James Whittaker is Back – Free Webinar!

James WhittakerDr. James Whittaker – the man who wrote the book on software testing – will be joining us for another uTest webinar on Tuesday, March 31 (1PM – 2PM ET).  Join us to learn five insights that will revolutionize your QA, including:

  • The key difference between “experience” code and
    “infrastructure” code
  • Why testers should play a greater role in development
  • Why testing sometimes sucks

As a bonus, everyone who registers will receive a free e-book James wrote just for us.  You’ll learn more tips about how to manage and improve your QA process – including some details that aren’t available anywhere else.

Register today for this great webinar from James Whittaker!

Bug Battle Builds Big Buzz

Apologies for the alliteration, but things have been ultra-busy around the halls of uTest this week.  The reason our phones have been ringing off the hook is because we announced the results of our 1st Quarter Bug Battle on Tuesday.

In case you missed it, we’ve received some fantastic media coverage in the past few days.  Who knew the world would be so interested in the results of 1,000+ QA professionals from 64 countries simultaneously testing the world’s three most popular networking sites?  Ok, well we had a pretty good idea they’d care, but we’re glad it captured their attention.  Here are a few of the noteworthy articles:

- TechCrunch: uTest Bug Battle: Which Social Network Is The Buggiest?
- Dr. Dobbs: Bugs In Social Networking Software? You’re Kidding, Right?
- eWeekFacebook Triumphs LinkedIn, MySpace in uTest’s Bug Battle

Our community’s ability to mobilize quickly and provide real-world testing coverage is making a strong impression on a growing number of companies.  These firms are looking for ways to do more with less — and the uTest community is primed to help them meet their QA needs.  Keep up the good work!

uTest Hits The Big Apple For FutureTest and TechAviv

This week, Doron, Roy and I hopped a train to NYC.  And while most people go for a Broadway show, a Yankees game or the latest exhibit at The Guggenheim, for the three of us, it was a doubleheader day at FutureTest2009, and TechAviv NYC.

uTest was asked to present at both events on the same day.  Needless to say, it was an eventful Wednesday, but we had a great time meeting a wide range of people — from leaders across the QA industry at FutureTest to start-up mavens at TechAviv.

At FutureTest, Doron shared the story of launching uTest, and the steps we took to design and build a community-driven site.  He talked about how the most successful new ventures plan their business, their audience and their offering, before they design or develop their site.  He also discussed the role that testing should play before, during and after the launch of a successful web app.  You can view Doron’s full presentation here.

At TechAviv, Doron performed a live demo of the uTest platform.  He showed how quick and easy it is for companies to launch a test cycle, to see bugs being reported in real-time, and to manage the entire test cycle.  We followed that up with a vigorous Q&A with the entrepreneurs in the crowd.

What was fascinating to me was how different these two crowds were — one group of QA experts from some of the largest enterprises and government agencies; the other, a crowd of bright-eyed, can-do entrepreneurs.  And yet, both were extremely engaged, asked a lot of great questions, and showed significant and genuine interest in the uTest concept.

Like I said, busy day.  But I’d take 50 more Wednesdays just like it over the next year.

If you’re a member of any testing or entrepreneurial groups and you’d like Doron or another uTest exec to speak at an upcoming event, drop us a comment or shoot me an email at mattj [at] utest.com.

A Real-World Primer For Building iPhone Apps

In the past few months, we’ve been providing QA services on a bunch of mobile apps.  As a result, we’ve had the good fortune of meeting some really cool, creative entrepreneurs and developers who are building top-shelf apps for the iPhone, Blackberry, G1 and others.

So I’ve been keeping my eyes peeled for articles from leading mobile app entrepreneurs.  And while perusing Alley Insider, I came across an article from Dan Frommer.  Frommer highlights a fantastic first-hand account from mobile app veteran Craig Hockenberry, maker of iPhone hits such as Twitterrific and Frenzic.

