What the Mobile-Only Approach Means for Agile Testing

Today, there are still many companies struggling to transition their web business to mobile. Many tried to move all their existing web features to mobile, which is a mistake.

The behavior of a mobile user has changed dramatically over the last few years. More than a decade ago, users spent hours upon hours in front of a desktop computer. With the rise of mobile devices and apps, the usage of digital products has changed. Mobile users are less focused and spend only a few minutes inside an app. They want to solve a problem fast and efficiently, without distraction.

Luckily, more and more companies have taken this behavior into account and learned to shift from a mobile-first to a mobile-only approach. But what does this mean for the agile testers and the product being built for this approach? There are three key things to consider.

New Thinking From Day Zero

If a company has decided to move to the mobile-only approach, it’s important to start with new thinking from day zero. This is not easy for companies when there is already a web or desktop product available. The likelihood is high that teams inside the company start to migrate web features to mobile again. However, this is often a mistake, and here is what companies should do to avoid it.

First of all, it’s really important to gather all possible information about mobile customers.

  • What are the demographics?
  • What are the typical use case scenarios of the users?
  • In what environment will the product will be used?

Once these questions are answered, it’s important to just think in mobile use cases and to start the product planning accordingly.

Here is a short example of possible data about customers, their use cases and the environment or purpose of an app:

  1. Users are 25-30 years in age.
  2. They use the latest mobile technology.
  3. They extend their mobile phones with wearable devices.
  4. They check the mobile device around 60 times a day for approximately 30 seconds a session.
  5. The app will be used for outdoor activities to record user progress and to share it.

With the help of such data, the company can define real use cases and consider, for example, that there may be a poor Internet connection when the customer is using the app on a hike in a remote location. In this case, it might be a good idea to add offline support for the app.

Mobile-Only Testers Must Adapt

The mobile-only approach poses a special challenge for testing teams. Mobile testing itself is already challenging. Depending on the app type and the use case, most testers are still testing the app in the office with the best possible Internet connection – Wi-Fi – which is a big mistake since it doesn’t necessarily reflect the environment a customer will be using the app in. However, they need to change their testing habits in order to not test the app against wrong use cases.

A strong shift in mindset and the way testers are working must happen in order for a mobile-only approach to work. Testers need to find a way to track their testing activities while being outside the confinement of a lab and test the app on-the-go while only using a small screen device. A solution can be to wear a voice recording headset during testing. Then the tester can describe possible bugs that have been found.

Furthermore, the tooling of a mobile-only tester will change. They have to learn the platform-specific programming languages and mobile testing tools in order to understand the app architecture as well as the underlying APIs. This knowledge will help them to create new testing ideas and activities for the mobile-only use case.

There is also a positive side on the mobile-only approach for agile testers. With this approach, they can completely focus on mobile platforms and don’t have to deal with web or desktop testing.

What Needs to Change?

The shift from a mobile-first to a mobile-only approach can be a revolution for a company. It’s not only the developers and testers who need to change their way of working and thinking. No, the whole company needs to change too. All processes and workflows across all departments must adjust in order to get the mobile-only focus right. If this doesn’t happen, the company will most likely fail with mobile-only and instead migrate existing web products to the mobile app, and these might not be the features that mobile users desire.


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Daniel Knott
Mobile Testing Expert
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