But that’s not all, a single operating system also comes in different versions. There can be many updates too. So you have to list all kinds of devices and operating systems that would support your app and run tests for the same.
Many aspects are crucial to a seamless user experience. The elegant layout of the app, clear navigation, intuitive interface, error alerts, and error management, all combine to provide an enhanced user experience.UX testing is necessary for this purpose. There are some performance metrics for the factors mentioned above set by the app stores and if they aren’t met, the store won’t accept the app for further distribution.
End-to-end integration testing
Validating the performance of the solution is crucial and it is carried out against the important features of MDMS or Mobile Device Management Systems. System integration testing is conducted in such cases.
Most mobile apps store the data on servers that they have processed from various devices. Now if a mobile phone gets stolen or is lost, the privacy of app users can be in jeopardy. Therefore, to make sure that doesn’t happen, testers create a secure authorization system that keeps a record of all the events that took place in the app. This data is confidential, so it is highly protected.
Testing the Connectivity
Most mobile applications need an online connection to operate but what if there isn’t any connection available? Your app won’t work a bit. Therefore the developers have to find a way to develop apps that would work even when it is offline and to verify that, they have to test it under various circumstances of the online connection with different bandwidths and also in case the user is offline or in the flight mode.
If you are creating a GPS-based application then you ought to follow this stage. The app tester has to check whether or not the performance of the mobile application varies when the user is on the move and the location is changing constantly. Use location simulators to make sure of this.
Objectives Behind Performance Testing Mobile Apps
Whenever the developers are faced with tight deadlines, they are tempted to postpone mobile app performance testing until after the launch. Some developers ought to skip it altogether. There can be consequences to this. Launching an app without testing means that developers and testers are ignoring the bugs present in the app and such apps are less likely to get approval from the distributors like Google Play Market and App Store for Android and iOS respectively. There are many reasons as to why a tester must conduct performance testing and some of the prime test objectives are discussed here:
To validate that the mobile app can perform well under a huge workload
The product owner can measure the performance of the application with an increasing number of app users and functions with the help of performance testing. It will allow the tester to know what is the response time of the application and how much resources it consumes from the system when it is at its peak point. Such data proves to be very helpful in case of high traffic and even traffic spikes where the number of users rises and decreases rapidly in a short time.
To validate the use of hardware
Sometimes when the availability of the server storage is less or the usage of the CPU is low, the application is not able to function as per the requirements. To prevent this from happening, performance testing is conducted and it is ensured that the developing app is not affected by the factors mentioned above.
To measure the true capacity of an app
With the help of mobile performance testing tools, you can determine whether the developed app meets the metrics set before it was designed or not.
To Assess the App’s Performance on Protocol Level
By efficiently creating a test environment system, the testers can put the app in realistic problems to analyze its response and response time.
To Test Mobile App Performance Analyze under critical conditions
Mobile app performance testing helps you reveal the limitations of the app. This data helps predict as well as prevent the system from crashing.
Performance Testing Process for Mobile Apps
Creating a strategy for app testing right from the scratch can be very challenging for startups and MSMEs. But it is good that the app performance testing approach is the same in every industry and at any scale. But it is true that to successfully implement the test, the product manager has to develop a plan. But have no worries, here, I have provided a rather simple yet effective app performance testing plan.
Stage 1. Understand Business Requirements and prepare test objectives
The better your goals, the better your mobile performance testing. The important thing to recommend here is that when you are determining the objectives of test cases, you have to make sure that they align with the business in whose scope you are creating an application. The top priority for the testers will be to check the performance of the app’s functions that can generate leads like cart features in an e-commerce app, registration, user profile, contact forms, and more. In this stage, the testing team has to completely understand the architecture of the application.
Stage 2. Identifying the Test KPIs
You need some deciding factors, some kind of metrics that would determine whether your app performance testing was a success or not. The error rate, average response time and maximum response time of the application, highest number of requests, average throughput as well as highest concurrent users per mobile device and operating system.
Stage 3. Prioritizing Testing Environment
To cope up with the tight schedule and a temptation to get the fastest time-to-market, developers tend to fall into the trap of testing all the features of an application at once and that too without selecting any test cases prior. Instead of that, what the developers must do is create an outline for multiple test scenarios for different types of features that are critical to the performance of the mobile app. Only after you have thoroughly analyzed the important features of the application, you are free to move on or test less meaningful scenarios.
Simulating the real-life testing environment is of utmost importance because without it how would you know what users will experience while using the app after its launch. For this test, QA experts use system emulators to speed up the process. Any operating system’s basic parameters are emulated using the mobile performance testing tools. It also enables the testers to get a sense of how the app interface looks as well as how it feels to use it. As many apps would need GPS permission, a camera, and other device-specific functions to perform well, it is recommended that the test should be conducted using real hardware.
Stage 5. Choose the same approach for Testing and Overall Development
Software application testing is an integral part of the software development approach. Tester implies continuous integration principles if the company has adopted the agile development process. And if they are using the waterfall approach then the tester has to adjust their workflow as per the needs of the projects. This includes embracing regression tests and all the bug reports.
Both the client and the software vendor must agree to adopt the same approach for development as well as the testing process. Doing so would help make the decisions faster and would also improve communication.
Stage 6. Bandwidth and Latency of the carrier network
Mobile devices are connected to the internet through third-party carriers, this may be the reason behind the variations in latency and bandwidth. The QA experts keep these carrier network variations in mind while optimizing the performance of the mobile apps to enhance the user experience.
How to create an Environment for Mobile Application Performance Testing?
