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Key tips for testing iMessage Apps and App Shortcuts

Eran Kinsbruner DevOps Chief Evangelist, Perforce
iMessage apps on iPhone

Agility and innovation in the app market have become commonplace, and brands need to constantly churn out new features and updates for users to stay engaged. It doesn’t matter if you’re in retail, finance, or healthcare—if your app isn’t fast, intuitive and cutting edge, you risking a dip in app store ratings and a subsequent decline in users.

Launching new features is challenging enough, but when iOS and Android open the doors to explore app integrations like never before, demands for developers reach new heights. When iOS 10 and Android 7.1 Nougat launched this fall, development and testing teams not only had to overhaul their testing plans, but accommodate a slew of new features such as iMessage Apps and App Shortcuts. These capabilities present an opportunity for organizations to engage with users in a new and exciting way, but present a challenge for developers to innovate without sacrificing quality.  

Being one of the first to leverage these new capabilities can give you a competitive advantage, but if you’re app slows down or crashes you’ll be criticized instead of championed. To properly execute “app inception” (developing an app inside of an app), and ensure that your quest for innovation won’t offset user experience, let’s take a closer look at these capabilities and how you should test with them.

Testing for iMessage Apps

The launch of iMessage Apps invites iOS developers to build an extension of their apps that allows users to interact with them from within iMessage. This is a big win for teams who successfully build these extensions and boost user experience and engagement, but is a tricky endeavor nonetheless.

Here’s what it takes to get app inception right:

Be sure to test the original app within iMessage and outside of it. This will ensure that the notifications, the user engagement, and user interfaces are all functioning properly, regardless of whether it’s accessed through the native application or through iMessage.

You will need to conduct these tests on all iOS 10 applicable devices, and in different sizes. Keep in mind that iOS 10 is not available for iPad 2, iPad Mini, iPhone 4S and below. This will create a test branch in your test tree, so plan accordingly, and make sure that your iMessage tests are triggered only on iOS 10 devices.

Since iMessage requires network carrier connectivity, test across network conditions (including no network connectivity). You can easily perform these tests using cloud-based testing platforms that simulate network conditions for users across the globe.

In addition, your test automation framework needs complete device control—both app context and device context—so it can interact with the device, as well as the iMessage application during incoming phone calls, text messages, and system pop-ups.

iOS developers aren’t the only one’s facing these testing hurdles. The launch of Android 7.x and 7.1 Nougat introduced two similar features designed to extend user experience and increase app interactions.

Testing for App Shortcuts and Split Screen

App Shortcuts enables Android users to interact with specific app capabilities outside of the native app (similar to Apple’s Force Touch). Split Screen functionality enables two apps to run side by side. Again, these capabilities are great for user engagement, but can throw a wrench into your testing plan.

The introduction of App Shortcuts calls for exactly the same testing protocol as above: Test the app inside and outside of the new app capability, test across various devices and network conditions, and ensure that your test automation framework has complete device control. As for Split Screen functionality, since app window size can be allocated differently across devices, various screen sizes need be tested. Doing so will ensure that your mobile app user experience (UX) won’t be disrupted when a push notification or text message comes through.  

Don't go down with the app

Before you invest time and money in developing for these new capabilities, it’s important to understand that creating a dependency on an external app, whether in iOS or Android, puts your app’s UX in the hands of a third party. If the external app fails, your app will go down with it.  That's why building app extensions to accommodate innovative capabilities with iOS and Android has the potential to put your organization ahead of the curve. If done properly, the benefits outweigh the risks.

In the ever changing app market, all eyes are on developers and testers to deliver. As long as your testing strategy is carefully orchestrated, and third-party risk assessed, app innovation needn't come at the expense of quality.

Image source: Flickr

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