Software Testing Budgets on the Rise, Focused on the ‘New IT’

Software testing and QA budgets keep on going up, and shiny, new toys are all of their focus.3C8D67088BE44F318BC592671BC43

According to a ZDNet report based off of a new survey of 1,543 CIOs, conducted and published by Capgemini and HP, “for the first time, most IT testing and QA dollars are now being spent on new stuff, such as social, mobile, analytics, cloud and the Internet of Things, and less of it on simply modernizing and maintaining legacy systems and applications.”

In fact, this “new IT” is making up 52 percent of the testing budgets, up from 41 percent in 2012. And it’s just part of a trend of rising testing budgets in general, hopefully good news for testers — testing now represents 26 percent of total IT budgets on average, up from 18 percent in 2012, and projected to rise to 29 percent by 2017.

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Good News For Aspiring App Designers

marvel_app-300x225Just when you thought the mobile app world couldn’t get any more crowded and competitive, along comes Marvel.

The UK startup has come up with a new iPhone app that can turn the average person into a web or mobile-app designer, regardless of design and technical skill. With no coding required, users can easily turn their concept into an interactive prototype, and share it with friends, clients, coworkers, or through social media.

To the seasoned app designer, this might seem like amateur hour. But here are 4 reasons why this has the potential to gain momentum and completely alter the software design (and therefore testing) world.

1. It’s extremely easy.
Draw your screen ideas on a piece of paper, take pictures of the wireframes and use the Marvel app to apply “touch” hotspots to the image. Apply links to screens in order indicate how you would like to app to be navigated and boom – you have a touchable, interactive prototype.

“In the past, if you wanted to see your app or web designs and ideas in anything more engaging than PDFs and PowerPoints, you needed to have the skills and the time to code it into an interactive prototype,” explains Marvel co-founder Murat Mutlu. Now, all you need is this app on your smartphone.

2. It turns the average person into a designer, and reaches a wide audience.
Remember when Instagram turned the average person into a photographer? Users could process high quality photos without needing an expensive camera or experience. People who had never edited a picture before were suddenly part of the craze.

Similarly, Marvel hopes to inspire individuals to “pick up and play” with the app and attract non-designers to give it a try.

Co-founder of Instagram, Kevin Systrom, attributes the success of Instagram to its ability to appeal to a wide audience of individuals and companies alike.

“Instagram is not a market for selling [photography] but I’ve seen an amazing amount of people using their account to promote their business. That’s been inspiring to me.”

Marvel also offers just that. It allows companies to design, review, and test prototypes without writing a single line of code, saving time and money.

3. Shareable and useful for feedback.
Connect to DropBox and start your first project. Once you’re finished, share it using a URL with your clients, teams, or even friends through email, Facebook, Twitter, or text. Since the prototype can be navigated as if it is an actual app, it is great for user feedback.

Marvel currently offers a free service but plans on offering a Premium model that offers other service integrations like team collaboration.

4. Maintain your originality.
Get a leg up on a new wave of mobile app designers with your Photoshop skills. Rather that offering cookie-cutter models that could potentially make every web and mobile app look the same, open your screen images up in Photoshop, make design changes, and share the PSD file to DropBox.

Marvel is not the only company which offers this type of prototyping service. Apps like InVision, which are also supported by DropBox, also have significant funding and headway as well. So although it’s hard to say what company will come out on top, it’s safe to say that app design world is about to become more dynamic and competitive, and the software testing world will have a lot more work to do.

As a tester, what do you think about the “average” person suddenly becoming a mobile app designer? Be sure to share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Software Update Fixes Bugs (but cannot kill spiders)

yellow_sacSometimes in software testing you are finding and fixing coding errors, sometimes you are addressing requirement gaps, and sometimes you have to deal with spiders.

Spiders? Exactly. And no, I don’t mean that as a metaphor for some new fancy software issue. I just mean, sometimes you are actually dealing with spiders.

