As mobile increasingly becomes the ‘go-to’ device for internet access, it is essential that businesses ensure mobile apps offer the best experience possible to customers. On the whole, mobile quality assurance consists of performance and functional testing. For example, some insight into customer experience can be gained through web application performance monitoring – which looks at how pages load following a user request – but this isn’t the whole story. Mobile is a diverse sector, with huge variation between device capabilities and in the relationship applications have with each device. If these differences aren’t considered as part of the performance measurement, they could have a detrimental effect on user experience.
Web application performance monitoring: the gaps
Web application performance monitoring is a stable and sophisticated beast. There are tools out there – single systems right out of the box – that run every critical performance and functionality test web apps need.
But let's look at what they test and what they don't.
What these tools monitor is how browsers and servers get along. They send a request, wait for the requested page to load, and then report on that interaction. They keep you up to date with waterfall graphics and timeline videos. If they spot a problem, it's analysed and alerts are generated. Great stuff: everything that happens between request and response watched like a hawk.
What don't they test? Essentially, anything that has to do with the computer or the mobile device that launched the browser. To them, the device is just a black box. Their job is to test outside that box.
The impact of mobile apps
Mobile apps are a whole different kind of animal. Now, the device is very much a concern: your code's running there. That device isn't just launching a browser, it's where your application is executing. And you need complete visibility into how well it's doing.
It's a new kind of toolkit that monitors mobile apps, that provides this visibility. One that tests how many connections your app makes, how long it holds them open, and how much data it downloads. These tools monitor how well your app uses native functionality, like cameras, test login and logoff, monitor HTTP and API calls, and cache and buffer management. Furthermore, these toolkits can test for the full range of user interactions – swipe and pinch and tap – that your apps use to deliver the best user experience. Ultimately these toolkits can test your application where it runs – on real smartphones and tablets.
Just the logistics of measuring mobile app performance can be daunting. Mobile apps don't enjoy the luxury of write once/run everywhere; for you to make sure your apps perform well, you've got to know how they work during rush hour on the iPhone 5 in Tokyo and the Samsung Galaxy S4 in New York, for example.
Key capabilities of toolkits for measuring mobile app performance from a device perspective:
1. Scripting – it's a lot more intricate than web app scripting: you're not just simulating browser "clicks and types," you're running a live application
2. The snapshot view – the tool can track and graph the performance of your app at any instant and over time, and presents everything in an online portal
3. The detailed view – the tool can open visibility into application details at a network level. This includes what connections were made, how long they were maintained, and the impact of expired cache performance
4. The video timeline view – the tool can play back a video of each test so you can see exactly what was happening when an issue occurred.
By Thomas Gronbach, Director of Marketing in Europe at Keynote.
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