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Mobile Application Testing vs Web Application Testing – Key Differences

The ever-increasing usage of the internet has changed how we humans interact with technology. Everything is just a few touches away, be it booking a cab, making a payment, ordering groceries, medicines, or other services. For developers who create such complex applications, it’s essential that they test these applications thoroughly. Hence, understanding the key differences between mobile application testing vs web application testing becomes quite crucial.

Mobile application testing vs web application testing
Desktop vs Mobile Users

According to a survey by StatCounter, from October 2021 to 2022, the number of active mobile users was 58.33% compared to 39.65% of desktop users. And this has always seen an increasing trend. This is particularly due to easy access to the internet and the availability of cheaper smartphones.

However, conquering such a tough market is not easy, especially when users are picky and there’s immense competition. Hence, businesses need to be careful about how well they perform their testing before the launch of the applications. This introduces us to a whole new world of mobile application and web application testing techniques.

In this article, let’s first understand what mobile applications and web applications are. And then, we will dive deep into the key differences between mobile application testing vs web application testing. This will help you determine the areas you need to focus on when testing your applications.

What are Mobile Applications?

Mobile applications are basically the apps that we use on our smartphones or tablets in our day-to-day lives. These are software programs or applications designed for OS that runs on mobiles such as Android or iOS. You can download them from the Google Play Store or Apple’s App Store, or install them directly from their binaries, such as .apk files, etc. Some useful mobile applications include Google maps for navigation, Amazon apps for e-commerce, and PayPal for transactions.

We build mobile applications using frameworks like Android Studio and programming languages like Swift, Objective C, Java, React Native, etc. The architecture of mobile applications is way different than our conventional web applications. In the case of mobile applications, we need to consider how an application interface might behave on devices with different screen sizes or tablets.

We can categorize mobile applications into 3 different types: mobile web applications, native mobile applications, and hybrid mobile applications. Let’s discuss each one of them in detail.

Mobile Web Applications

They are similar to conventional web applications or websites we access on our desktop browsers, with the only difference being that we now run them on mobile browsers. We don’t need to download these kinds of mobile applications. To be more accurate, we design these web applications as highly responsive websites that can quickly adapt to changing screen sizes, user expectations, and requirements.

The plus side of such applications is that you don’t need to install and manage them separately. Using the web address, you can easily access them on any browser that you normally have pre-installed on your mobile phone. However, due to this dependency on mobile browsers, the performance of these web applications also relies on these browsers. If your web browser is outdated or you have a poor connection, it will impact the user experience.

Native Mobile Applications

Native mobile applications are conventional mobile apps that only run on devices with specific platforms. We develop these applications using platform-specific programming languages such as Java for Android OS and Swift or Objective C for iOS platforms.

We often build native mobile applications to be highly reliable and faster than other web applications. The advantage is that they are well-packaged, platform-specific applications; hence, they are convenient to install and use and highly responsive.

Hybrid Applications

As suggested by the name itself, we usually develop hybrid applications like mobile web applications but with the ability to run like native mobile apps. They have the perks of both web and native mobile applications, such as minimum load time, less storage, and consistent experience even with low network connectivity.

They are just like web pages enveloped in a mobile application using WebView. Yet, they also have access to the native mobile environment. We usually develop them using cross-platform frameworks like Xamarin, React Native, etc.

What are Web Applications?

A web application or a website is a program that runs on the browser. Unlike native mobile applications, we don’t need to download a web application. These applications can run on any operating system, provided that you have a supported browser installed on that system with an internet connection.

We can create powerful platform-independent tools with the help of web applications. For example, instead of a desktop email client, we can access websites such as Gmail that store the emails on their servers. Another example is the OTT platforms that we use to stream media through the browser. This eliminates the need to store thousands of movies on our local system.

There are quite a few types of web applications depending on the business requirement, the technology used to create them, etc. Let’s have a look at a few of them.

Static Web Applications

Static web applications are a collection of static web pages that do not provide any dynamic information to the users. The server end creates these web pages and the information on such applications only changes when a new development is made in the front-end code of the application.

These kinds of websites do not provide any interactivity to the users. They are not complicated applications; you can develop them using languages such as HTML, CSS, etc. Websites with no dynamic features, like those used to collect or display information, fall into this category.

Dynamic Web Applications

Dynamic web applications involve the interaction between the client and the server side of the application. Usually, dynamic websites allow users to search for any information which will be fetched from the back end of the application. Some dynamic actions include creating an account, signing up, searching, etc.