Mazda has recently announced a voluntary recall of 42,000 Mazda 6s, due to… spiders. The yellow sac spider or Cheiracanthium, for those of you that are arachnid enthusiasts, are attracted to hydrocarbons and gasoline. These adorable little guys have taken a liking to Mazda’s vent lines. The webs restrict air flow and can potentially cause cracks in the fuel tank, which ultimately could lead to fires.

Mazda first addressed this “more common than you’d think” problem a few years ago with a mechanical solution, aimed at keeping the spider out of the lines. However, they proved to be persistent and continue to breach the Mazda’s security. So Mazda has now turned to new software. They offer the free upgraded software to Mazda owners which regulates the pressure level and notifies the owner if there is a problem. True, it is not an actual solution to the spider problem; however it is great to see that Mazda is looking to software proactively to ensure the safety of their customers. It should also be noted that although the problem has persisted for a few years, no injuries or fires have been reported as a result of pressure build up related to spider webs.

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How Testers Can Help Regain the Trust of Users

trustStop me if you’ve heard this before: Users are becoming increasingly uneasy with the way in which apps collect, store and share their personal information. It’s a story we’ve discussed a lot here on the uTest Blog over the years (and more recently, on the Applause Blog), but it’s a story that isn’t going away anytime soon unfortunately.

Late last week, MEF Global Chairman Andrew Bud penned a thoughtful guest post for VentureBeat on this very topic, where he argued that trust in apps is on a downward trajectory. In his view, it all has to do with personal information.

In many ways, the apps economy runs on personal information. It’s the currency – the lifeblood – and the main reason why apps can succeed with a freemium model. As Bud argues, it’s also the reason why trust is quickly declining. He writes:

What underpins this transactional relationship is consumer trust and it follows that, for the mobile industry, this should be the watchword for how mobile businesses build and retain customers.  The less confidence people have in their mobile device, the less they will use it and the apps on it. That’s bad news for everyone.

Yet for almost as long as apps have been on the market, consumers have been bombarded with stories in the press and across social media platforms that raise privacy concerns about the way apps gather and store and use personal information.  As an industry we have a long way to go.

He backs his opinion with some hard figures from a recent MEF/AVG Technologies study, which found that:

40 percent of consumers cite a lack of trust as the reason they don’t purchase more via their mobile — by far the most significant barrier. And it’s getting worse. In 2012, 35 percent named trust as an obstacle compared to 27 percent in 2011.

Second, 37 percent claim a lack of trust prevents them from using apps once they’ve installed them on their phone. Third, 65 percent of consumers say they are not happy sharing their personal information with an app.

Hard to argue with numbers like that. So what’s to be done? While Bud places a small amount of the burden on users – arguing that they should be more aware of the threats – he places most of it on the industry as whole: marketers, developers, publishers, aggregators, executives and so forth.

And to that I would add software testers.

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Is the sky falling on wearable technology?

GearYesterday, the Guardian reported that one-third of wearable devices are abandoned by their users. A lot of us around the tech community have been abuzz wondering if wearables are off to a false start. Was the hot buzzword of CES 2014 just a mirage, destined for the same fate of 3D TV or is their real promise here?

Well, it may be too early to tell. Many wearables today are limited to a single function such as fitness tracking or notifications. The article argues that this is due to the primitive nature of the devices and that lack of integration or an exciting killer app has stalled the market potential. But maybe that’s just where we are in the wearables evolution.

Neither the MP3 player nor the smartphone were runaway successes until someone came in to disrupt the market and make us rethink what these devices should be. The last two rounds came with blockbuster products from Apple, the right combination of hardware and software. But the game is still anybody’s to win. The key to success will be striking the right balance between appeal and usefulness.

Wearable apps and hardware have to be unobtrusive to succeed. That means notifications and monitoring at the right time without reminding users that they’re wearing a computer. For successful growth, these apps and devices have to get out of the way of what users are doing. No one wants to think about charging their watch or glasses or syncing their fitness trackers, they have to just work.

