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September 7, 2018

How to distribute and test your mobile application during the development phase?

Is it possible to test a mobile app while it's being developed? Yes! It's now simple and easy to make your app available to a community of testers, no matter whether it's on Android or iOS (or even Windows, which we won't be discussing in this article). In this article, we'll look at ways of distributing your app in development and put it in the hands of users for them to test.

The intermediary-free method

Distributing a test version directly via the app stores offers certain advantages:

  • the ease with which the tester can download the application from their usual app store, and without having to do anything particular to their smartphone in order to install it.

  • the mobile web user gets all the features normally associated with an app from an app store (e.g. the right update if the tester is already using a previous version of the app, the ability to receive push notifications properly, in-app purchases, etc.).

  • the app stores have made channels available that to a certain extent enable feedback to be collected from users, though without the guarantee that this feedback can be usefully exploited.

It's important to carefully choose the right beta testing tool from those offered by each app store. The choice needs to be guided by the context in which the application is used and the characteristics of the selected community of testers: it is not simply a technological choice! The following is a summary of the distribution choices to make based on the type and characteristics of the test users:

Distributing your app on Google Play

Open Beta• Simple and quick to deploy• Anyone can sign up via a URL link from the Play Store• The link is easy to distribute to testers• No confidentiality restrictions (the link can be used by anybody)• No user feedback channels already in place
Closed Beta via email• Secured list of testers• Testers must have a Gmail account
Closed Beta via Google+• Quick and convenient if a Google+ community is already in place for it• User feedback channel already in place with Google+• Management of the Google+ community• Setting up the community

Distributing your application via the Apple App Store

TestFlight• Equivalent to Closed Beta by email on Android (closed email list, which means a good level of confidentiality)• User feedback directly by email• TestFlight sign up process not always easy and straightforward, based on user experiences• The tool is in English, which can sometimes be an obstacle if the tester population is not English speaking.
Promo code testing• Can be used to test certain specific usage aspects following approval by Apple, and in a user environment completely identical to that of the version to be published• Usage limited, with a maximum number of promo codes of 100 per app version

Ideally, on iOS, it's best to have an Apple Enterprise Developer account, which avoids the need to collect the UDID of each device participating in the test. Apple actually identifies each device via a unique identifier known as a UDID. If you only have a simple developer license, you will need to list all the UDIDs of the test appliances in the source code, or to be more exact, in the build. If this seems a bit technically complex to you, that's because it is. Our tip: make life easier for yourself with an Apple Enterprise Developer License (99$), which will enable you to test your app with whomever you like without having to make changes at the source code level.

Enterprise app stores, an all-encompassing solution

There are several software solutions available that enable you to manage the distribution process on both iOS and Android at the same time and with one or more communities. These solutions come equipped with security checks/controls and reporting tools. Their one drawback is that the user has to access the app via the solution, which adds an additional stage for them to go through. Amongst the tools available on the market, a special mention goes to Appaloosa, a partner of Ferpection, which, amongst other advantages, is available in a French version, thus making life easier for your users.

Distribution is only the first stage

These tools are designed to distribute your app, but they do not manage the testing process. Though some of them provide facilities for leaving comments, none provide a guarantee of the quality of user reviews. This is where Ferpection comes in: it carries out the tasks of ensuring that only high quality, usable feedback is collected and of analyzing it.

Additionally, and again in advance, it's important to properly plan and prepare the distribution process by providing testers with guidance about what they need to test and how the feedback is to be collected.

With more than 1000 tests already to its credit, half involving mobile apps, Ferpection can provide you with help with these stages if you have any doubts.

You can also access our extensive range of practical tips and advice in our FAQ.

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Thibault Geenen

Thibault Geenen

Thibault is fascinated by the power of UX, especially user research and nowadays the UX for Good principles. As an entrepreneur, he's a huge fan of liberated company principles, where teammates give the best through creativity without constraints. A science-fiction lover, he remains the only human being believing that Andy Weir's 'The Martian' is a how-to guide for entrepreneurs.

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