What is crowdsourced testing?

In recent years, the growth of mobile apps has exploded. It seems there’s now an app for almost every aspect of our lives, from work, to leisure, and everything in between. In this highly-competitive market, fast and effective software testing is more vital than ever.

Companies need to be able to launch high-quality, bug-free, user-friendly software as quickly as possible. They use a rigorous quality assurance (QA) testing process to validate a new product’s reliability, security, and accessibility.

But with the sheer number of devices, operating systems, and browsers available, traditional testing just isn’t up to the job. A faster and more cost-effective method of QA testing is required—and that’s where crowdsourced testing comes in.

What is crowdsourced testing?

Crowdsourced testing, also known as crowdtesting, is a fresh approach to QA. It combines human skills with technology to eliminate some of the problems involved in conventional testing.

Instead of carrying out testing within your organization, crowdsourcing uses a dispersed, temporary workforce of multiple individual testers. This on-demand community of testers is able to test mobile applications more quickly and effectively than an in-house team.

Crowdtesting offers companies an opportunity to have their products tested by real users on real devices across the globe, ensuring a customer-centric emphasis.

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Who’s involved in crowdtesting?

Crowdtesting involves a large number of testers based in different locations, meaning they are available 24/7. With a broader set of people conducting tests in a diverse range of conditions, it’s more likely that they will spot and fix any bugs.

However, crowd testers are not a replacement for in-house QA teams, who have invaluable product knowledge and alignment with company values and goals. The aim is to enhance existing capabilities by calling on crowdsourced testers to meet swings in demand.

Crowd testing companies such as Global App Testing will act as project managers for a team of crowd testers on behalf of your organization. They can also match professional testers to your key demographic, to get relevant user feedback throughout the product life cycle.

Why is it impossible for a tester to find all the bugs in a system?

A completely bug-free system or product is an ideal: that is, it cannot exist in the real world. Although skilled testers carry out comprehensive testing, it is literally impossible to achieve “complete” testing.

For one thing, you can’t test every single input or combination of inputs to a program, as the number of possible inputs is infinite. Testers can only select a small number of test cases, which may or may not reveal all the input-related bugs.

Neither can you test all potential paths through the program—nor test for all other potential failures, such as those caused by complex design issues or incomplete requirements analyses.

Plus, when the behavior of the system depends on the real world, it’s not feasible to recreate all possible environments. For example, even the most basic programs run on an operating system, and are therefore susceptible to bugs that may exist in that operating system.

However, by using crowdsourced testing, you have a better chance of picking up bugs—simply because there are more pairs of eyes to spot them.

It’s helpful to use methods such as exploratory testing (an approach that includes simultaneous learning, test design, and test execution) and regression testing (testing the whole app after making any new change, to check that it doesn’t disrupt pre-existing functionality).

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Crowdsourced vs. outsourced testing—what’s the difference?

There are some similarities between the two, so it’s not surprising that people sometimes get confused. Both methods help businesses carry out specialized tasks that would be too difficult or costly to complete in-house.

Outsourced testing means that you choose one third-party company to do all the testing for you. This company will take care of the whole process, from resource allocation to project management and feedback. Non-disclosure agreements to protect confidentiality are standard, which you may not get with crowdsourcing.

Crowdsourced testing, as discussed above, is performed by multiple individuals in different locations. It’s far more scalable than outsourcing, but you may have to handle the management side of things yourself. The main attraction is that testers are available on-demand and you don’t have the overheads associated with an office-based team.

Outsourced testers always get paid irrespective of their output, while crowd testers are generally paid according to the number of bugs they find.

 

Is crowdsourced testing right for your organization?

If your in-house QA team is struggling to find enough time for testing before a new product launch, then crowd testing could certainly benefit your organization. But it’s worth checking out all the pros and cons before you make the leap.

Crowdsourced testing is particularly good for enhancing smaller QA teams, as it brings in a more diverse range of people to give a fresh perspective and provide user feedback. Teams with irregular testing needs can use crowdsourcing to scale their testing capacity only when the need arises, such as ahead of a big release.

Companies with limited testing bandwidth can increase their test scope and coverage with crowdtesting, while using a crowdsourcing platform for repetitive QA tasks means resources are used more efficiently.

Meanwhile, it’s ideal for the later stages of development, when the product is too complex for an in-house team to cover all possible use cases.

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What are the advantages of crowdsourced tests?

Increasing the speed of testing is crucial when using software development practices such as continuous integration (CI) and continuous delivery or deployment (CD) to launch new apps and extra features.

As we mentioned earlier, crowdsourcing speeds up the workflow because there are far more testers working on the project, and they are available around the clock. This means they can deliver results much more quickly than in-house teams.

In-house testing involves recruiting, training, and onboarding staff, whereas crowd testers are primed and ready to start work as soon as you need them. This also saves you money, as you don’t have to worry about the costs of overheads, recruitment, training, holiday and sick pay, or pension schemes.

And because of its scalability, crowdsourcing is more flexible than other testing solutions like manual and automation testing. You can maintain a regular in-house team most of the time, then scale up with crowd testers any time the occasion demands.

