As we've discussed in some of our other articles, testing your mobile application before sending it to market is important to its overall success. The testing phase is where any user experience (UX), coding, text, or graphics issues can be found early—and therefore fixed—before your app's released to the general public. While it's true that no one's perfect, testing gets your app as close to perfect as it can be. And that's what you want your potential customers to see.
Whether you have two or two dozen testers for an application, it works better for everyone involved to have a testing process that's consistent and guarantees the best possible accuracy. Before the testing can even begin, however, you have to take in mind how it's distributed to your testers. You want them to have the exact same information and the exact same version of the app prototype, so everyone begins on the same page.
It's interesting, then, that many app developers use what's called “ad hoc” app distribution in order to send prototypes to their testers. The term's Latin translation—literally “for this”—implies a specificity that in practice often really doesn't exist. Ad hoc distribution and testing in practice is itself a fairly vague process, and for that reason there are inherent flaws that can come up as early as the distribution phase.
There are several different ways app prototypes can be distributed in the ad hoc testing model. They can be uploaded onto a shared drive, emailed, or shared online via cloud computing, to name just a few examples. On top of this, many different methods of distribution are used to test the same app; this can result in confusion and chaos from the start. Not only do you run the risk of slightly different versions of the app being sent out—the process of going from distributor to tester alone can inadvertently change the code—but there could be issues with downloading the apps to different devices, as well. Additionally, if cloud computing is used, there's an added risk of having your app's information falling into the hands of outside parties. In our humble but educated opinion, ad hoc distribution and testing carries the potential of becoming a disorganized mess in a hurry.
We've given ad hoc distribution and testing a try, and in our experience we've found a better and more consistent method that we now use when distributing all the apps we create to our testers. By using QR codes—those square “bar codes” that can hold much more information than regular UPC bar codes—we can instantly and consistently distribute app prototypes and testing instructions to all our testers easily and quickly. Testers don't have to fiddle with downloads; the QR codes allow for instant downloads onto their test devices, often with just the tap of a button. Everyone gets the exact same app, with the correct code and everything. The code goes only to our testers, and the chance of it accidentally getting to outside parties is eliminated.
Most importantly, we've listened to our clients, partners and testers, and they've enthusiastically endorsed the QR code method of app prototype distribution. Gone is the confusion, fighting with downloads, all the unnecessary hassle in general. Everyone on board knows exactly what is expected, and we've found it has streamlined our testing process greatly.
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