The focus on non-functional testing has increased manifold since the evolution of mobile applications. This is a welcome change for software engineers as well as end users, where the right balance is struck between functional and non-functional engineering elements. In the non-functional space, usability and accessibility are areas of growing significance in the mobile application testing world. With over ten percent of the world’s population living with some form of disability and this population being increasingly technology and mobile computing savvy, these two attributes have become important in distinguishing an application from another.
Specific to accessibility testing on mobile devices, the areas to focus include:
Functionality – accessibility cannot be viewed in isolation to other attribute of a product. Functional accessibility deals with how the application is both functional and accessible (usable by one and all)
Mobile Context – Mobile computing context extends to areas such as geo-positioning and targeting, how relevant recommendations are given to end users etc. However in the context of accessibility it deals with how the assistive tools are able to work in cohesion with the mobile context
Rendering and Use On Devices – Mobile rendering continues to be a challenge even when seen outside the scope of accessibility. When see with accessibility in view, how usable are the apps to users of varied disabilities should also be taken into account.
Data Entry Methods – Again, while a mobile device brings in its own data entry methods in addition to the basic ones from the desktop computing world, this is further extended when we talk about mobile accessibility with inputs coming in from assistive tools as well. It is important to test for all of these modes to ensure complete coverage.
Multimodality – This refers to communication coming in from varied sources to make meaningful recommendations and references not just for the regular users but also for the differently abled users.
While typical standards and guidelines such as WCAG and Sec 508 lay out what should be covered and included in the scope of accessible design and engineering, most organizations are only now beginning to incorporate them in the mobile computing world. With the regular challenges of testing in the mobile setup including smaller screen size and resolution, the engineering team should focus not just on responsive web design but also responsive accessible web design as bringing in fixes down the line are quite expensive. At the end of the day, accessibility testing is a science and an art and these will have to be effectively extended to the mobile application space too, if an application needs to win and retain its user base in the marketplace.