Crowdsourced testing is also hot on quality. A wide network of testers is more likely to identify any problems, which could be otherwise overlooked because the in-house team is too close to the project. Crowd testers do not belong to an organization, so they are typically unbiased.

These days, companies have to test new apps, websites, and software as a service (SaaS) offerings across a huge range of devices (PCs, tablets, wearables, smart TVs, and appliances) and operating systems (Android, iOS, Windows, Linux). It goes without saying that you’ll get better device coverage by using a diverse set of testers.

This also makes crowdsourcing ideal for usability testing, leading to a better user experience (UX), and giving you that all-important feedback. By accessing a wider range of experiences and perspectives, you can ensure new software is fully relevant to your customer base.

Finally, crowdsourced testing involves individuals in various global locations, speaking a variety of languages—which is handy for translation and localization testing.

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What are the disadvantages of crowdsourced tests?

Of course, no form of testing is completely without its downsides. Probably the biggest one with crowdsourcing is the issue of confidentiality, which can be harder to maintain with a remote workforce.

It’s best to look for crowd testing services that provide assurances such as NDAs, but apps with a high level of security may not be so suitable for crowdsourced testing.

Another disadvantage might be the reliability of crowdsourced testers, which you should also check before agreeing to the hire. The dispersed nature of the testers can make it more difficult to maintain a constant and clear dialogue, which could lead to miscommunication or incomplete results.

Remember that you may also have to act as a project manager to corral the remote testers and ensure they are doing everything they’re meant to do. This would be simpler with an in-house QA team whose members are already familiar with working practices and the software itself.

Payment usually depends on the number of bugs found, so you need to make sure testers don’t prioritize quantity over quality. Where an in-house team is already part of the company culture, crowdsourced testers may not be so invested in the outcomes and goals.

Although there are clear advantages to using a remote workforce, you do have to pay attention to things like time zones and cultural differences when testers are spread across the world. It can be tricky to keep everyone on the same page without careful handling.

 

What is the process of crowdsourced testing?

If you’re going to use crowdsourced testing, you’ll need a clear plan for how the process is going to work. Define the project’s aims, set a budget, and choose whether you want to work directly or indirectly with your testers.

Crowdsourced testing companies like Global App Testing are the stress-free option, as they offer fully-managed or co-managed testing services. Or for a more hands-on approach, you might prefer to work directly with individual testers.

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Companies often ask potential crowd testers to fill out a profile detailing their experience, skill set, and qualifications. They may be asked to undertake a trial test to determine if they are suitable for a particular project.

Make sure you set out exactly what you expect your chosen crowd testers to do. Providing clear instructions and detailed test plans will help the process run smoothly—as will regular communication, which usually takes place through forums.

How does the testing work?

The aim is that crowdsourced testers will monitor project tasks, identify issues, and report bugs in real-time. In some models, the crowdsourced testing service will manage the testers, while in others the testers interact directly with the client to receive instructions and give feedback.

Many crowd testers use their own real devices and operating systems to mirror the actual devices, networks, and locations that will be used by the app’s eventual customers. Others may use device emulators or virtual machines, which can be effective in rapid automated testing for quick validation.

Via a testing platform, testers manually execute tests of the software as requested by the client. These can include exploratory testing, highly-specific functionality testing, and usability, localization, and compatibility testing. They use bug-tracking software such as Jira to identify problems.

Crowd testers then provide feedback on the software, usually including a list of bugs and defects found during the tests. They often use visuals like screenshots and videos to illustrate the problem.

Crowdsourced testing services like Global App Testing have an API that allows clients to integrate crowdtesting anywhere in the development process.

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Who uses crowdsourced testing?

Crowdsourced testing can be used for any kind of software, but is most often used in mobile and online apps, websites, and consumer software.

Customer-centric products that focus on user preferences are ideal for crowd testing, as you can ensure your software is usable by the highest number of consumers. Social media looks set to be harnessed for crowdsourced testing in the near future.

The method is used frequently in the gaming industry when specific testing is required, and it’s easier to find experts by casting the net wide. Crowd testers are also deployed in the fields of ecommerce, e-learning, and logistics.

Crowdsourcing isn’t just a way for smaller businesses to reduce costs—it is used by some of the world’s biggest tech companies. Mozilla is the most well-known organization built on crowdsourced testing and development, while Global App Testing counts Microsoft, Facebook, Canva, and Google among its clients.

Why crowdsourced testing will benefit your organization

Crowdsourced testing is a great way for software businesses to maximize efficiency, save money, and make sure they deliver a product that customers will love. Including potential end-users in the testing process helps to bridge the gap between developer and consumer.

By streamlining your QA testing, and bringing in extra hands as and when they’re needed, you’ll be free to focus on the other aspects of bringing a new app or website to market.

Before you get started, though, make sure you’re using experienced testers who understand what you’re trying to achieve. It’s well worth checking out crowdsourced testing companies who’ll take care of the recruitment and management for you.

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