For example, suppose a user wants to sign up for the application and wants to have a look at his personal information on the website. In such a case, the user types in the username and password and clicks on the log-in button. This click will send the information to a back-end API, verifying the password and fetching personal information from a database. This information will be sent back to the web application’s front end, which is the website’s interface. This is how a dynamic web application works.

Single Page Applications

Single-page applications load only when you access the web application for the first time in the browser. For any further requests, the application fetches the data from the server and displays it without refreshing the whole web application. They are relatively easy to create, fast, and developed as per the business requirements.

Multi-Page Web Applications

Multi-page web applications are traditional websites where every time a user requests, a new page is shown with new information. Thus, in such applications, the website interface is built using a set of several web pages, each with its purpose.

For example, suppose you want to log in to an e-commerce website and buy two products. The first web page is the login page, where you enter your details and log in to the website. It displays a new web page with the catalog. Then, you can select the first product, which takes you to a new page displaying the detail of the product. When you add this product to the cart and visit the cart, you are on a completely new page.

What is Mobile Application Testing?

Mobile application testing is the process of validating any mobile application before releasing it to the public. We test its usability and functionality as per the requirements specified by the business. Thus, it helps us understand whether the mobile application meets the technical and functional expectations.

The main goal behind developing any mobile application is to increase its reach and make it accessible globally. Hence, we don’t want the application to have bugs and technical faults when launched. Needless to say, no business would want its customer to come up with complaints and switch to a different competitor.

Hence, we need to test any mobile application on multiple devices, screen resolutions, operation systems such as Android and iOS, network bandwidths, etc. The application should run flawlessly on all the combinations of device configurations.

Types of Mobile Application Testing

Mobile application testing varies depending on the requirements and the impacted areas before a release. Let’s discuss a few different types of testing that you can perform on your mobile application to ensure that it is bug-free.

Usability Testing

With the help of usability testing, you can determine how easily your mobile application will help the users to achieve their objectives. In this type of testing, we give a realistic scenario to a certain set of users and record their feedback. Based on the feedback from the end-user, we improve the customer experience.

Performance Testing

In performance testing, you review the responsiveness, robustness, stability, and speed of your mobile application. We do load or stress testing of the application and record its performance under different loads. Some subcategories of performance tests are volume testing, spike testing, load testing, stress testing, etc.

Security Testing

The security concerns with the application lead to a massive chunk of mobile application uninstalls. If your application demands sensitive information from the users, such as login details, transaction information, etc., you should be able to guarantee authenticity, integrity, and confidentiality.

Interruption Testing

Interruption testing is useful to validate the behavior of an application in case of any interruption. In such an event, the application should be able to get back to the previous state after the interruption is dealt with. Some examples of such interruptions are SMS, phone calls, push notifications, low battery notifications, etc.

Compatibility Testing

We do compatibility testing to ensure that the mobile application is compatible with different software and hardware configurations. It is important to ensure that the application works in the desired way in all combinations of operating systems, network configurations, screen resolutions, hardware specifications, etc. There are two types of compatibility testing. A backward compatibility test involves testing the applications with older software versions. On the other hand, Forward compatibility testing means testing the application on newer and beta software versions.

Localization Testing

We do localization testing to ensure that the application is responsive to specific geographical aspects. Some areas that localization testing validates are currency, time zone, formats, local regulations, language, etc.

Installation Testing

We do installation testing to verify that the mobile application can install and uninstall correctly with the proper interface in all possible device configurations. It is necessary to ensure that the updates to that application are seamless and error-free.

Mobile Application Testing Checklist

As discussed above, there are numerous types of mobile application testing techniques that you can use to test your apps. However, it’s difficult to come up with the right set of tests for your use cases. You can refer to the checklist below to decide the best suitable testing technique for your app.

  1. Do you want to test your mobile application manually or use an automation testing tool? Testing applications manually can be quite tedious, especially when they are repetitive in nature. These tests can be easily automated with state-of-the-art automated testing tools that are currently available in the market.
  2. Do you want to use real devices or test your applications on emulators and simulators? We know there are thousands of mobile devices each with different configurations. It is quite impossible to test each feature in a set of all these devices. Combining automation testing with simulators helps you save a lot of time and effort. Automation testing tools have 1000s of real devices hosted on the cloud where you can simulate user actions easily.

Here are the following checks necessary when you test any mobile application.