Hockenberry’s 2,000 word piece is a must-read for aspiring iPhone app developers.  Frommer was kind enough to summarize it as follows:

- Learn how to develop Web pages for Mobile Safari so you know how to think about designing apps for a mobile device.
– Buy a Mac. You can’t make iPhone apps from a PC.
– Sign up for Apple’s developer program.
– Watch the “getting started” videos in the iPhone dev center.
– Goof around with some of the sample code on Apple’s site.
– Check out a few of the better iPhone coding books.
– Read up on a few of Craig’s old posts.
– Go for it!

In particular, Hockenberry mentions a few books iPhone app dev books:

If you’re just starting out, I’d highly recommend Beginning iPhone Development: Exploring the iPhone SDK by Dave Mark and Jeff LaMarche. The best thing about this book is the step-by-step approach it takes to working with Xcode, Objective-C and the iPhone APIs. They’ll lead you through the basics and you’ll be building your own apps in no time at all.

As you get more comfortable with the tools and AppKit/UIKit frameworks, I’d recommend you take a look at Erica Sadun’s iPhone Developer’s Cookbook: Building Applications with the iPhone SDK. This book presumes a bit more knowledge about the SDK, but is a very handy reference both to the official and unofficial APIs.

Since you’re going to be working with Cocoa Touch on the iPhone, you’ll also want to start thinking like a Cocoa programmer. Every great iPhone and Mac developer has nothing but wonderful things to say about Cocoa Programming for Mac OS X by Aaron Hillegass.

If you have previous development experience with C, C++ or Java, you’ll want to read this mailing list post by Erik Buck that enumerates some of the difficulties that you’ll have coming up to speed with Objective-C and Cocoa.

As we come across more of these practical, hands-on resources, we’ll share them here.  If you know of other helpful articles or posts, please send them our way.  For you future mobile mavens, I hope some of these resources are helpful.

How Long Does An iPhone App Stay Fresh?

For all of you mobile app developers who dream of creating the next hot iPhone, Blackberry or G1 application, a key question to ponder is this:  once you’ve conceived, developed, tested and launched your killer app, how long will it remain killer?

Well, TechCrunch highlights the answer from a recent Pinch Media presentation, and it’s not the cheeriest news for mobile app developers.  It turns out that, for free apps, less than 20% of users return to an app even one day after downloading it.  And by day 30, less than 5% of users are still utilizing the app. And for paid apps, the drop-off is even slightly steeper.  Grim.

The moral of the TechCrunch story is this:

It answers the eternal question that all iPhone developers have: Should my app be free or should I charge for it? For all but the most successful apps, the free route does not make much sense because there is not enough time to recoup the costs of developing the app from advertising.

Free apps tend to be run 6.6 times more often than paid apps, but even with that increased usage, it is not enough to make more money.

Yardley estimates that less than 5 percent of all apps would make more money right now with advertising than charging for paid downloads. His advice: “Unless there is something inherent about the app that screams free, sell it.”

I completely agree with Yardley’s math and logic, but I think there’s another important lesson to be learned here.  He addresses the issue of maximizing revenue, but ignores cost containment as a means to profitability.  Said differently, another powerful driver of profitablity is the cost and speed in bringing your mobile application to market.

By finding ways to develop, test and launch mobile apps more quickly and for less money, developers extend the money-making window, enable themselves to launch more apps per year, and decrease their break-even levels.

What do you think — what’s the secret to profitability for the creators of iPhone, Android and Blackberry apps?  Drop a comment and drop some knowledge on us.

It’s Bug Battle Time: Facebook vs. LinkedIn vs. MySpace

In Q4, we held our first-ever Bug Battle — the “Battle of the Browsers”.  This QA contest yielded 672 bugs within IE, Firefox, and Chrome.  1,300+ testers participated and uTest awarded nearly $3,000 in prize money.  Now it’s time for our next Bug Battle challenge.

After a great deal of discussion with bloggers, analysts and members of our testing community, we’ve selected a fun and high-profile “battleground”:  Social networking sites.

