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What is Comparison Testing | Examples Test Cases & How to do

January 18, 2024Shreya Bose
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What is Comparison Testing Examples Test Cases & How to do
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“ In June 2023, approximately 90 thousand mobile apps were released through the Google Play Store….. the highest number of app releases via Google Play Store was recorded in March 2019, with over 141 thousand apps released.”

Source

With thousands of mobile apps being released every month, how do you know that the app your team is currently building (or is close to finishing) is good enough to compete? The same goes for websites and desktop applications. 

You may have followed all the steps in the SDLC, but there’s more to software building than just following a manual. How do you know if your software makes the cut for its digital competitors? 

You use Comparison Testing. 

What is Comparison Testing?

Comparison testing is a testing technique that evaluates and compares a software product’s strengths and weaknesses to other similar products in the market. Of course, you can’t compare your application with literally every other in the domain, but you can certainly do so with the most popular ones. 

Comparison tests can be performed on the entire software application, or one or more components – specific features, loading speed, database, security mechanisms, etc. What you decide to put through a comparison test depends on the software being judged, its use cases and its competitors.

Basically, comparison tests help the team and all stakeholders estimate if their software will be marketable and engagement-worthy after public release. It helps (to some extent) answer the question “What will users think of this app when we release it?”

The answers of comparison testing are used to determine if the software is ready to be pushed to prod…or if the team still needs to optimize and tweak it before considering a release. 

What do we compare in Comparison Testing?

Literally, anything. 

You can use comparison tests to compare literally any aspect (functional or nonfunctional) of a software system to its competitors. Be it file contents, databases, authentication mechanisms, UI elements, operability, installation process, device/browser compatibility, aesthetics and even the app’s usability in different geographies. It is also advisable to run comparison tests on the software design, architecture, functionality, speed, storage, performance, and the like. 

For instance, let’s say your app looks and works as well as your competitors…..in the US. When you run geolocation testing, you find that the competitor is much faster when accessed from a user in The Netherlands. Your app, on the other hand, is slower to load, and seems to be missing some essential UI elements. 

Generally, QA teams run comparison tests in two phases. First, the app is tested against industry benchmarks. Second, the app is tested against specific features offered by competitor software systems. 

Comparison test tools (like Testsigma) are designed to detect such discrepancies before an app hits production stage. Testers can even set up the tool so that it ignores or masks specific file sections. This lets them obscure the date or time stamps on a screen or field. If testers did not do this, the tool would always flag a discrepancy, because the date and time stamp will always be different from the expected results at the end of comparison. 

When to perform Comparison Testing

Honestly, this depends entirely on the nature of the software under development, and the team actually building it. 

Given its nature, comparison testing has no hard-and-fast phase like regression testing. These tests can be performed at any point in the SDLC – early, middle or late stage. It can also be used to test individual components solo, or executed along with some other form of software testing.

Generally, comparison tests are run on different components at all stages of the SDLC. This is normal, considering that the software being built must be compared with competitors at every stage of functioning and for every single feature (as far and as feasibly as possible). 

Criteria to perform Comparison Testing

The criteria for comparison testing is decided entirely by the nature of the software product and its relevant use cases. These are also the criteria for designing application and business-minded test cases in this regard. 

Generally, comparison tests are bifurcated into two stages:

  • Comparing the software under development against known industry benchmarks – pages should load in 3 seconds, there should not be any text overlapping with UI elements, etc., all text should be snappy and brief, etc.
  • Comparing the software under development against specific features of one or more particular competing software products.

To explain this, let’s take the example of a test automation platform like Testsigma. 

Most test automation tools will have a dashboard for single views of all tests, support for recording individual projects, some record and playback functions, a search function, a consistent, real-time image of the project’s Git and automatic report generation. 

So, the first step is to test the application and check that it does, indeed, offer all the functions and abilities expected out of such a tool. 

The questions to be asked here are:

  • Does the tool have all the modules expected from a test management solution?
  • Are all the modules functioning as expected?

These two primary questions will form the basis of all test scenarios created at this stage. 

For the next stage, testers will pit their own app against features of other popular applications in the same domain. In out example, the QA team will study and compare the two applications on multiple metrics:

  • Price
  • Application performance
  • UI aesthetics and usability

At both stages, comparison tests are set up to identify potential discrepancies that can translate into business losses. This is done by choosing the right tool, and deploying apt test design and execution. 

Example test cases for Comparison Testing

Whether you’re building a web app, a mobile app, an ERP app or any other kind of software, it is highly recommended that you run comparison tests. 

For this section, let’s continue with the “test automation tool” example. Here’s what some of the test cases for comparison testing will look like at the initial stage (comparing against industry benchmarks):

  • Is all test data stored in the app?
  • Does a new ticket automatically get triggered whenever a bug is flagged?