But none of this is a surprise to most early adopters. Technology revolutions typically come out of iterative evolutions until there is that blockbuster hit. It just so happens that this time around there’s more media attention looking for the next big thing, but as developers and producers get in line to figure out what that next big thing is, there will be a couple of toads along the way. Just make sure you’re not one of them and instead delight your users. Check out our whitepaper on challenges and opportunity in the wearable space.

Android-Windows “Combo-Phone” Dead

WindowsPhone8vsAndroid41_AZL2628Huawei, one of the world’s largest smartphone vendors, revealed plans to launch an Android-Windows dual-OS mobile device at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona last month. But now there’s a small change of plans: They’re not doing it anymore.

“Most of our products are based on Android OS, [and] at this stage there are no plans to launch a dual-OS smartphone in the near future,” Huawei said in a statement to FireWireless. However, they will continue to support Android and Windows phones separately.

This comes as a blow to consumers looking forward to running both Android and Windows operating systems on their phone, but mostly to Microsoft, whose Windows Phone usage lags behind Google’s Android OS and Apple’s iOS.

Partnering with Android was supposed to expose Windows Phone capabilities to a broader audience. There was a better chance of consumers buying the phone if there was Android on it too. But there is apparently not enough incentive for Google to allow Microsoft’s OS to coexist on the same device. It seems as if the vision for this phone was all too narrow. Dual-operating systems might seem twice as cool, but it would have also made a software tester’s scope of operations twice as complicated.

The first list outlines the benefits of having a dual-OS device. The second outlines why this system may not have been be so beneficial after all.

The advantages:

  1. The ability to organize between two OS. Business by day, personal by night, perhaps?
  2. Compatibility. The customer can use software/hardware even if it’s only supported on one OS.
  3. Share programs between the different OS. Only those which are compatible with both, but yes, you can share.
  4. Share your Hard Disk Drive. Although you can use two, you can save everything to one HDD if you wish.
  5. Impress your friends because instead of one OS, you have two.

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What the Multi-Screen Shift Means for Media and Entertainment Companies

Video-streamingMany consumers aren’t watching TV on TV sets anymore – well, at least teens and young twenty-somethings aren’t.

The proliferation of smartphones, tablets and computers has put TV sets to the test. Now, according to Dawn Chmielewski, of Recode, studies show that the TV screen may be falling out of favor for some:

“A new study from Deloitte finds that teens and young twentysomethings spend more time watching movies and television shows on their computers, smartphones and tablets than they do on their TV screens.

“The idea that TV is only watched on a TV isn’t true anymore,” said Gerald Belson, vice chairman of the firm’s U.S. media and entertainment practice.

Deloitte surveyed more than 2,000 U.S. consumers about their media consumption habits and technology use as part of its annual Digital Democracy Survey (PDF).

Although viewing habits have been changing as the number of screens in the typical home multiply, this marks the first time these devices have eclipsed TV for any segment of the population, Belson said.

“It’s an indicator of how the market is reacting to the introduction of technologies,” Belson said. “Clearly, a large segment of the population is quite comfortable using any number of devices to watch content. The speed with which it’s happening takes some people by surprise.”

The TV is still king of the castle in most American homes, with Generation X, Baby Boomers and mature viewers saying they spent the majority of their time watching movies and TV shows on the more familiar living room screen. Even older millennials, those aged 25 to 30, say they tune in to the TV more than half of the time.

The fact that we have some demographics watching television, but not on TV, is significant,” Belson said.

This shift has profound implications for networks, and Nielsen, which are working to find ways to measure TV viewing across multiple screens. Nielsen announced plans to begin incorporating mobile into its traditional ratings with the 2014-15 season.

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Need App Advice? Ask a Marketer

expert-adviceApp success is generally viewed as the primary goal of the development, design and QA teams, respectively. But as we’ve long argued, the success (or failure) of an application is actually a company-wide goal. Yes, even that of the marketing department.

The writers over at SearchEngineJournal.com posted an interesting article the other day on Converting the New Mobile Consumer, in which they outlined some valuable tips for optimizing a mobile website focused on commerce. If you read the piece – and I suggest that you do – you’ll notice that most of the tips are not geared towards a highly technical audience (i.e. developers and testers), but rather that of the marketer. No offense to the technical-minded marketers out there!

