Responsive Web design technology has made it easier for developers to create websites that can be accessed across different devices, and still provide a good user experience. Today, businesses do not need two separate websites; one optimized for viewing on PC and another on mobile devices.
However, despite the obvious benefits and capabilities of responsive web technology, there are a number challenges that mobile web testers must contend with. These challenges relate to the differences in technology and features of the devices.
5 Challenges of Mobile Website Testing
The top five mobile website and/or app testing challenges are:
1. Diversity of Devices
The number of mobile devices used by consumers is staggering. According to a report on the diversity of hand-held devices, it is estimated that there are over 6 billion devices across the world. In 2013, there were over 12,000 different mobile devices.
Mobile devices differ in input features, hardware capabilities, resolutions, screen sizes, etc. Testers have to consider all these different features when testing mobile apps or websites.
2. Different Platforms and Operating Systems
Mobile devices run on different platforms and operating systems (OS). The major platforms are the iOS, Android, Windows, Symbian, and Blackberry. Each operating system has its benefits and limitations. Users can get varying experiences when viewing mobile websites depending on the platforms running their devices.
Developers and designers need to consider the different platforms to ensure website visitors get a unified, almost similar experience on their websites, regardless of the devices they are using. The same also applies to app designers and developers.
3. Different Mobile Network Operators
Another challenge testers face is the different mobile network operators that consumers may be with. The network infrastructure that an operator provides data services through can affect how a mobile website is displayed on a user’s device or how an app functions.
Some network operators use older technology such as GSM or CDMA, which are known to limit flow of information and lead to a poor user experience.
4. Constant Evolution of OS Versions
Apart from the challenges of testing mobile websites across different operating systems, testers also have to contend with the different OS versions. For example, the iPhone OS 1.0 is significantly different from OS 7.1, and so is the case with Android’s 1.0 and 4.4 Kit Kat versions.
The different OS versions have different capabilities and can affect how users see a website. Newer OS versions may not support some older web technologies while older OS versions may not correctly render apps made with newer technologies.
5. Fragmentation of Android
Still on operating systems, Google’s Android is undoubtedly the most diverse. According to OpenSignal, there are hundreds of phone manufacturers that use Android. Currently, there are 19 versions of the Android, the latest being 4.4 Kit Kat.
Android devices are increasingly made to support sophisticated networks thanks to the sensors used in them. And compared to the iPhone, which has just four screen sizes, the Android has almost 100 different screen sizes.
Testing of mobile websites is a huge challenge considering the different OS and devices in the market. However, the fragmentation of the Android platform makes testing even more challenging.
1 Solution for 5 Challenges: Scripting
Since mobile devices have different features, it’s impossible to have a single test script that will function well across all devices. However, testers can use automation scripts to automate some functions. The automation is referred to as regression testing or smoke testing.
There are a number of mobile testing applications that can replicate human interaction on devices. The applications can significantly reduce the time and resources needed to ensure that a mobile app or website will appear nearly the same. The aim is to provide a similar experience to users regardless of the mobile device they are using.
Testing mobile applications or websites to ensure conformity to the highest web standards and creating a good user experience is no easy task. Testers have to think of different OS platforms, screen sizes, display properties, network operator infrastructure, OS versions and so on.
So, the Good News is…
Fortunately, there is some good news. Unlike is the case with PCs, consumers tend to upgrade their mobile devices on a regular basis. Therefore, developers can focus on building apps and websites targeting newer operating systems, mobile browsers, and phone models. This ultimately reduces the challenges that are inherent in testing mobile websites.