Wednesday, October 27, 2010

App´s top tipps from OsiM London -October 27

By Andrew Till

Last week I and several colleagues attended the latest OSiM London event. I had the pleasure of presenting Teleca’s take on the evolving applications landscape and some of the challenges for developers in maximising their success in bringing compelling and profitable applications to market. At the end of the presentation I shared our “Top Tips” for success with applications based on our experience of developing applications for customers across multiple platforms. I thought it would be interesting to share these recommendations on our blog – enjoy and hopefully you will find these insight and useful.

1. Take a position, solve a utility or entertainment problem

It’s absolutely critical to be clear about the purpose of the application you’re developing and to also ensure that it solves a real problem. For example it’s not clear that we need any more calculator applications in the Android Market place given the number already available. Being clear about the problem being solved will help all the way through the development process and when it comes to loading you application on to an application store and the supporting messages you include with it.

2. Focus on User Acquisition, Engagement AND Retention

We see many developers and companies who only focus on the initial acquisition of users for their application but in our experience continued focus on regular engagement and retention is also key not only to the success of the current application but also for future application releases as well.

One interesting way of managing this is to measure how new features or feature removals drives key metrics such as application downloads, uninstalls and user rating.

3. Use the Metrics and know your competition

Many application stores now provide a wealth of data on how your application is performing, where it is ranked, who is downloading it and which market they are in. Using this information on a daily basis significantly improves your chances of success as it enables you to respond quickly to changing market demands, optimize pricing, assuming you are charging for the application, based on what is happing with your application and those it competes with and to critically identify when you hit the sweet spot with different demographics.

Using such metrics can also help you understand who you are really competing with and to plan accordingly. Most people assume they are competing with other applications in the same category but this may not always be the case as you may simply be competing for share of wallet and hence in reality your competition with many different types of application.

Put simply if you’re not using the tools provided by the store vendor they you cannot expect to have a killer app on your hands.

4. Release early and often

Trying to build the perfect application often leads to long overruns and being beaten to market by competitors. Increasing we are seeing that it is much more effective to release early and provide frequent updates to users. This has a number of benefits such as enabling you to “land grab” in new areas, helping to build a regular dialogue with consumers and critically building customer delight each time you provide an enhanced set of features. Typically apps can see > 80% of active users upgrade to the latest version within 30 days of release especially on platforms that provide notification services.

Using this approach can also enable one to identify if a feature is really worthwhile fully developing or if it is only going to resonate with a small number of users thus saving time, money and effort. Another benefit can be to help user re-engage with an application when they see that new features are available and thus helping to maintain a healthy active user base.

5. Integrate Facebook, Twitter and other social engagement channels

Leveraging social networking sites can bring many advantages. The most obvious is that it helps to increase visibility of your application and can stimulate a level of viral growth that is hard to achieve with other mediums. Today most social networks have standard APIs to enable seamless login and posting of a users account and make these available for integration via standard SDKs.

6. Build communication channels with your users to foster a community

Creating an on-going dialogue with your users is often the key to sustained success. Typical App store ratings are very binary (love/hate) and provide limited insights. Increasingly developers are now moving to utilise platforms such as GetSatisfaction, Twitter and other which enable a much richer level of communication and also provide detailed insights as to why users really love or hate what you have done. It also enables you to grow your voice in the market place, provide you engage and respond to users posts and build to app missionaries from your user base.

7. Show focus by Platform and Devices

With such a proliferation of platforms and device types it can be a killer trying to release on everything everywhere. Increasing we are seeing customer decided to focus on getting one platform right before moving to multi-platform deployment. While this may mean that you yield some time to market on a particular platform is also means that when you do move to multi-platform support you have a robust codebase to port and an growing user base, and hopefully evangelists, to support your expansion.

Of course there are many other tips and learning’s we’d like to share but in the interest of keeping this post to a reasonable size I will finish here. However do feel free to come find me at Droidcon in London later this week or Planet of the Apps next week.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

CTIA, tablets and app stores for whom? -October 14th

By Scott Yoneyama

So now that I’m back from CTIA and I’ve sent out my follow-up e-mails, entered my new contacts into Outlook, “Linked-In” with several of them and dug out of the hole created by being out of the office for a week, it’s time to reflect on what I saw and learned. What I learned was that what I saw generated more questions than ever.

As a dedicated owner of a Droid X, I was impressed by Nokia’s presentation. They make a very compelling case to developers to build for Ovi. The new QT platform is impressive and the N8 is a nice device. However, Nokia faces an uphill, “chicken and egg” struggle. They can offer worldwide distribution, but US developers want US customers and glory. To “help” them along, not only did Nokia lock the doors and give everyone in the room a brand new N8, but they also announced $10M in contest money for developers. Will it work? Stay tuned for that.

