mo·bile – adjective
- Able to move or be moved freely or easily.
- Of or relating to cellular phones, handheld computers, and similar technology.
To be mobile means to have the ability to move or be moved freely or easily. Therefore, when you create an application for a mobile device, it should work while the user moves around from place to place.
Now, this might sound simple — make sure the application works on the device and you’re good, right? Wrong. There is much, much more to get a mobile application to perform well.
As Cartegraph Test Engineers, it’s our job to make sure applications work as users expect them to. However, when it comes to mobile applications, we have to consider all the factors that a field professional will have to deal with while being mobile out on the road. The best way to tackle this is to become the field professionals.
Take Cartegraph for iPad, for example. Will field professionals be using it in the office? They may be at times, but the majority of the time they’ll be out traveling and working in the field, where their assigned Tasks are located. After all, that’s why the solution was built!
To help us understand what Cartegraph for iPad needed to do, we went out to the field and play out real-life fieldwork scenarios, putting the application through its paces, logging any issues we encountered, and then returning to fix anything we ran into. This became known as “mobile testing.” Around this same time, I had the opportunity to participate in some “Mobile Application Testing” training, where I learned everything there was to know about testing applications on mobile devices.
Understanding all the factors that play into the user experience of a mobile application allowed us to look at Cartegraph for iPad from the perspective of the mobile field professional who will rely on the application for receiving Tasks, inspecting Assets, tracking labor, equipment, and materials, and anything else that is needed to complete each Task.
- If it’s sunny outside, how will the glare on the iPad’s glass affect the visibility of the app?
- Do the colors of the buttons still make them recognizable?
- What if it’s cloudy? How does everything look then?
- What if I’m down in a valley in a “dead spot” and don’t get a mobile connection?
- Does the app respond in a way that is helpful to the user?
- Are error messages that are presented helpful and clear to someone who is non-technical?
- What if the field professionals have large calloused fingers from doing construction work? Are the buttons large and far enough apart that they are still able to hit just one button at a time rather than accidentally hitting multiple buttons?
We also kept in mind that different users use the iPad in different ways, prompting us to consider another layer of perspective:
- Does the app adjust and work the exact same way when you switch the device’s orientation?
- Is the UI and responsiveness consistent between all the various iPads we support?
- What about a non-retina screen vs. a retina screen?
- Do you get visual feedback that things are loading?
Through good training, countless hours spent on the road conducting mobile testing, and time spent answering questions like these, we were able to make Cartegraph for iPad simple, intuitive, beautiful, and easy to navigate – exactly the way a mobile application should be.
One quote that really stuck with me from the training I attended is this: “People would rather use an application that has great usability with not as many features over an application that has very poor usability with a lot of features.”
The Cartegraph for iPad app provides the best of both worlds – great usability and it is packed with features that allow field professionals to more efficiently get their work done. I can say I am very proud that I played a part in offering such a high-quality application to our users.