Not too long ago, web application testing was all about testing an app's functionality and performance on desktop computers. Back then, mobile devices had limited processing power and were only used for basic communication. Thus, businesses had very little reason to test their application's performance on mobile devices.
However, the smartphone landscape has dramatically evolved in recent times, and mobile web apps have become more important than ever. Mobile already makes up about 48% of online traffic in the USA, and the figure is even higher in some developing countries. Perhaps more interestingly, Business Insider predicts that smartphones will be the most preferred shopping channel in the next five years. Thus, it's no surprise that mobile web testing has become more crucial than ever.
What is mobile web testing?
Mobile web testing refers to the process of testing web applications across different mobile browsers. The tests verify that the app's functionality and performance matches the required specifications across different browsers like Safari, Chrome, Opera,
Why should mobile web testing be automated?
Comprehensive web testing entails verifying that your application works seamlessly across various browsers, browser versions, operating systems, and devices. You may even have to test with different network bandwidths to see how the application performs under various network conditions.
Essentially, the testers have to cover tens of thousands of possible scenarios, and manual testing simply won't cut it. The following are some of the superior advantages of automating your mobile web tests:
Spend less time creating tests
Automating your tests with no-code tools helps you create your test scripts within a short time. Consequently, you can scale your products faster and meet product release deadlines. If you took the manual approach, you'd spend a lot more time, and your tests would not be scalable.
Automatically record and log errors
Once a test case fails during manual testing, the entire test script will probably be rendered null. As a result, the tester will have to spend a great deal of time maintaining the test cases. With automation, your testing tool can record and log errors by itself, and you can always continue your test once the bug is fixed.
How mobile web testing works
Here are the three popular approaches to mobile web testing:
Option 1: Using Mobile Emulation in Chrome
Google Chrome provides a DevTools for mobile emulation that tester can use to test the mobile version of websites. However, the method only simulates standard viewports in the version of Chrome browser, and it does not readily support scaling your testing efforts.
Below are the steps involved in using mobile emulation for Chrome to test your web apps:
- Launch Chrome and visit the website you wish to test.
- Go to Settings -> More Tools -> Developer Tools. If you're using a Windows device, simply press Ctrl + Shift + J, and if you're using macOS, press fn + f12.
- Click on the Device Toggle Bar
- Select the devices you want to emulate from the list of iOS and Android Devices
The browser would show you the mobile version of the website on the selected device. Chrome also allows you to inspect certain web elements in the mobile view. All you have to do is click on the Inspect feature located beside the Device Toggle Bar.
Option 2: Use a testing tool like BrowserStack
These tools emulate real devices and browsers and provide testers with the infrastructure to test mobile web apps comprehensively. Importantly, they provide an end-user experience that facilitates the easy identification of UI/UX bugs. The best testing tools will also offer network throttling to simulate the app's performance in poor network conditions. To get the most accurate results, you may need to combine the testing tool with an automation tool like Preflight.
Option 3: Manually check using your mobile devices
Testing your mobile web apps on real devices guarantees the best results because it allows testers to assess the actual behavior of the web app. However, it's almost impossible to assess all of the myriad test scenarios with real devices. This makes testing tools the next best option.
What to look for in a web testing tool
Here are some of the top factors you need to look out for when considering any web testing tool:
Works across browsers and devices
The ideal web testing tool should guarantee expanded coverage over a wide range of browsers and devices. This ensures that all your users have a smooth experience, no matter their browser, browser version, or device type.
No programming knowledge needed (i.e., no-code testing)
A no-code programming tool allows you to create and maintain test cases without the input of a skilled programmer. Thus, you can take the pressure off your developers and enable them to focus on getting new features to the market at speed. Since you'll also achieve faster testing, you're more likely to thoroughly test features you might have skipped due to time constraints.
Supports continuous delivery
Your automation tool should integrate seamlessly with your CI/CD pipeline as well as your build and release systems. That way, you can deliver new features without having to start testing all over again.