Everyone has an App store. Even I saw some I didn’t know about before. Carriers, device manufacturers….heck, is launching an Android store. Where will all of the applications come from? How will the customers find the stores? Do the costs of supporting an App store really make sense (for say, Samsung) when that device is going to be distributed by Verizon and shipped with the Android OS, both of whom have their own App stores??

The iPad is changing the game for publishers and we saw some impressive statistics and revenue numbers. In response, there are no less than 22 “tablets” coming to market before Christmas and they are all 7” varieties. This is a brand new, unproven and undefined market. Who’s going to use these devices? I played with one and I found it clunky and hard to manage. As a user, I struggle with the value proposition for a device that’s bigger than my already large smartphone and smaller than my iPad. Moreover, who’s going to build apps for these devices? The 7” screen requires a brand new UI vs. the 10” and smartphone UI’s. Without any users, will publishers take a chance on these un-proven devices?

What I found noticeably absent from the conference was any discussion about HTML5 and the mobile web. Aside from a brief, poorly attended presentation from a member of W3C there was almost no mention of this protocol and its potential to revolutionize the online and mobile web. Are we all simply so drunk on application Kool-Aid that we’re forgetting the foundation of it all and what can be done with these new upgrades to the protocol? Hmmm…..

iPhone, Droid, N8; Ovi, iTunes, Shop4Apps,; iPad, 7” Galaxy, 10” Stingray; Lions and Tigers and Bears….Oh MY!!! Where does one place their bets?

I flew home from the conference thinking about the movie, City Slickers. Jack Palance says to Billy Crystal, “You city folk, you fill your head with a lot of useless nonsense. The secret to life is this… thing” (I paraphrase a bit) Great applications do one thing very well. One can’t be all things to all people and those that try, fail. All of these devices, OS’s, stores…..they enable us to do one thing. They allow us to find something, buy something, communicate or be entertained. The “cloud” allows the information to be accessible anytime, anywhere on any device. So don’t get lost in the tidal wave. Just pick one and in the immoral words of M.A.S.H.’s Major Charles Emerson Winchester III, “Do one thing, do it VERY well and THEN move on!”

Friday, October 1, 2010

Beyond Exploratory Testing-IST as open source -October 1st

By Matthias Ratert

In all projects we test SW by executing automated test scripts and/or running many test cases stored in a Test Management Tool such as HP Quality Center. We check whether all requirements are implemented correctly. By performing Regression Testing we ensure they are working as expected when shipping a new software version to the customer.

To find new issues not discovered by Regression Testing, Exploratory Testing (ET) is one of the largest hypes within the testing community in recent years. The tester has to uncover situations that could negatively impact the end user in terms of reliability, stability and usability.
Trying ET was also helpful for us: We discovered new issues and it was fun to test. However it became increasingly difficult to come up with new and creative test ideas and too many areas of our complex system remained untested.

IST (incremental Scenario Testing), a Teleca methodology

In order to provide a testing alternative better suited to our needs, we developed Incremental Scenario Testing (IST). IST and its implementation, the IST Tool, were developed over several iterations. Soon we called it the creative director of our Exploratory Test sessions.
Testers are guided through a session by scenarios which are composed of test items such as preconditions, states and events. These test items provide the scenario framework; how to reach each specific test item is up to the tester. The expected result is not specified and has to be judged by the tester – as in ET.
The test scenarios are generated based on the occurrence probabilities of each test item. Scenarios evolve over time as previous test results are an important factor when generating new test scenarios:
• Failed test scenarios are re-tested whereas passed test scenarios are not re-tested regularly.
• Failed test items are used more often and passed test items are used less.
• The probability of unexecuted test scenarios being run increases over time.
This guarantees that each test session will identify new issues, independent of the SW development phase. The issues are validated by the IST Tool based on the tester’s experience. Reported issues are re-tested within the same test session and fixes are verified with a new SW build.
IST involves SW developers in the testing process. Modified or new functionality can be prioritized for testing. As the test subject can be exchanged easily and whenever needed, these SW changes are tested directly when integrated.
IST allows for flexible, adaptable and efficient test sessions that are suited perfectly for agile software development.

IST as open source
Finally our latest announcement: we decided that the IST Tool should be published as Open Source to provide this great methodology to the testing community. To be 100% sure that the implementation of IST is on the right level we first want to execute a pilot project. I’m looking for a partner right now – I hope I will find him on the Agile Testing Days in Berlin beginning of October. I will keep you informed ;-)