At the next stage (comparing against specific applications), the test cases would look more like this:

  • Can the application handle the maximum traffic load?
  • Can the application work as well as its competitors under limited internet connectivity?
  • Are there any flaws with the app’s integration with third-party software?
  • Is the price comparable to its competitors?
  • Does it look at least as good as its competitors?
  • Is it as navigable, intuitive and easy to use as its competitors?

The more test cases you can innovate and craft, the more your chances of identifying bugs, anomalies, and functional issues. 

How comparison testing can help the business?

  • Helps determine if the app being built is marketable and worth the investment.
  • Helps determine gaps in functionality, which leads to optimization, bug fixed and improved product quality. 
  • Helps make a software product, durable, competitive and actually useful to end-users. 
  • Helps stakeholders make decisions about the release-readiness of a product. It won’t be ready for prod until QAs run detail comparison tests. 
  • Helps businesses avoid the backlash, credibility and revenue loss that would have come from releasing software that hasn’t been evaluated against its competitors. 
  • Helps gain learnings about user preferences and market dynamics. When a team knows what users like and what the market responds to, they will be better equipped to create a more desirable, marketable piece of software. 

Comparison Testing Advantages 

  • Helps assess software quality in relation to competitors and industry standards. 
  • Helps judge the usability, performance and user-friendliness of any software. 
  • Helps evaluate a product’s actual competitive value in digital marketing. 
  • Identifies areas of improvement that must be addressed before product release. 
  • Helps understand a software app’s desirability in the market, which is instrumental for creating future development, and even marketing strategies. 
  • Helps assess estimated portability of the products. 
  • Helps create a product that actually stands a chance of being profitable. 
  • Helps establish if a software system is bug-free (classic testing). 
  • Helps answer the question “Do all components fit and work together seamlessly?”

Disadvantages of Comparison Testing

  • If your competitors are performing comparison tests against your publicly released products, your offerings’ weaknesses may become visible to them.
  • If comparison tests are performed towards the end of the SDLC, any bugs might be incredibly difficult to eliminate. In fact, making any changes at this point would be a Herculean effort for devs. It may also seriously delay a product launch.
  • Making changes to software products based on comparison testing may disrupt existing functions – ones already working well. So, QA teams have to pair up comparison testing with regression testing, requiring more time, effort and human hours.
  • After making changes to the code based on the results of comparison testing, testers will also have to run black box testing, white box testing, integration testing, performance testing, security testing and more to validate the application’s stability before release.
  • From the business POV, if comparison tests reveal glaring issues in the software system, it might dissuade the client from investing in it completely. 

How to perform Comparison Testing

An easy way to perform comparison testing is to work with a control group of potential end-users for your product. Get a control group of your target audience, and have them compare multiple aspects of both applications (yours vs. your competitors’) side by side. 

The testers (users) can then rank each aspect of each app. Add up the ranks to get the overall score, and zero in on specific features to find areas for improvement. 

If you’re curious, here are some questions that can be used for user-facing comparison tests:

  • Do you (the user) prefer the (UI feature) for option A (your app) or option B (competitor app)?
  • Do you (the user) prefer the (non functional aspect like image or text) for option A (your app) or option B (competitor app)?
  • Do you (the user) get more satisfaction out of this process ( any user flow – to purchase something, for example) for option A (your app) or option B(competitor app)?

Manual Comparison Testing

The process described in the previous section describes…you guessed it…manual comparison testing. This is quite useful for user-facing features like UI, aesthetics, load speed, etc. It is also important for getting users’ true impressions of the software. 

In its manual avatar, comparison testing can actually be considered as user acceptability testing. In both cases, the QA team is listening to the user about their opinions of the software…which is the only thing that will truly determine its profitability (or lack thereof). 

Note: It is not possible to comprehensively test any multi-featured, modern-day app with manual testing alone. For comparison testing on the levels of performance, integration (with third party apps), performance across locations, and other essential functionalities, QAs are better off choosing a tool for automated testing.

Try an automation tool like Testsigma that is set up for (among others) comparison. Notably. Testsigma offers access to hundreds of real devices (mobile and desktop) and browsers. That means your QA team can view how the app behaves in the hands of real end-users using their device of choice to use the app from a specific location. 

Since the user journey and experience can be replicated on a test workstation, you can see how the app would behave in the real world with ease and accuracy. 



Second Note: Just because you automate globalization tests does not mean you cut human testers out of the equation. Human testers are mandatory to create test scripts, supervise the tests, analyze reports and make final approvals and decisions about software quality. Human testers are non-negotiable. 

Conclusion

In a world of dog-eat-dog competition, no brand, company, or team can afford to leave things to chance. Software products can no longer be released willy-nilly into the world, powered by the hope that it will bring profits. 

Instead, comparison testing provides a legitimate, reliable way of estimating an app’s success potential. By checking how your software fares against its competitors, competitors give developers and business stakeholders a fighting chance to release the best possible – one that pleases users and profit margins alike. 

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