The rise of mobile device adoption across the world has been well documented. According to latest figures from the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), the number of global mobile subscriptions reached nearly 7 billion in 2014, and was expected to exceed this number by the end of the year.
The devices behind this boom, including smartphones and tablet computers, have not only transformed the way that people communicate with one another, but has also completely changed the way in which businesses can communicate with their customers.
Those firms that have embraced this boom and implemented mobile strategies have been reaping countless benefits. Not only is there now an effective way of reaching customers and prospects, as they stay active online for the majority of the day, but the many features of mobile devices – including touch screens, support for rich media and application functionality – mean they can provide a much more powerful user experience than any PC ever could.
Organisations are realising that effective mobile communications can reduce costs, boost revenues, improve customer satisfaction and, ultimately, multiply profits.
Importance of user experience
However, despite its benefits, the ‘mobile multiplier’ effect is generating a huge strain across business functions, right down to traditional test and delivery teams – who are also now tasked with delivering an exceptional user experience as an essentiality for any business engaging with its customers through applications.
According to Forrester, today’s empowered customers are in the ‘Mobile Mind Shift’ – “the expectation that I can get what I want in my immediate context and moments of need. I have more choices than ever before and higher expectations”. The customer is in the driving seat and organisations must go to them via the devices that they choose – and exceed their expectations.
In order to deliver an exceptional user experience, it must be delivered consistently across multiple device and platform configurations. This comes with a number of pre-requisites that firms must keep in mind, or they will inevitably risk reputational damage.
Ensuring that mobile apps provide a good level of performance and responsiveness is a critical dimension of user experience, as is consistency of this across all platforms and networks. In addition, that level of quality must hold – no matter where in the world a customer is. However, many businesses struggle.
Quality through testing
Today’s complex mobile environment demands the right level of testing to ensure quality. If an organisation delivers an application that doesn’t meet consumers’ high expectations (and their benchmarks may be the highly sophisticated apps of leading companies such as Apple or Amazon), then the customer will likely go elsewhere. Testing is more important than ever to ensure excellent user experiences.
A few decades ago the traditional IT environment comprised the standalone PC and the situation was far simpler. Application developers only had two browsers to deal with and there was only one platform to test them on in the corporate environment – whichever version of Windows was available at the time.
Developers would simply set the browsers up on one machine, install the application and run through a few functions to make sure everything was working. At that time, manual testing was the viable and effective option.
The proliferation of mobile devices and apps has dramatically altered the development landscape. There are new versions of mobile browsers being released at a relentless rate as well as a plethora of new mobile devices continually being introduced to the market. The browser/device configurations are multiplying at an exponential rate and complexity is reaching alarming levels.
Finance departments are naturally sceptical about footing the bill for thorough testing of complex mobile environments if costs are reaching excessive levels and dramatically impacting return on investment.
Those that push this through will largely depend on their required level of quality. For instance, banks or building societies cannot afford to be releasing apps that provide users with incorrect quotes, while most retailers cannot release an app that does not let a customer securely transfer money to purchase a product via a mobile device.
However, for other types of organisations in other industries, such as media and entertainment, there is a certain point to which customers will tolerate reduced levels of quality on applications. In fact, according to web usability consultant Jakob Nielsen, also known as the ‘king of usability’, ten seconds is the limit for keeping a user’s attention on a website.
Ultimately, if performance levels are poor and an application is unresponsive, users will quickly seek an alternative. The competition is fierce and today’s users are fast to dismiss a brand and their loyalty will quickly evaporate when faced with an app that’s taking an age to respond.
Today’s application developers and testers need a mobile strategy with an integrated and automated approach. This allows them to effectively and efficiently develop and test apps, whilst taking into account the plethora of operating systems and devices available, and manage the proliferating workload generated by the mobile multiplier effect.
Any incremental costs can be considerably reduced by transferring workload onto the cloud rather than having to consume local IT infrastructure and resources.
The cloud provides a more flexible and dynamically available infrastructure, although there are still costs incurred with this route. However, through third-party software tools, organisations can harness the power of the cloud to test the majority of browsers available, as well as simulate user experience in real-life scenarios across a range of range of mobile platforms and devices.
By doing so, organisations can improve functionality, the speed of response and load times and overall performance.
Sourced from Archie Roboostoff, Micro Focus