How to Perform Mobile Website Testing
Whatever testing tool or method you're using, you should follow certain best practices when performing mobile website testing. Here are some of them:
- Test websites on real mobile browsers whenever you can
- Test under different network conditions to ascertain the performance under poor internet connection
- Execute Geo-location testing to verify that the app functions well all over the world
- Test the mobile web application across various devices, including but not limited to iPads, smartphones, tablets, and iPhones.
How mobile app testing differs from web app testing
The ultimate aim of testing any application is to ensure that it offers a smooth user experience and optimal performance under different circumstances. Still, there are many points of difference between mobile and web app testing. Some of them include:
Operating desktop applications typically requires clicking an icon or hitting a key or combination of keys on the keyboard. Thus, the tests primarily focus on whether the necessary icons are clickable and they respond as necessary. For mobile apps, however, the scope of options is much broader. You must test the app's response to tapping, pulling, swiping, pinching, and other movement gestures. In addition, you may also need to include voice assistants and move commanders in the test scope.
QA teams should test both desktop and mobile web apps across different browsers. However, the testing protocols for mobile apps are much more complicated due to the sheer variety of mobile devices. The QA team needs to assess the app's compatibility with different devices, mobile operating systems, screen sizes, etc. The takeaway here is that the QA team has to be more mindful of each mobile device's technical specifications and how they affect the app.
Even as we continue to have very powerful smartphones, their technical capabilities still pale compared to the average desktop. Thus, it's vital to ensure that your app is properly optimized for mobile environments to prevent slow loading, hanging, and other glitches that may affect user experience.
Smartphone users care greatly about how long their battery lasts. If your application drains battery life, there's a high chance it'll be deleted soon. So, you'll have to monitor how much power your application consumes when testing a mobile app. On the other hand, desktop or laptop application testers do not have to worry too much about battery life.
The screen dimensions for desktop computers are limited. Mobile devices, on the other hand, offer diverse screen sizes. You'll have to take this into account if you're to ensure your app works seamlessly on all mobile devices, not minding their screen size.
Tools for Mobile App Testing
Highlighted below are some of the most popular tools for testing mobile web, native, and hybrid apps
Appium is the go-to open-source mobile testing tool among most testers and developers. Users can easily automate test scenarios for both iOS and Android apps on real mobile phones, simulators, and emulators. Furthermore, it's compatible with a variety of programming languages, and testers have the luxury of choosing the one they're most familiar with. However, they'll have to create different test scripts for Android and iOS devices.
Espresso is an open-source testing framework developed by Google. It's specifically used for automating user interface tests for Android applications. The platform offers intuitive API and automatic synchronization, and the tests can be written in Kotlin and Java.
XCUITest / XCTest
XCUITest is an iOS-specific UI testing framework. It's bundled with the XCode IDE and allows the tester to automate user interface tests for native iOS applications. The framework offers minimal test coverage because test scripts can only be written in Objective-C or Swift. However, it remains widely used because of the superior test execution speed as well as reliability.
Calabash comprises libraries that enable test codes to interact seamlessly with both native and hybrid applications. It enables users to simultaneously test applications against multiple devices and facilitates smooth testing on touch screen devices. Calabash supports the cucumber framework, making it easy to use for non-technical quality assurance staff. However, the platform supports only one programming language- Ruby.
Test apps with PreFlight
Preflight is an automated testing tool that helps you take the hard work and monotony out of testing. The platform guarantees fast, comprehensive, and accurate software testing without writing a line of code. Whether you're testing a desktop or mobile app, Preflight's intuitive test recorder allows you to create test scripts by simply using the app.
Importantly, Preflight is agile enough to adapt your test as you make changes to your product. This way, you can ensure the problem is from the application and not the test whenever a test fails.
The widespread adoption of mobile browsing isn't likely to slow down anytime soon. Business owners have no choice but to adapt their strategies to suit the new trend by optimizing their websites and web apps for mobile devices. In light of this, QA testers have a vital role in ensuring visitors and users on mobile devices get the best possible user experience through comprehensive mobile app testing.