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December 8, 2011 / carlispina

Test Apps with TestFlight

Distributing versions of an app for beta testing can be a time-consuming and difficult-to-manage process. Each time a minor change is made, all users must be notified and given instructions for installing the new version. Beyond the logistics of making sure that testers are properly installing and using the latest version, it can also be difficult to get high-quality feedback since testers are frequently required to remember their impressions after they have exited the app and moved on to the feedback mechanism. TestFlight aims to make every step of this process more seamless for both the app developers and their testers by offering a free service that distributes versions to testers over the air with one or two clicks and also helps developers to track feedback and analyze data.

I recently¬†found out about TestFlight as part of the process of beta testing an iPhone app, so I have mostly seen the service from a tester’s perspective and found it incredibly easy to use. When you first create your account you are asked whether you are a tester or whether you also plan to be a developer. If you choose to be a tester, you can modify your account in the future should you wish to take advantage of the developer services. Once you are set up as a tester, you will be sent an email to facilitate registering your mobile device and from that point on you will receive an email notification each time you need to install an app to test or a new version. Installation can be done directly from the mobile device with one or two clicks. And, once you are reviewing the app, TestFlight integrates the feedback process directly into the app itself by allowing developers to include checkpoints asking for feedback at specific points in the testing process. From the developer’s perspective, TestFlight also seems to be a powerful tool. Once a developer downloads the free SDK, they can use TestFlight not only to distribute betas of apps, but also to track feedback, analyze results and compile crash reports. TestFlight is also intended for use by teams, so it facilitates the collaboration process. All in all, this seems like a good product for beta testing an iOS app. While this product may seem less geared towards libraries than others I have discussed on this blog, I also think it represents an interesting opportunity for libraries. As libraries increasingly move to create mobile apps, free products such as this one may be the key to conducting beta tests on those products to ensure that they meet patron needs and work as intended. Frequently libraries bypass usability testing for their web products due to the time and costs associated with traditional usability testing, but hopefully products like TestFlight will make it easier for libraries to conduct more extensive tests on their apps before final versions are released.

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