  1. We should test the performance of the application across different OS versions, such as Android (8.0, 9.0, etc.) and iOS (all major versions).
  2. The test should cover both portrait and landscape screen orientations.
  3. We should test the robustness of the mobile application when operating on specific settings.
  4. The test should also cover compatibility checks with sensors like GPS, gyroscope, etc.
  5. Finally, all the mobile application features, such as GUI components like buttons, dropdowns, etc., must also be tested.

What is Web Application Testing?

Web application testing is the process of testing the website for potential bugs or any other unwanted issues before we release it to the end users. Most businesses still prefer web applications that can run on browsers on desktop as well as mobile devices. This allows them to provide seamless user interaction on their most-used devices.

Similar to mobile application testing, there are different aspects of web application testing as well. When we test a web application, we must ensure it meets the functional requirements. More than that, it should be able to meet the performance benchmarks, should not be prone to security leaks, and must be compatible with all possible browser configurations.

A testing plan for a website should at least include a test strategy, objectives, and approach. It should also have a set of well-defined test cases and test suites and an environment where the tests need to be executed. Moreover, the testers should be able to automate the repetitive web application test cases to save time and effort.

Types of Web Application Testing

There are 6 main types of web application testing. This set of tests will ensure that your web application is bug-free and not prone to any security or performance issues once released to the end users.

Functionality Testing

We do functionality testing of a website to validate the functionality of the features that will be released. This involves testing the interface and also validating whether the features work according to the business requirements. Some examples of functionality tests on a website include testing for broken links in the web pages, cookie testing, business workflow, design of the website, etc.

Usability Testing

A small group of end-users or target audiences usually carry out usability testing. They carry out tests on different sections of the website for their ease of access and whether these features meet their objectives or not. This includes testing the menu bars, buttons, login/logout, etc.

Interface Testing

Interface testing allows us to test the connection between the 3 main components of a website architecture – the front-end UI, the backend server, and the database. The users should be able to correctly send requests from the web pages through the web browsers. The backend server should correctly fetch these requests in the right format and with the right payload. The APIs then execute these requests and send a query to the database if required. The database should be able to correctly fetch the information and send it to the API, which will display it to the user.

Compatibility Testing

Compatibility tests allow us to ensure that our web application works perfectly across all combinations of device configurations. The browser compatibility tests check that the application works correctly in different browsers and that the AJAX, authentication, JavaScript, etc., works as expected. The rendering of elements like text, buttons, menus, headers, footers, images, etc., should work well in various combinations of operating systems and browsers.

Performance Testing

If you are expecting huge traffic on your website, then performance testing will allow you to ensure that your web application works under enormous loads. It checks the following things.

  1. The response time of the web application under different network connection speeds.
  2. Performs load tests to determine the behavior of the application under peak and normal loads.
  3. Stress tests to find out the breaking point of the website when tested under huge loads in peak hours.
  4. The recovery event of the website when it crashes.
  5. To check load time with optimization techniques like cache, gzip compressions, etc.

Security Testing

For websites that store vital information from the end-users like transaction details, login information, etc., it’s indispensable to perform security testing to avoid data leaks.

  1. We should avoid unauthorized access to pages that are secured.
  2. Files that are marked as restricted should not be available publicly.
  3. We should also test the auto-killing of the inactive or prolonged sessions.
  4. With SSL certificates, they should be redirected to encrypted pages.

Difference between Mobile Application Testing and Web Application Testing

The difference between mobile application testing vs web application testing boils down to their purpose, intended users, and complexity.

In web application testing, we test our websites for functionality, usability, and quality across different OS, browsers, and versions. On the other hand, in mobile application testing, we verify whether or not the mobile application works as intended across thousands of mobile device configurations.

Therefore, it is essential that both these types of applications perform up to the benchmark and are bug-free. Ultimately, it all comes down to providing a seamless user experience and retaining the end users. Having discussed this, let’s dive deep into the basic differences between mobile application testing vs web application testing.