Join other uTesters from around the world in testing the application quality and usability of the top three social networks:  Facebook, LinkedIn and MySpace.

The contest begins Wednesday, Feb 11th and runs through Tuesday, Feb 17th.  uTest will once again be awarding $3,000 in prize money for:

  • Top overall tester (based on quantity and quality of bugs and feedback)
  • Top novice tester (same criteria)
  • Top individual bugs in each of the sites (highest profile, most interesting, most severe)
  • Best feedback (about the feature set, functionality and usability)

See complete details for the uTest Social Networking Bug Battle.  Get ready to hunt some bugs, make some serious money, and be recognized as one of the top testers in the community!

Have questions or ideas for future Bug Battles?  Drop us a comment.

Buggy Software – A Strategic Choice

Buggy products can be a real customer turn-off.  Witness the recent release of the BlackBerry Storm, Research In Motion’s response to Apple’s iPhone.  The Storm had tremendous promise as a great new touchscreen phone, but customer response has been limited because of early bugs in the device’s software.  Here’s a quote from one Storm customer in an article from the Wall Street Journal:

“I found myself wanting to throw it in the ocean due to my frustration with its overall usability,” said Steven Golub, a longtime Verizon customer from Morristown, N.J., who bought the Storm the day it was released, but returned it a few weeks later.

That’s pretty damning, but let’s stop and give RIM some benefit of the doubt.  Buggy software is a customer turn-off, and undoubtedly bad reviews will dampen customer enthusiasm.  But here’s a quote from the same Wall Street Journal article:

Verizon and RIM, determined to release the Storm in time for the holidays, rushed the device to market despite glitches in the stability of the phone’s operating system, according to people close to the launch.

RIM had a choice to make – release a buggy product in time for the holidays, taking bad reviews on the chin, or wait until the Storm worked better and try to gain market share during the traditionally slow Q1 made even slower by a bad economy.  We really can’t know for sure if RIM made the right decision, but there are some lessons other companies can learn here:

1.) Know Your Limitations - We all have limitations in our planning: not enough time, not enough people, or not enough testing.  Maybe your budget is limited or maybe you need to hit a holiday launch date.  Either way, it’s very important to be aware of your limitations early in the process.  If you have a tight schedule and a firm launch date, then you should make sure you have enough resources for last-minute development and testing.  If you don’t have enough people, then you should evaluate different contingencies for alternate launch dates.

2.) Work Smarter – You may feel like you have to cut corners to overcome your limitations, but the Internet can make it easy to expand your efficiency on-demand.  There are many companies that can help you add capacity to overcome bottlenecks and release a better product on time.  The uTest software testing service is perfect for helping companies improve their testing, but solutions exist for everything from coding to graphic design.

3.) Have Good Customer Data – If you’ve already passed the point of no return, then you will have to make a tough decision.  In this case, nothing helps more than really good customer data.  In RIM’s case, they had to decide between weaker customer demand because of timing or because of bugs.  Between the two, they chose to cast their lot with a buggier product over a late product.

RIM still sold 500,000 Storms over the holidays, and that’s not bad.  This is also their first touchscreen device and it holds tremendous design potential.  While Storm Version 1 had a rocky launch, Storm Version 2 may take the world by, well, storm.

Software Testing Gazelle.com

James McElhiney, CTO of Second Rotation, sat down with me to talk about how they use uTest to test Gazelle.com.  Gazelle is a fantastic site – they make it easy to sell or recycle your old gadgets, making the Earth a little greener in the process.

Gazelle uses an agile process with three week sprints.  Towards the end of their sprint cycle, the uTester community performs agile testing over the weekend and provides results the following Monday.  Gazelle’s developers are able to fix any bugs and then launch new updates.

If you would like to learn more, check out our complete Agile Testing Case Study highlighting how uTest provides outstanding software testing for Second Rotation/Gazelle.