Steve Jobs’ Advice for Software Testers

Actually, in this 2005 commencement speech for Stanford University, Steve Jobs offers timeless advice for people in all professions. But seeing how this is a software testing blog – and seeing how Jobs has recently stepped down as Apple’s CEO – it seemed fitting to post these words of wisdom with our testing audience in mind.

My favorite quote from this speech: “The only way to do great work, is to love the work that you do.”

Happy testing!

Essential Guide to Mobile App Testing

iOS Developers Love iOS, Maybe Not OS X

After the conclusion of this year’s Apple WWDC conference, Gene Munster of Piper Jaffray released the results of an informal survey he performed among conference attendees who were also iOS developers. In it, he asked them what their plans were for developing on different platforms, including Apple’s own OS X. The results were surprising.

iOS developers love iOS (of course), and as recently as 2008, 50% of them were also OS X developers. But today, that percentage has dropped to 7%, and most iOS developers are now actively developing for other platforms instead (including the iPad). This makes a lot of sense – the skillset for developing a mobile application has become more and more specialized, and the developers who can do that well may not have the skills or interest in developing for a desktop platform.

But the data holds other clues as well. For example, almost half of iOS developers also develop for Android. And even though all the developers think iOS is the best platform for monetization (they were attending WWDC after all), 40% of them thought Android was the platform with the greatest potential for future growth. By the way, that question included iOS as an option as well, meaning that 40% of iOS developers attending WWDC actually thought Android was going to grow faster than iOS.

What other platforms did these developers think would have any chance of growing in the coming years? The only other one that made the list was Windows Phone 7 with 9% of respondents. That’s small, but interesting. Microsoft could have something good on their hands.

More details from Fortune and Macrumors.

Essential Guide to Mobile App Testing

Bug Roundup – News From the Week

We love studying bugs when they come up, and this past week we’ve seen a few big ones go by. When bugs happen, there’s always a lot we can learn from them. Here’s a quick roundup of four different bugs that were recently in the news:

Apple iPhone Tracking – First up, we learned last week that iPhones store their location in a file that never gets deleted, and then backup that file to iTunes each time the phone syncs. That means that anyone with access to a laptop belonging to an iPhone owner could see where they had been as long as they had owned their phone. (For the record, my iPhone says I spend a lot of time in Southborough, MA at the uTest headquarters.)

After a few days of silence on the issue, Apple announced that this was the result of a bug in iOS – three bugs actually. 1 – the iPhone keeps the location data for too long and should instead periodically purge it. 2 – this data is backed up to iTunes and should not be. 3 – the data is not deleted if a user disables location services. Apple has plans to fix all three bugs and to also begin encrypting the location file on the iPhone.

Why were they tracking this data at all? Apple uses this information (anonymously) to improve their location services and make it easier for iPhones to determine their location without having to resort to GPS (which is slow). But they only need a small amount of data at a time rather than the entire location history the iPhone was storing.

Do you have an iPhone? Are you curious to see where you’ve been? Here’s a clever app that will plot your location history on a map. If you’re into fancy statistical analysis, you can also use this add-on to plot your location using R.

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Testing the Limits With Jakob Nielsen – Part I

What an honor it is to have Jakob Nielsen – the “King of Usability” – as our Testing the Limits guest this month. Jakob Nielsen, Ph.D. is principal of Nielsen Norman Group , a research and consulting firm that studies how people use technology. He is the author of many books, including Eyetracking Web Usability and Prioritizing Web Usability. He has invented several usability methods, including heuristic evaluation, and holds 79 United States patents, mainly on ways of making the Internet easier to use. For more, read his official biography.

In part I of our interview, we get his thoughts on the evolution of user experience; the superiority of native apps; tablet usability; the death of PDF files; iPhone vs. Android and other hot topics. Be sure to check back tomorrow for Part II of the interview. Enjoy!

uTest: Like everything, software usability is in a constant state of change. How have you managed to stay on top of a field that seems to get turned upside down every other month?

JN: The users keep me fresh. I don’t really have to know anything, because I can simply see what our test participants use and how they use it.

uTest: It seems to us that software usability is as much a study of human behavior than anything else. What other subjects would you advise people to study who want to learn more about user preferences? Psychology? Sociology? Others?

JN: The main thing I recommend is to study your actual users: invite a handful of representative customers to your location and run them through simple usability studies of your software. One day in the lab is worth a year in university lecture halls, in terms of actionable lessons learned. (And remember that your “usability lab” can be a regular office or conference room —as long as you shut the door.)

That said, it’s still well worth studying all branches of psychology (perceptual, cognitive, social, etc.). One of the most popular courses at the Usability Week conference is called “The Human Mind and Usability” and summarizes the most salient psych findings for designers who don’t have time to go back to school.

It’s also worth studying visual design, even if you’re never going to draw anything yourself. Knowing the concepts and language is helpful when communicating with graphic designers, both to let them know what you want and to understand their ideas.

uTest: In the world of mobile, there’s been a lot written on the subject of native apps vs. the mobile web. What’s your take on this debate? Do both methods have a role to play in the user landscape? And for companies just venturing the mobile realm, where would you tell them to focus their attention?

JN: Apps are superior for 3 reasons:

  • Empirically, users perform better with apps than with mobile sites in user testing.
  • Apps are much better at supporting disconnected use and poor connectivity, both of which will continue to be important use cases for years to come. When I’m in London and don’t feel like being robbed by “roaming” fees, any native mapping app will beat Google Maps at getting me to the British Museum.
  • Apps can be optimized for the specific hardware on each device. This will become more important in the future, as we get a broader range of devices.

Apps have the obvious downside of requiring more development resources, especially to be truly optimized for each device. If a company doesn’t have enough resources to do this right, it’s better to have a nice mobile site than a lame app.

A second downside of apps is that users have to install them. Our testing shows poor findability and usability in Apple’s Application Store, and many users won’t even bother downloading something at all for intermittent use. So ask yourself whether you’re really offering something within the hardcore mobile center of need: time-sensitive and/or location dependent, and whether your offer is truly compelling in this crowded space. Most companies are never going to make it big in mobile. In some cases all they need is to make their main website somewhat mobile-friendly. Many others should deliver a dedicated mobile site but not bother with apps.

uTest: Regarding tablets, we see a lot of companies taking their current iPhone app, increasing the graphic fidelity, and releasing it as an “original” iPad app. In your view, what the biggest mistake being made by companies developing apps specifically for tablet devices?

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Apple’s iPad 2 Release Date & Information

There are only two kinds of people who aren’t following the iPad 2 saga with every waking moment – luddites and first gen iPad owners.  I fall into the second category.

Before we get into the iPad 2 details, a quick rant if I may.  Apple has long been criticized (yes, that’s an Oatmeal link) for having little loyalty to early adopters. Price drops, product launches, and planned obsolescence are often called as being pre-set in a manner in which to capitalize profits at the benefit of the company.  Last I checked Apple is a for-profit company.  As an advertiser I envy the customer loyalty that Apple has built that is able to create such a premium for early adopters.

The biggest problem with the common conspiracy theory that Apple is intentionally delaying features in products is that Google is making a huge dent in Apple’s smart phone market share. Apple wouldn’t allow that if they had the pipeline – or ability – to crank out products faster.  I’d love to continue this debate in the comments section below – but for now, I digress.

There’s a lot of news articles claiming today is the iPad 2 release day.  To be perfectly clear, today is the announcement from Apple but iPad 2’s won’t be available for purchase until next week.

So what’s different about the iPad 2?

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