Mobile Application Testing VS Web Application Testing

Mobile Application Testing Web Application Testing
Developing and testing responsive mobile applications, especially for devices with small resolutions like mobile phones and tablets, is difficult. Developing and testing responsive web applications for larger screen resolutions is relatively easier.
Due to the complexity of mobile applications and the involvement of many components, it’s challenging to test mobile applications.  Testing web applications is relatively easier. 
We need to test the mobile applications on a combination of different device configurations like OS (iOS and Android), resolutions, hardware configurations, OEMs, etc. Web applications must be tested across different browser versions and OS combinations.
Mobile applications that consume a lot of power and drain battery are not well-received by end users. Hence, the testing teams must test the applications on fully-charged and drained mobile devices. There is no such constraint for testing web applications as it depends solely on the browser.
The testing team needs to consider the interaction of the devices with user actions such as gestures, voice, noise, etc. This is due to the number of features that smartphones provide the users to interact with different applications.  Web browsers do not offer many options to interact and even if they do, users preferably use mouse and keyboard control to access web applications. Hence, the scope of testing is less.
Nowadays, mobile applications are also accessible via peripheral devices connected to the mobile such as fitness trackers, smart watches, medical devices like pacemakers, etc. Hence, they need to be tested on these devices as well.  Web applications are mostly accessed on browsers. Other peripheral devices include webcams, controllers, etc. However, they are not used on a large scale.
Some popular tools and frameworks for mobile application testing are – Testsigma, Appium, Xamarin, Espresso, XCUITest, Robotium, etc. Commonly used web application testing tools are – Selenium, WebLoad, devtools in browsers, Acunetix, etc. 

Frameworks for Mobile Application Testing

There are a lot of frameworks and tools that you can use to perform mobile application testing currently in the market. However, not all the tools will suit your requirements. The key to deciding the best framework to test your mobile application is to check whether the tool allows you to perform specific tests.

For example, an automated mobile testing framework should allow you to test your application across thousands of mobile device configurations such as OS, browsers, network bandwidth, OS upgrades, security protocols, etc.

Let’s check out the most popular tools and frameworks for mobile application testing.

Testsigma

Testsigma is an open source test automation platform that allows you to perform mobile application testing on 2000+ mobile device configurations hosted on the cloud. This revolutionary platform enables you to create test cases using simple natural language, thus eliminating the need to code complex test cases. After executing the test cases, you can generate a complete, exhaustive report of the test run which helps you to spot the bugs quickly.

Appium

Appium is another popular open-source test automation framework. You can use it to test native, hybrid, as well as mobile web applications. It uses WebDriver protocol to drive Android, iOS, and windows applications. You can use it to simulate user actions on mobile applications making it a versatile and efficient testing tool.

XCUITest

XCUITest is a part of XCode. It is fast, intuitive, reliable, mature, and easy to maintain. Since it runs directly from the XCode IDE, it becomes easier for developers to test their applications on the fly. Due to the architecture of this framework, the test executions for iOS devices are faster than any other generic test automation framework.

Espresso

Developed by Google, Espresso is a testing framework to test the UI of any mobile application. You can perform both black-box and white box testing during the development lifecycle. It is a robust testing tool to test both native as well as hybrid mobile applications. It allows you to create test cases using Java or Kotlin, the most popular languages for developing mobile applications. The API is predictable, small, and very easy to learn but also allows customization.

Robotium

Robotium is yet another open-source and free mobile application testing framework. We mainly use it for testing Android applications using simple test automation scripts. You can easily construct system, function, and acceptability testing scenarios spanning over a broad range of Android activities.

Selendroid

It is an Android-based testing framework that allows you to test both native as well as hybrid mobile applications. Some important features of Selendroid are full compatibility with JSON wire protocol, testing using built-in Android driver WebView, using different locator types to find elements, gesture support, hot plugging of hardware devices, etc.

Running Mobile Application Testing in Testsigma

Testsigma is a no-code test automation framework that allows you to create test cases in plain English. It provides access to more than 2000+ real iOS and Android devices, simulators, and emulators. It allows you to perform parallel test runs, integrates your test suites with CI/CD pipelines, generates exhaustive test reports, and much more.

Performing UI tests on mobile applications with Testsigma is very easy and can be done in 3 simple steps.

You can create a project and upload your application in the Testsigma lab, a dedicated device cloud with thousands of real devices. Besides, it offers other cloud solutions, such as SauceLabs, BrowserStack, etc.

Mobile application testing vs web application testing
Upload Application to Testsigma Lab

The next step is to create test cases and test suites. You can easily write automated test cases using plain simple English. You can select a user action from a list of multiple pre-defined user actions, such as tapping a button, clicking a link, etc.

Mobile application testing vs web application testing
Create Test Steps in Testsigma

The next step is to select the device types and environment and execute the test cases. You can select multiple combinations of OS versions and device types.

Select OS and Device Types in Testsigma
Select OS and Device Types in Testsigma

As soon as you run the execution, you can get a customized run report including videos, screenshots, and logs of the run.

Test Report
Test Report

Frameworks for Web Application Testing

Automated web application testing can reduce your testing time and effort by a great margin, especially if there are a lot of repetitive tasks involved. There are a plethora of testing tools and frameworks available to automate your web application testing. These tools allow you to simulate user actions on your UI elements.