To get more accurate test results, it is necessary to perform the tests under controlled real-life environment simulations. The testers can set up such an environment for mobile app performance testing in the following steps:
Isolate the environment
When you are using the system to perform the tests then make sure that you are the only one using it and no other activity is running in the system simultaneously. Because when other users try to access the system while tests are running, the load on the server will increase, and the testing process will slow down. This would also jeopardize the accuracy of the test results.
Use test data generators
The tests have to rely on the database records. So whenever you plan to do mobile performance testing, you must consider the reading, writing, and deletion of the data. Because these are some of the actions that can reduce app performance to a full extent. It is the job of QA experts to make sure that the records from the database and the ones used in the test environment system are the same. They use the data generation tools for this.
Isolate the network
The network is isolated to eliminate the timeout errors. Although you can avoid this isolation as it is not a necessary rule, avoid it at your own risk or do it only if you have a wider bandwidth that could support both tester and users. However, most of the networks can support more than a few concurrent activities without reducing the mobile app performance.
Removal of Proxy servers
The mobile app performance can come under strain due to the proxy between the web server and the client. You can solve this problem by transferring the servers to an isolated environment.
Challenges you might face during Mobile App Performance Testing
It won’t be an exaggeration to say that mobile app development is more challenging than PC software development. There can be many speed breakers including a wide range of devices, device-specific features, high mobility of the users, and more. Similarly, here, I provide a list of potential challenges that can come your way.
Wide range of device-specific features
Not many online tools can imitate the device-specific features like microphone, camera, GPS, etc. and as most apps would require to use them, the testers will need to use the hardware for tests which as a result would increase the overall budget.
Multiple variations of User Interface
The fonts and the page layout vary from one operating system to another. You have to develop an app that complies with the guidelines of the App Store and Google Play Market otherwise the launch of the mobile app can be delayed.
Get as many mobile devices as possible for the test
Mobile devices come with multiple variations including not only the screen dimensions or storage capacity but also in-built features. So if a tester wants to test any app across various mobile devices, they need to procure as much hardware as possible to efficiently create tests.
If you want your app to work efficiently then you should consider the location of the user and the quality of the network. There are many more factors that affect the performance of an app. Now what the testers must do here is take each challenge and create a test case specifically for it. Of course, adopting this approach can be time-consuming and expensive too. But this way, you can get more accurate performance results from an application.
Touchscreen testing complications
Translating the movements from the touchscreen through a PC emulator to the users is tough. Automating the hardware for the testing process is very complex too.
Mobile Performance Testing Tools Examples
To analyze the app’s performance, there are only two ways. The first way is that you assess the performance of the server-side of the product. It allows the development team to check the logic and readiness of an application. An open-source tool named JMeter is used with extended functionality for availability and volume testing. It consists of a simple interface, multiple load generators, controllers, and supports the data visualization tools too. It is rich in HTML reporting and can easily provide comprehensive documentation to users. Another similar server-side performance testing tool is Gatling which supports a variety of browsers and operating systems. It allows you to run tests on 600 users concurrently. It runs as well as records tests.
And the second way is to assess the performance of an application on a mobile device. This is called client-side performance testing. Doing the test from the client side will help the testers to look at the product from the user’s perspective. After completing the server-side performance testing, the testing team has to run code on hardware in an isolated environment. For this, you need tools like Sauce Labs. It is a cloud-based platform that can create a controlled and bug-free environment, especially for testers. It also allows you to run some parallel test cases. Another tool named Appium Studio has a code that is easy to read and write. It provides access to the users to device-specific features. There are many more tools especially for automation like UI Automator, Robotium, Selendroid, and Testdroid.
App Performance Test Cases
Mobile application testing is a very complicated process. There are loads of functions and tasks to run to test whether the application works as per the requirement or not. Apart from that, the QA experts have to make sure that everything is executed in order. Some examples of performance testing are given below:
The load on the application increases with the increasing number of concurrent transactions and daily users. The tester has to make sure that doesn’t affect the performance of the app. The application’s load threshold is verified using load testing. Running this test is required to measure the application’s response time under heavy traffic load as well as its performance speed. Load testing is also known as endurance testing or volume testing.
Another limitation that might come in the way of the app performance is the limitation of hardware specifics like system memory and CPU usage. So, the tester needs to assess the app performance under the circumstances where these features have reached their limits. The aim behind this test is to know how the application would work under peak critical conditions.
No matter how good an app you develop, it will always have a limited or definite capacity. If the work or the user load increases beyond that capacity, the app system may crash. So it is recommended that the developers must know about the limitations of an app and conduct some series of tests to verify that the mobile app has better workflow visibility.
Spike means a rapid surge in the traffic load and then again a sudden fall within a short time frame. This test is used to understand how an app would react under such an environment. Here, a QA analyst will set the performance metrics based on the capacity of the app and the environment to which the app is exposed.
Mobile performance testing is such a task that will be efficient only if the certified professionals are managing the project. There are many software vendors, testing agencies, and labs that offer testing tools and other resources to businesses around the world.
In this digital age, it is important that your QA team not only reduce the cost of the project but also be able to deliver a fully-functional mobile application in the market as fast as possible without affecting its quality and performance. If you want, you can outsource your testing project to offshore development companies where you will be assigned a project manager and a team of QA analysts to work on your application. If this is the case then don’t forget to contact the account manager and get the regular status and report updates on your project.
It would be good if your testing team adopts your project management methodology because, in that way, the workflow will remain smooth, some complications may arise if done otherwise. Just don’t get confused, prepare the criteria and the list of requirements and look for the company that meets it along with your management approach. That’s it. Assign them your project and your product will be ready for launch in no time. If you have any suggestions or queries, leave them in the comments section below.