Testing Responsive Design on Mobile Devices

By Ariella Brown  |  Posted 2016-05-13 Email Print this article Print
Mobile testing

Mindful of the increasing number of its customers who access its site through smartphones, Simplyhealth enhanced its mobile application delivery.

As a major health-cash-plan provider that serves nearly 3.5 million customers in the United Kingdom, Simplyhealth has to keep track of the pulse of its customer base in order to meet their needs effectively. Knowing that about 40 percent of its Web traffic comes through mobile devices, the organization has to ensure that its content works on a range of different units.

In the past, Simplyhealth underwent a lot of time-consuming testing that didn't accurately replicate the user experience. Determined to forestall any possible glitches in its mobile service, the organization started looking for a solution in 2013.

"We knew we had to get into that [mobile] space before it became a problem," explains Chris Dale, IT test and release manager for Simplyhealth.  Therefore, in 2014, the company purchased a mobile testing solution from Mobile Labs.

The health care company's managers knew that responsive design would show up differently on mobile devices than it does on computers' Web browsers. For that reason, it procured four different types of mobile handsets for testing. Unfortunately, the testing was a very manual process, and it created a bottleneck.

First, the tester got a smartphone and made sure it was charged before testing a change in features or design. That process had to be repeated four times—once for each of the mobile devices. However, the change could pass the test three times and then pose a problem on the fourth try. When that happened, the testers would have to go back to the drawing board.

Shopping for a Better Mobile Solution

Recognizing the inefficiency of this testing process, Dale and his team began looking for a better approach that would reduce the bottleneck and enable the company to get features on the mobile site much more quickly. They started shopping for a solution by looking at four vendors Gartner identified as the major players in that market.

To be very clear about what they wanted, the team included 34 index requirements that were weighted in terms of their importance. Then they invited the four vendors to present their product features.

Following that, they invited Mobile Labs to present a proof of concept in the form of a test run of their mobile testing product for 10 weeks. Dale says that demonstration showed how quick and responsive the solution was.

He reports that they were concerned about one glitch with respect to the iPhone 5C, but adds that Mobile Labs was able to fix it within a week. Dale and his team were impressed by how quickly the vendor was able to solve problems and the attention it paid to the company's goals and needs.

Even more important is the fact that—in contrast to the former one-device-at-a-time manual testing—Mobile Labs can test all phones at once and provide instant feedback automatically. As a result, intermittent iOS issues, which would have taken weeks to test and resolve, are corrected quickly, saving time and increasing productivity.

The vendor was able to adapt Simplyhealth's test Web browser for use on mobile devices. By not having to build that test from scratch, the company saved about a year's worth of development, according to Dale.

The mobile device private cloud powered by Mobile Labs has allowed Simplyhealth to access virtual devices from anywhere, as well as to use existing test scripts and test applications securely behind its corporate firewall. "As a health care company, we deal with people's personal health data," Dale says. "That's sensitive data" that must be secured behind the firewall.

Anyone who works for Simplyhealth can access the solution on the network behind the firewall.  That's essential to maintaining the company's agility. It's all about "putting the power in the right people's hands," he adds.

Authorized individuals who want to make changes can access the system remotely without involving the development team and QA function. They can change content and verify it themselves, which speeds up the whole delivery process.

Access has also been extended to some staffers in the customer service area. Customer advisors can bring up the screen to see exactly what customers see on their devices and can help them navigate through the site to find what they need.

Dale reports that Mobile Labs provides timely software updates. For instance, in the case of new releases of Apple iOS, the company can offer releases within a week of those updates being made public. That allows Simplyhealth to verify that its Website works correctly on the latest versions—even before they are released to the general public.


Ariella Brown, a Baseline contributor, writes about analytics, marketing, branding, social media, big data, and the impact of the Internet on education and society, among other topics.


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