Let’s take a look at some of the most popular web application testing tools.

Selenium

Selenium is an open-source, automated web application testing framework. You can test your web application across a variety of browsers, OS, and other platforms. It supports popular programming languages like Python, Java, C#, Ruby, etc. It is intuitive, flexible, and robust, and allows you to create good test coverage on your application.

Cypress

It is another popular developer-friendly and open-source front-end automated testing tool. It’s very easy to install with no extra code changes or dependencies. You can write your tests easily and watch them execute as you build your code. You can also debug your test cases easily, and with built-in parallelization and load-balancing, it’s a lot faster. Other features include test recording, dashboarding, logging, etc.

Playwright

Playwright allows us to perform reliable end-to-end testing of modern web applications. It supports all popular rendering engines like Firefox, Chromium, WebKit, etc. You can test your web apps using Playwright on Windows, Linux, and macOS locally or on CI. Moreover, you can use the Playwright API with popular languages like Python, Java, .Net, JavaScript, etc. Other features include auto-wait, web-first assertion, and tracing.

Puppeteer

Puppeteer is a node package that uses a high-level API to control headless Chromium or Chrome. You can use it to automate the chrome browser to execute tests on a website. It is an automation tool used for cases such as scraping, PDF generation, etc. It uses the Chrome DevTools protocol. Its most important features are screenshot testing, web scraping, easy automation, and performance testing.

TestCafe

TestCafe is an open-source end-to-end Node.js tool used to test web applications. It is a cross-platform tool, which means that it works on all major operating systems. It does not require a WebDriver or any other testing software. With TestCafe, you don’t have to use cumbersome boilerplate expressions or insert manual timeouts.

Accelerate Web Application Testing using Testsigma

Testsigma allows you to perform automated cross-browser compatibility testing for both mobile and web applications. With Testsigma, you can perform scriptless Cross Browser Compatibility Testing on more than 2000+ real mobile and desktop browsers hosted on the cloud. You can leverage the platform to run multiple browser sessions on multiple device platforms in the cloud.

Here are a few features of Testsigma that make it the perfect tool to accelerate your web application testing.

  • You have immediate access to thousands of real desktops and mobile browser versions. It frees you from the hassles of infrastructure management and licenses of OS, testing software, platforms, etc.
Cross-browser testing with Testsigma
Cross-browser testing with Testsigma
  • For teams following agile methodologies, it provides continuous integration with the deployment pipelines. Using the left-shift approach, you can easily integrate Testsigma with all the popular CI/CD tools like GitLab, AWS, Jenkins, etc. It provides a robust API that allows you to manage and trigger the Test Case Executions.
Integrate Testsigma with CI/CD pipelines
Integrate Testsigma with CI/CD pipelines
  • It allows you to generate comprehensive test reports, debug logs, video recordings, screenshots, etc. This helps you to spot bugs quickly and analyze your test results.
Test Results in Testsigma
Test Results in Testsigma

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Conclusion

To sum up, testing is a crucial part of the delivery process of any application, be it a mobile or desktop web application. With the availability of a plethora of devices with multiple configurations, testing the robustness of an application on all these platforms is quite a hectic task. Hence, switching over to an automated testing solution will save you a lot of time, effort, and cost.

To ensure a bug-free product, you must test your application in all possible device configurations that the end users commonly use. New-age automated tools like Testsigma and others provide a complete solution with thousands of real devices hosted on cloud.

Hence, you need to choose wisely before you invest in any automated testing tool so that it has all the features and appropriate support that your application needs.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the skills required for mobile application and web application testing?

To test any application, the tester must have these basic skills to ensure that the final product meets the business requirements and benchmarks. S/he should have a deep understanding of the features to be developed, should be able to choose the right testing tool, and automate the testing as much as possible. This is possible with the ability to write automation scripts and set up proper test environments.

Why do we need mobile testing?

If we don’t test our mobile applications thoroughly, chances are high that the users will encounter issues when the applications are released. These issues can be as simple as a small unnoticed bug and can be as critical as performance, installation, security issues, etc. This will lead to bad user experiences, and the organization loses its revenue along with potential customers.

Is mobile testing easy?

The mobile applications that are developed these days are quite complex, with a lot of features packed into the application. Additionally, there are thousands of mobile devices with different hardware configurations, OS versions, platforms, screen sizes, features, etc. Testing a mobile application for each of these possible scenarios is quite difficult and time-consuming. However, using test automation platforms, such as Testsigma, testing mobile apps is a breeze!


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