Developers, testers and QA professionals can all benefit from a more collaborative approach when it comes to experimenting and testing new apps – allowing them to bring new developments to market quicker that have been shared and reviewed by the right target audience.
A sandbox environment within a platform-as-a-service (PaaS) or software as a service (SaaS) model is the perfect environment to encourage this type of collaboration and can play a key role in accelerating the process involved in taking apps safely through to live production.
Well-established resources, such as Applause, can provide access to hundreds of thousands of software testers across the world, who can try products out on a wide range of devices and in a variety of conditions. Software developers can also collaborate with colleges to open up access to expert testers still in education.
A PaaS or SaaS model also enables organisations to build relevant user communities to test their software, whether that’s destined to be sold as a new app or deployed in-house. In return for seeing features earlier than everyone else, a selected percentage of an organisation’s customer base can provide hands-on feedback as part of a soft beta launch.
Feedback can be gathered using a variety of tools and techniques, including apps such as Slack, closed feedback questions, online chat or simple surveys.
Building on this low-key approach, organisations extend testing communities using gamification techniques. The most active members are rewarded for participation and can share their opinions of different services via rating systems similar to those used on e-commerce sites.
As well as simply providing access to an early version of new software and asking for ad hoc feedback, developer teams increasingly extend invitations to a percentage of customers to attend events where their interaction with apps can be carefully measured and monitored.
Data can be gathered at these events using eye-tracking technology so that developers can check that the customer journey is as smooth as it should be and that it triggers the relevant responses and actions from the user.
The key benefit of this collaborative approach to testing is that developers uncover potential stumbling blocks with new apps or services as early on in the process as possible before resources are fully committed to roll-out. There could be issues that have been overlooked, or navigation between different areas could be confusing.
In our experience, it’s important to test new apps with the actual people who will eventually be likely to use it, whether they are business or retail customers. It’s best to start with low numbers, perhaps 10% to 20% of the potential marketplace, then gradually ramp up numbers to build more insights.
A blended testing process
Once feedback is gathered, it’s useful to blend it with data derived from the internal testing programme. Initial exploratory testing does not negate the need for internal testing, far from it, but it augments the QA process considerably.
Crowdsourced feedback may not focus as much on why a particular app or service is being built, but it may well open up issues that have so far not been thought about. It gives a very different perspective that can be hugely beneficial.
Recognising the value that an external feedback loop can bring is a key part of the process, but it’s vital to build diversity into testing and QA. Of course, this applies to every aspect of software development; a more diverse team will naturally be more aware of the requirements and preferences of different end-users.
But it’s also important to test new software in the geographic region it’s being built for, with target customer groups. Failing to test with relevant customers, especially as an app or service is closer to being launched, could yield some conflicting and unhelpful results.
In the age of transparency and open APIs, it makes a lot of sense to extend the software testing process out to a wider audience, particularly when that includes those people who are eventually going to use a new product or service.
Harbinder Kang, Global Head of Development Operations, Finastra