Top 10 App errors: How AQuA best practices and testing parameters can help you avoid them
With hundreds of thousands of mobile apps in the market, a great idea is not enough in itself: you also need quality in delivery and effective marketing to succeed. AQuA’s Martin Wrigley, Executive Director at App Quality Alliance (AQuA) describes some of the help available to avoid common quality pitfalls.
We’ve all seen that great looking app, then read the reviews that say it is a great idea, but then find it just doesn’t work very well, crashes, drains the battery, or is just unusable. If you’ve ever had that happen to one of your apps – well, you’re not alone! Many developers, if not most, are great at development and producing a superb set of functionality, but aren’t experts at QA – and why should they be?
AQuA (App Quality Alliance) is a not-for-profit trade association that helps developers match their expertise to the complex world of telecoms and devices.
We believe that apps have the capability to connect ideas, information, products, services, and entertainment for everyone, and that apps have yet to reach their full potential. We see too many apps today are not yet good enough and still make basic errors in quality.
We believe that by providing practical, straightforward and free help to developers they can produce better apps that will benefit everybody. We want to see apps that work, apps that are easy to use, and apps that work well with the handset and the network.
We know that developers are committed to providing the best functional app that they can, and that they are experts in their field. However their field is often not telecoms, networks, or handsets. We provide tools and resources such as the AQuA Baseline Testing Criteria that help the developer catch the common errors that are so easy to make, and in doing so make the difference between a good app and a great app. The AQuA resources embodies the combined learnings of years of experience of experts in the telecoms and apps world including AT&T, Orange, Oracle, Motorola, Nokia, Samsung, Sony Mobile, LG, and many more.
With its members, AQuA has built a set of best practice guidelines for producing a quality app and sets of platform-specific testing criteria to back them up. Using these tools gives an app developer a pre-defined set of tests that complement the functional testing that every good developer does as they go along. In essence, it defines the non-functional tests that many developers might not think to carry out, but things that real users do…like taking the memory card out of a phone whilst using the app, or receiving a phone call in the middle of watching a video.
Top 10 Failures Found in Many Apps
AQuA has been involved in helping to improve the quality of apps for years, and there are some clear common errors that many people make, purely as a result of not thinking to test for them. I remember when I was a developer getting so annoyed with the users who wanted to do what I thought was daft things with the software I wrote, but to them it seemed natural.
So what has AQuA found to be the consistent top ten failures in apps?
- User interface inconsistency
Make sure menu options, button labels, ‘soft keys’, menus etc. are consistent and clear.
- Lack of clarity of graphics and text
Make sure that all the text is readable, clear, and not cut off by the edge of the screen or overlapping other screen items.
- App browsing confusion
Although the navigation through the app is obvious, if you’ve been working on it for weeks or months, not everyone else may find it so clear.
- Language inconsistency and spelling errors
If your app supports multiple languages, make sure that it is consistent and you don’t have the odd label in English hidden away… And use a spell checker!
- Hidden features
Doing stuff behind the scenes without letting the user know will never win you any favors, even if your intentions are good.
- App crashing
You would be surprised by how may apps can be made to crash when even some simple things happen on the device: memory cards, attachments, and keyboards are common causes.
- Help is not there
Whilst it is obvious to some, other people like to read help information and so providing help is a must.
- Network connection: lack of notification
Again, so many people don’t test the phone dropping out of coverage. If you miss it and the app dies when the connection drops, the user ends up re-booting their device. With new networks and more handovers between technologies this is going to be a new hot topic.
- Screen orientation distortion
Surely everyone checks this one? No, sadly not. Distorted images when changing from portrait to landscape and vice-versa still manage to hit our top ten simple errors that let apps down.
These top ten fails are all really annoying, as much to the developer as the user, and can really put a user off. Happily they are also all quite easy to avoid by building a good QA process.
As a final tip, one other aspect that is becoming really crucial is looking after the battery consumption of your app. One of AQuA’s members, AT&T, has developed an elegant tool called the Application Resource Optimiser (ARO) that can help. ARO looks at the way your app handles data. This may sound trivial, and if you are accustomed to using WiFi, irrelevant, but is vital when using the mobile network. The mobile handset has various inbuilt algorithms for managing the power consumption of the radio, and a dangling tcp/ip session or an inconveniently timed keep-alive can play havoc with power management. AT&T ARO identifies and pinpoints issues either during development or when the app is complete so that they can be fixed. Savings in the radio power means savings in the battery power and happy users.