Quality Goes Beyond QA. A Culture of Quality As a Competitive Advantage

Quality Is Vital to Your Mobile App’s Success

How you respond to bugs and problems will play a large part in whether your mobile app succeeds or fails.

We’ve covered the process of ensuring quality during development and before a new release of your mobile app.

But what about after your app has been released?

No matter how careful you are during development, you will almost certainly face bugs and problems.

How Do You Know You Have a Bug?

You can’t fix a bug if you don’t know it exists, which means your first task is knowing where to look to find reports of them. This is an often overlooked part of having a mobile app, but it’s essential if you want your app to be successful long-term.

When something’s wrong, you’ll find it in one of four places:

  1. App reviews. Pay close attention to the feedback people leave on the App Store or Google Play page. Some of your users use app reviews as a way to alert the developer of a bug they’re experiencing.

    When you get an app review that looks like a bug report, put your detective’s hat on. Google and Apple both now offer ways for developers to reply to app reviews. Use this as an opportunity to get in touch with the app reviewer so you can get more information about the problem.

  2. Crash reports. If your mobile app quits unexpectedly due to an error, the operating system creates a crash report detailing exactly what went wrong. On iOS, if a user chooses to share these with you in Settings, you’ll find your crash reports in iTunes Connect.

    Even if a user chooses not to share a crash report, you can still instrument your app with a third party crash reporter like Fabric or HockeyApp and get them that way. Continuously monitoring your crashes is a great way to find bugs in your applications.

  3. User Email. Most applications offer a way to get in touch via email. This can come in the form of an email sheet embedded in the application or as a standalone email address specifically for app support.

    Like app reviews, you’ll get a mixed bag of feedback via email, but you should pay close attention to feedback that sounds like something is not working properly. You’ll often have to follow up with the user to get to the bottom of the problem.

  4. Social media. Social media is yet another channel for support—even if you don’t intend it to be! If your company has existing social media accounts and you’ve just launched a new mobile app, make sure to monitor social media for anything that sounds like a complaint.

One more thing to keep in mind: if you get a complaint from a user via app review, email or social media, you should act immediately.

Why? Because when most people encounter a problem in your mobile app, they won’t tell you about it. If you get even a complaint about something, you should assume that many more people are having the same problem.

There’s a Bug in My App. What Now?

If you worked on your mobile app for months and finally released it to the public, finding a bug in your application can feel deeply disappointing.

Don’t feel this way! Bugs are a fact of life in the world of software development. If you did everything right to prevent the bug, what matters now is how you respond. Here are three things you should do with every new bug you discover:

  1. Track It. The first thing is to log the bug as soon as you find it. This allows the people in your team to track the problem in a centralized place, add additional details about the bug, and mark it as resolved once the problem is gone. If the bug is a recurring problem, you’ll also be able to see what others did in the past to fix this issue and look at trends to try to find a long-term solution.

  2. Triage It. After you have a bug report, the next step is to triage it. This sounds like a complicated process, but it’s really just answering the question: “How bad is this bug?” You don’t need to have pre-defined levels of priority, but some companies do.

    What separates a “critical” bug from a bug you can hold off fixing depends on your business as well as mobile apps in general. For instance, if you’re an ecommerce company and your users suddenly cannot complete an order anymore, you have a critical bug in your hands. Similarly, if you have a crash so bad that users can’t even open your app, no matter what business you’re in, you need to move quickly to resolve it.

  3. Resolve It. Once you’ve assigned a priority to the new bug, you need to decide when to fix it. If the bug is small enough, you could decide not to set a fix date and simply move the bug to your backlog of work.

    However, if the bug is more serious, you have to decide whether to do a one-off dot release of your mobile app, or if it can wait until your next scheduled release, whenever that may be.

    If you haven’t heard of a dot release before, it means a smaller release that increases the number after the last “dot” in a version number. For example, a dot release could take you from 3.0 to 3.0.1.

Sometimes, what separates a good mobile app from a bad mobile app is not graphic design or slick animations. Instead, what separates the winners from the losers is how you handle bugs—big or small—as they come up.

Ensuring Quality in a Mobile App Starts with Culture and Values

Finally, we need to talk about building a culture of quality in your development team.

The mechanics we’ve been discussing are great to have in your organization, but if you and your development team don’t have the right culture and values to deliver and maintain a first-rate mobile application, not even the best process in the world will make a difference.

Here are three simple litmus tests for gauging your culture—and how they affect a quality-first approach.

  1. What is the role of QA within the development team?

    The QA team should not be an afterthought or a nice-to-have. They should get an equal voice on the table—the same input as product, design, and engineering.

    QA should have the power to veto a release or demand the rollback of certain features if they deem they aren’t ready for showtime. If you’re working with the kind of software development agency where this is possible, these concerns should bubble up back to you.

  2. How many people are capable and willing to file bug reports for your mobile app?

    A quality-first culture heavily depends on empowerment. Anyone from the CEO to the business development expert to the summer intern at your development agency should know how to file a bug report and, moreover, be encouraged to do so early and often.

    If you see a problem, file a bug report immediately, even if you think others may have already reported it. Doing this unfailingly every single time is the number one thing you can do to put quality first in your mobile application.

  3. How do you balance deadlines and quality?

    The final litmus test for a quality-driven culture comes down to what you do when you have to face tough tradeoffs or decisions. When you are facing an aggressive deadline but are worried you haven’t yet reached the high bar for quality you ask of yourself, what do you do?

    At Sweetpea Mobile, we tackle this problem with ownership and transparency. This means we’ll be upfront about the tradeoffs we have to make and not shy away from the problem or sweep it under the rug.

What Does This Mean For You?

As we often like to say at Sweetpea Mobile, having an app in the App Store feels like bringing a child into the world.

Going through the initial launch is only the beginning! Ensuring you have continued success in the App Store or Google Play means you have to make sure you handle problems quickly and appropriately.

In this article, you read about different channels you should monitor to find out about bugs and how to handle those bugs once you find them. You also read about the kind of culture that you need to make sure the processes you set up are followed every time.

As we’ve said in our previous articles about QA best practices, developing a high-quality app requires the right people, process, and most importantly—the right organizational culture.

These pieces don’t often come together by themselves, so it’s important that you choose a development partner that has these systems in place and can help you do so as well.

This is the last article in a series of three articles on ensuring quality for a mobile app. You can read part 1 and part 2 here and here.

Pietro Rea