While 2013 has witnessed the advent of mobile web apps, responsive web design and hybrid apps as the ultimate solution to resolve the conflict named native vs. mobile apps, 2014 promises to impose new challenges that will require creative solutions which will altogether take the mobile app ecosystem forward. Increased focus on localization, more simplified mobile websites which could enrage many stakeholders, and the introduction of responsive iconography are just few of them ready to mark another disruptive year ahead in the realm of mobile app development and UX.
Let’s see what would define a winning mobile app in 2014…
1. Extended focus on features
According to Pew Internet, total 57% of users have uninstalled a mobile app due to bad functionality or security concerns [tweet this] Focus on functionality is back in 2014 which means that you cannot cover lack of features or navigation only with good design. uTest introduces several tips and hacks of determining the seamless functionality of your mobile app derived from the experience and work of their massive community of testers across the globe. These are some of them:
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- Sign-up & Login: This may seem like a no-brainer, but if users cannot easily access your application, your efforts will have been wasted. If your app or mobile site requires password and username (not recommended), pay close attention to the fields and make sure that it’s easy for users to enter their information.
- Menu Options: Often times, menu options can be difficult to access and decipher. Make sure that menu items like Help, About, etc. are easy to find and navigate.
- Keys: Any problems related to scrolling, text selection, the back button, etc. are bound to lead to trouble, so make sure your key functionality is clear and consistent. Also, be sure to cross-check if your app will run with a keyboard and/or touch-screen.
- Data Handling: An important consideration for all mobile apps (but for games in particular) is data handling. Does your mobile app store saved information properly? What about data deletion – or worse – unintended data deletion? Make sure to include this in your testing scope.
- Connection Speed / Carrier: With the iPhone now running on Verizon, Sprint and others, testing on only one carrier is no longer an option. Make sure that your most basic app tests include some of the most popular (and likely) carriers, as performance can vary greatly from one carrier to another.
- Operating System: Like carriers, the mobile operating system running your app will have a huge impact on its relative performance. For some operating systems (like Android), you will not be able to test across every possible combination with in house resources, but you should identify 3-5 of the most popular ones and test accordingly.
- Screen Size: While this applies mainly to tablets, screen size discrepancies should be a top consideration while testing your mobile app. For instance, how much should users have to scroll from left-to-right or top-to-bottom, if at all?
- Interruptions: How does your mobile app behave when the device battery is at full strength, medium strength and low strength? This is just one of the many variables to consider when testing, but it’s also one of the easiest items to check for. Others include incoming calls, SMS, MMS and video calls.
- Error Messages: Your error messages should be clear, concise and actionable. Do this, and you’re a step ahead of virtually all mobile applications on the market today.
Further on uTest introduces recommendation from global experts regarding how to perform good functionality tests on your mobile app
- Screen real estate: You might use a mobile device just like a regular 1024×768 pixel application, but your users probably won’t. Try to actually use the application on a number of devices — just use it. You’ll likely come away suggesting a mobile interface, perhaps an automatic re-direct on login when your application senses a mobile device. Even then, you’ll want to explore the application in a number of devices, looking for usability problems. (Matt Heusser)
- Functionality Testing of GPS based application:
In most of application where users Speed, Distance, along with map features with route draw functionality mostly app crashes when user using application and running so fast. Also battery consumption will be more in this case as GPS provider is accessing user’s location information every time. In this same case if network is getting slow down then there will be more chances that route in map will be break. (Vikas Payasi, Mobiloitte)
- Finding device specific bugs: If, for example, you discover links that are not functional on certain devices, then you should first determine whether it works on the desktop browser. If it is reproducible on the desktop browser, then it is obviously not a device-specific bug, but rather a bug in the basic application. If a link is functional in the desktop browser and it doesn’t work in the device, then it should be identified as a device specific bug. (Jigar Patel)
- Normal use test: Start on a full battery and use the application for 6-12 hours and measure the battery level at the end of each ½ or 1 hour. You may use an automated testing tool to do this so as to keep the test running for the required time interval. This test will tell you how quickly your application drains the battery when in ‘normal’ use, with all the foreground and background features of the application running normally. (Sachin Date)
- Idle run test: Turn off the screen lock and power saver modes on the device. Then start on a full battery and keep the application running on its main, home or dashboard screen as appropriate, and measure the battery level at ½ or 1 hour intervals. This test will measure the battery drain due to such things as intentional or unintentional automatic screen refreshes, and due to the background threads or services running in your application. (Sachin Date)
In order to prevent good number of bugs developers deal with in the post-dev period of the app, few tips and tricks for early prevention is never a bad idea. Have a look at these (thanks for this 53days.com):
- Conduct ongoing user acceptance testing (UAT) throughout the design and development process, including testing on real devices.
- Use simple navigation structures pointing to one specific task at a time.
- Store data on the device selectively and archive data that is less frequently accessed on the server.
- Effectively use multi-threading wherever possible to improve performance.
- Use high contrast text color and select typefaces for maximum readability.
- Provide clear status and feedback based on progress of task completion.
- Manage content wisely. Wherever possible, crop large images and reduce the size of data files.
- Use a consistent User Interface design that helps users maintain a familiarity with the application.
- Get involved in real-time interaction via social media. This could include live Facebook or Twitter streams.
2. More focus of what truly makes an app engaging
In the realm of mobile apps you can distinguish 2 categories of mobile apps – information gathering and experiential.. Unfortunately this is where most app developers have built a serious conceptual misunderstanding about what engaging mobile app truly is, and it is definitely not an app that makes the user spend more time on it.. If you want to learn how to escape this misconception and break the paradox, we invite you to read Mobiloitte’s Insight Center analysis on this subject.
The worldwide proliferation of mobile applications (and the mobile web) requires your products to be accessible and contextual for users in all markets and regions.But with the localization process exceedingly difficult to verify, many companies are excluding entire sub-sets of users without even knowing it. Here are a few of the more common issues related to localization testing mobile applications (courtesy of uTest):
- Content – Static & dynamic content like catalogs, search results, metadata
- Date – Is the date January 1 or 1 January?
- Characters – Différent länguages have ðifferent set∫ θf characters
- Post codes – In some countries postal codes contain letters
- Phone numbers – Different formats for different markets
- Direction – Some languages are written left to right, others are right to left
- Currency conversion – Especially important for internet retailers
- Tax calculation – VAT, sales tax and others vary from country to country
In increasingly connected era, localization has become an important competitive advantage and those who manage to touch the local elements of culture and emotions get the pie. At the same time it represents a difficult challenge. As per the words of Patrick Coperland Sr. Engineering Director at Google –
“Our global customers have different demands of our products. We want products to ‘feel local’ and to support features that may be unique to specific markets. For instance, in India-based languages using a standard keyboard is difficult, so we develop strategies like virtual keyboards or category browsing for search. As we specialize our products for certain markets, it introduces more challenges for testing (e.g. requiring special cultural knowledge).”
We are convinces that this approach will distinguish mobile app developers and the service they are offering from those who prefer to just get along with it. Make sure you question your mobile app developer and educate yourself about these trends before you make a decision. Also shoot us a comment in case you consider another important trend will markup the mobile app ecosystem in 2014.