Defying app abandonment and avoiding new functionality fails

For the world’s largest apps, creating and releasing updated functionality is a full-time job. Spotify, for example, has released no less than seven functionality updates in March 2018 alone, ranging from its new self-serve advertising platform in the UK and Canada, to its announcement surrounding teaming up with Boston Marathon’s John Hancock Elite Athlete Team to give runners everywhere access to custom playlists from some of the world’s fastest marathoners. Facebook, when not taken up with distributing data about 57bn friendships to academia, delivers even more frequent functionality updates.

But step back from your Instagram story and stop swiping in vain to figure out Snapchat’s redesign, and think about what goes into launching this new functionality. With billions of users at any one time, there is almost an unprecedented demand when it comes to launching and testing, while any mistake or miscalculation could cost millions in lost revenue or reputational damage. So, how easy is it for some of the world’s biggest apps to test their products, and what is actually involved?

Make sure your app works

Now, this might sound obvious, but even if your app is technically sound, if the user experience isn’t right, people won’t be shy in relaying their feedback. Even the masters don’t always get this right. Snapchat’s controversial major update, where the old Stories page was replaced with a new Discover page, is a good case in point.

It’s safe to say that the new page has left many users confused. And for Snapchat, one of these users was Kylie Jenner, who tweeted about her annoyance and immediately wiped US$1billion dollars off the company’s stock market value.

Lesson learned? Testing user experience is key. It’s essential to test the full user experience across apps and websites, and the companies that are getting it right are combining protocol-level load injection with application-level UX validation across all platforms to test the true UX. It means they are doing end-to-end user testing across all components of their functionality.

Let’s hope Snapchat’s ‘Insights’ tool, designed to provide data to influencers, giving them the information they need to grow and thrive on the platform, will help the app bounce back.

Make sure you can handle the load

Whether it’s launch day or every day, if new functionality isn’t supported by an app or site that is performing well, most users won’t come back again. Even when an app can deliver a great user experience, functionality can still fail due to the poor implementation of infrastructure or delivery – something that is most critical at launch time. If you launch functionality that is so popular that your app or site falls down, you run the risk of users leaving permanently, or, in the least, not engaging with new functionality.

This is where load testing comes in. Load testing is used to create a wide variety of virtual users to simulate real user activity. To test a website application simulates the HTTP requests that a real user would send while navigating your website. Or, virtual users can simulate the actions of a real user by automatically driving an actual browser instance for popular web technologies like HTTPS, Sharepoint, AJAX, and web services.

Vero, the Instagram competitor, knows all about why it’s important to load test. The app is simply not able to keep up with the huge amounts of interest it has generated, and cannot keep up with the nearly 1 million users who have signed up. As it has tried to release new functionality, the company has blamed high traffic for the problems users have experienced in signing up and posting.

AI-driven continuous testing and monitoring

While new functionality may be controversial, today’s platforms need to compete in a crowded marketplace, and in order to keep up, they do need to frequently roll out new functionality so that they can differentiate. It’s critical that businesses are able to achieve continuous testing at speed and to do this, large platforms are using AI-driven test automation and continuous testing to monitor against critical business objectives.

This is essential in order to release apps fast and move to a culture of continuous development, while also continuing testing in production to produce analytics that can drive insight to solve problems.

‘It’s complicated’

When it comes to releasing new functionality and ensuring your app, site or product is continuously monitored, there are a lot moving parts. Releasing new functionality frequently that pleases users is no easy feat, but if you can achieve this using the right testing strategy, every new feature release is an opportunity to grow your user community while growing your business.

Written by Antony Edwards, CTO of Eggplant