To illustrate – and to encourage you to ask the marketing team for help the next time you’re put on a big project – I wanted to take a closer look at three tips in particular. Let’s get started…

Incorporate Branding Elements
As Mobile Marketer points out, mobile is an excellent venue for extending your branding efforts. Even though your mobile site will be a lot more simplified, you’ll still want to incorporate the same branding elements that you have on your traditional site. According to Social Media Examiner, this is important for two reasons. One, a mobile site is a brand touchpoint where customers interact with you, and like any other touchpoint, it should reflect and promote your brand’s essence. Second, incorporating a similar design on your mobile site will make users who are already familiar with your company feel like they’re visiting an old friend, which is an important consideration for your most loyal customers.

Here’s a classic example of an area that gets passed over by developers and QA teams, who often times are only focused on the functionality and security of a given application. Branding matters, so if you’re looking to launch a site or app that engages users – and encourages them to come back on a regular basis – you might want to consult with the marketing department, as this is their primary goal.

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How It’s Made: The Mobile App Episode?

How_Its_MadeSpace pens, beef jerky, cow bells, flip flops – until the show How It’s Made came along, the average citizen had no idea how everyday products like these were created. Now they do, and I think we can all agree the world is a much better place.

As I scrolled through the list of episodes on Wikipedia, it occurred to me the show’s producers have never once ran an episode on how a software application is made. Maybe it’s time that changed!

Therefore, the purpose of this post is twofold. First, I want to urge our readers and community members to suggest this as a future episode. Second, I want to outline how the segment could be structured. With any luck, the app development process will get some primetime viewing – and the average citizen will have a new appreciation for the apps they use on an every basis. No disrespect to sewage pumps and inner tubes.

The first part is easy. You can submit your episode suggestion here.

The second part is where it gets fun. Though I’m not yet a TV director, here’s how I would envision the segment, broken down into four basic parts. For the purpose of this pitch, let’s say that we’re going to be developing an iPhone app.

Part #1. The Idea. Here we would get an inside look into the ideation process. It would be great to feature this from the point-of-view of a major brand, as it would naturally involve a number of key stakeholders: executives, product owners, developers, QA engineers, sales, marketing and so forth. Here we’d get to see how an application must satisfy certain brand and business objectives, and how it must life better/easier/more enjoyable for the prospective user.

Part #2. The Design. Have you ever seen a time-lapse video of someone designing a mobile app? Me neither, but I think this would be a great way to showcase the process. We’d get a complete overview – from wireframe to working version – with an on-air interview from one of the lead designers. We’d get to see the software they use to create the app; why certain colors schemes are chosen over others; how the app transitions from one action to another, along with other aspects of the design phase.

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Are You Losing 52% of Your Mobile Users?

responsive-design-exampleToday’s mobile users have very high expectations for their online experience. A study by Google reports 48% of users feel if a site doesn’t work well on mobile it means the company doesn’t care, and 52% of users are less likely to interact with a brand in the future after a bad mobile experience. Despite these high stakes, 96% of users say they’ve come across a site that doesn’t work well on mobile. How confident are you about your mobile experience?

Scaled-down m-dot sites filled the gap for a while, but it didn’t take long to discover flaws in this approach. For starters, it’s an entirely separate web property that requires its own maintenance. The forced redirects to m-dot sites can also slow down crucial load time and hurt SEO. And what about when a mobile user wants to share the URL with someone on a computer? Forget it.

Thankfully responsive design emerged as a much more practical way to satisfy users on a variety of devices, but many companies have yet to make the switch. If you’re one of them, here are some ways responsive design can benefit your company:

  • Increased conversion rates from mobile users who can now navigate your site much easier
  • Shortened load time versus a traditional site on mobile, or a redirecting m-dot site
  • A more consistent experience for users, no matter their device
  • Less time spent on site maintenance since you’ll only have to manage one web property

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