The old expression “I know quality when I see it” may be appropriate in some contexts, but in the world of mobile app development and custom software, that mentality is nothing short of...well...delusional. Companies that develop apps know full well the complexities and intricacies of what they are routinely expected to develop, and they understand the magnitude of the consequences when apps don’t function properly. In this industry, anyone who doesn’t have profound respect for quality assurance clearly doesn’t appreciate the potential ramifications of getting this aspect of development wrong.
For instance, when Bridger Aerospace asked us to develop a custom mobile and web app for FireTrac —a new division which provides consolidated information, imagery, and data regarding the most critical wildfire incidents in the United States to citizens, companies, and government entities in a seamless, near real-time, and user-friendly interface—we knew immediately that lives were literally at stake relative to this project. Does quality matter?
You bet it does.
Defining Quality Assurance in Software Development
Quality Assurance (often referred to in app development as “QA”) is a broad term encompassing various practices intended to ensure product quality, security and compliance, and satisfaction for both the client and the end user.
These practices play a crucial role in delivering reliable and high-performing software, and typically include requirements analysis, design review, and multiple testing methodologies—all focused on the singular goal of delivering excellence in every aspect of the project. QA is critical in the development phase and should occur at the end of every sprint to protect the project timeline and ensure the application meets all expectations.
With every mobile app or custom software project, the QA team creates and executes a detailed quality plan that includes four primary QA methodologies: functional testing, non-functional testing, automated testing, and continuous testing during dev ops.
Unit testing, integration testing, and regression testing are three primary types of functional testing. User Acceptance Testing (UAT) to validate that the software meets predefined standards and requirements also falls within this category.
1. Unit Testing
As the name suggests, unit testing is a method of testing individual or connected units within the software. By doing so, the development team can ensure the correct output/action is achieved at the unit level, which also makes root cause analysis easier to achieve if there is an issue. This wide-ranging practice aims to prevent bugs or errors from creeping into the product, ensuring that the final software product is as flawless as possible.
2. Integration Testing
Integration testing is focused on identifying system-level issues. If an application needs to integrate with external systems and databases, then testing those integrations is of utmost importance. Typically, data is pushed to and/or pulled from those external systems and testing to ensures the expected inputs and outputs are received through the integration is critical in order for the app to function properly.
3. Regression Testing
Software development is a continuous and iterative process, often with new or modified features being added all the time. Regression testing is the process of retesting software stability and existing functionality when these modifications occur, thereby confirming all connected/dependent functionality within the software is compatible with updates and no new issues were introduced. Regression testing is often automated due to the length of the process and frequency required during development.
Non-functional testing focuses on evaluating how a system operates rather than its functional behavior. Two of the most common types of non-functional testing are load testing and security testing.
1. Load Testing
This test helps us understand how effectively the software can handle the load during extreme conditions. As your business scales, your software should be adaptable and ready to handle increased loads accordingly.
2. Security Testing
Even the most complex, useful, and scalable software is only as good as its security. Vulnerabilities in the software lead to massive destruction and data loss—not to mention all the trust you’ve worked so hard to earn with your customers. Security testing ensures your software is protected from threats and intrusions.
One of the primary benefits of automated testing is increased efficiency, saving considerable time and resources during the development process where appropriate. Of course, manual QA is still usual and customary but where feasible, QA engineers can leverage automated testing tools or they can write custom test cases into the code to manage test data and utilize it to improve the application’s performance.
The Right Testing Tool for the Job
A robust testing suite can make a huge difference on the speed of your continuous development efforts, but that doesn’t mean you should rush the evaluation process. We recommend starting with manual testing first and then putting together an automated testing implementation plan based on your unique, real-world needs. In order to determine which automated testing solution is best for any given project, you must first develop a set of criteria based on a thorough understanding of your needs and testing requirements.
In an ideal world, there are open source testing tools available that meet the app developer’s needs. Other times, it may be necessary to invest in a commercial automated testing tool or build custom automation tools if commercially available solutions are not appropriate for the project. Programming languages, script maintenance, and reusability should all be considered when building a robust test suite for your application.
Continuous Testing and Dev Ops
The benefits of continuous QA testing are undeniable. Each sprint review is an opportunity to conduct quality assurance. Not only is testing throughout the development process (not just at the end) aligned with agile development, it rarely fails to save time and money. By testing at the end of each sprint, bugs can be identified and addressed immediately or added to the work plan for the upcoming sprint, thereby reducing extra work for the software team at the end of development phase.
At AppIt, we not only perform QA at the end of each sprint, but we require our clients to participate in testing as well. Clients know their business best. In our experience, they tend to test the app differently or in ways we might not have considered due to their unique familiarity with the content and end users. By involving clients, we create another opportunity to identify bugs, friction points, or other issues that might have otherwise been overlooked.
One Final Review
Rigorous and continual quality assurance throughout the entire development process ensures product quality, security and compliance, and satisfaction for both the client and the end user. From project requirements and planning all the way to product release and beyond, these essential practices are critical in delivering reliable and high-performing software that is protected from threats. Not only should it be prioritized, but it should occur at the end of every sprint. By adopting, implementing, and adhering to stringent QA protocols, the likelihood for errors is reduced and the probability of success on practically every level of development is enhanced.
At AppIt Ventures, we believe so strongly in technology’s potential to enhance client impact and improve people’s lives that we are willing to share in the up-front risks of development. Rigorous quality assurance and testing is essential for of any custom app project and an integral part of our software development process.