Continuous Testing: Mobile vs. Web Applications

Continuous testing is useful no matter which type of app you are developing. However, this does not mean that the approach you take to continuous testing is always the same.

Take web apps and mobile apps, for instance. While most of your CI/CD processes may look more or less the same for both web and mobile, continuous testing processes often have to adapt when you move between one type of app and the other.

This article explains how continuous testing for mobile varies from continuous testing for web apps.

Web vs. Mobile Apps: Key Differences

There are several key differences as they relate to continuous testing that are dependent on which platform the application is designed for. The first lies in the extensiveness of the testing itself. A web application needs to work in all browsers, but it typically is not dependent on the operating system that hosts the browser.

In mobile development, by contrast, the operating system tends to play a more central role in the application. This is true even if the application is written in HTML or another web language in the backend, but depends on OS-specific features for interface functionality, and so on.

This dependency adds another layer of complexity when it comes to making sure your application is backwards-compatible with previous (but still prevalent) versions of operating systems as well as maintaining compatibility with differing devices that may utilize a different operating system altogether. The simple fact that the mobile app needs to run on a greater variety of devices can invariably increase the amount of testing that needs to occur.

Another major difference between web and mobile centers on how applications are deployed. Web applications run on web servers that are typically under the control of the application’s owner. This provides a great advantage in the realm of continuous testing. If a bug is deployed to the production version of a web application, it is often a viable option to develop and deploy a fix to the web server posthaste, thereby resolving the issue in a matter of minutes from the initial release.

This is not usually the case with mobile applications, as they are subject to the rules of the app stores they rely upon for distribution, thus raising the importance of employing proper continuous testing practices. Critical bugs must be caught as early as possible as the risk of having to live with a major issue in production for a lengthy period of time is much greater than if you could just re-deploy or hotfix within a few minutes (as is the case when dealing with your own web application).

Shift-Left Continuous Testing: Important in Mobile Testing

As described earlier, the continuous testing process requires end-to-end automated testing to drive continuous delivery while maintaining great quality. When discussing mobile and web applications and the way continuous testing is implemented, several conclusions can be drawn.

For instance, with the added layer of OS complexity for mobile applications as well as the impact of restrictions on the speed of deployment to production environments, it may be more important to shift testing to the left as far as possible in mobile development than for the web development lifecycle.

As we know, shifting left results in testing earlier in the development lifecycle. Tactics for doing so include adding “Has automated testing” as an acceptance requirement for user stories. This results in more robust test coverage and would be of great value in limiting the number of bugs getting to production (in an environment where the turnaround to fix a bug may be longer than we would prefer).

Continuous Integration is for all Applications

While differences do exist, some parts of the process are consistent across different types of applications. Both mobile and web applications benefit from the use of continuous integration. And with continuous integration, they benefit from the use of automated testing at the time of each build executed by the CI tool. If the tests pass, then the build succeeds. Otherwise, the build fails.

This process helps the DevOps organization to find errors early on. While the test scripts being executed for both mobile and web apps may differ, the important part is that the tests continue to evolve to provide as much test coverage as possible. These tests then serve to validate the code with each commit, ensuring the quality of the codebase moving forward.

Conclusion

Continuous testing employs automated end-to-end test coverage to ensure high-quality code without sacrificing the speed of delivery. While it’s true that many of the concepts involved in continuous testing remain the same for both mobile and web application development, they also have their differences. Most of these differences are centered around challenges related to mobile development itself. Ensuring a high amount of test coverage for mobile applications can prove to be tricky. Doing so properly involves a constantly evolving set of automated tests that provide assurances to the development team that their mobile application will run successfully on a wide array of devices and operating systems.

Scott Fitzpatrick is a Fixate IO Contributor and has over 5 years of experience as a software developer. He has worked with many languages, including Java, ColdFusion, HTML/CSS, JavaScript and SQL.

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