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Benefits of mobile app A/B testing for developers

Mobile app A/B testing is the best way to prevent buggy features from reaching your users. Learn the benefits and discover how to get started with the process.

Whoever said the old adage "a watched pot never boils" was not an app developer. A good mobile developer knows to thoroughly test and monitor apps, and mobile app A/B testing can ease that process.

In app development, A/B testing is the practice of segmenting out app components such as pages, user interfaces or features and comparing the different versions to determine which approach works best.

Mobile app A/B testing enables developers to experiment with user-facing features in production. With A/B testing, developers can release new features or change existing ones in a controlled manner while measuring their effect on the app's key performance indicators (KPIs). Developers can even release several alternative implementations of a single feature to find out which works best.

A/B testing is the safest way to release new features because it continuously monitors an application's KPIs. When developers combine these two factors, they get complete visibility into an app's health and performance with the ability to roll back unsatisfactory features in almost real time.

A/B testing also reduces the risks associated with the release of new functionalities. If developers accidentally release a feature with bugs, mobile app A/B testing data will alert them that something is wrong so they can roll the feature back quickly. This enables organizations to have a faster release cycle.

Benefits of A/B testing in enterprise mobile apps

With consumer apps, organizations can easily identify metrics such as the user sign-up rate for A/B testing. For enterprise apps, however, many of those metrics will be irrelevant. For example, organizations usually require employees to download apps for work, so the sign-up rate will be 100%. In addition, all enterprise users should be active on a weekly basis.

Developers can use KPIs to A/B test with enterprise apps. For example, developers can track the average daily scans on a QR app or the average time between application launch and the first scan.

In-house A/B testing seems relatively simple in theory, but it is very challenging in practice.

It can be costly for organizations to release a buggy feature. For example, if developers release a feature that increases single scan flow duration by just two seconds and the organization's employees do 100,000 scans a day, then the organization will lose 55 hours per day. That's equal to seven employees stopping production output for the company. Although it might not be critical in the context of a larger enterprise, releasing bad features does cost a lot of money and is easily avoidable.

The benefits of mobile app A/B testing do not extend to offline applications, however. A/B testing is grounded in the continuous tracking of metrics and remote features management, so it can't work without an internet connection.

Tools for mobile app A/B Testing

A variety of mature SaaS platforms, such as Firebase or Mixpanel, can ease the process of A/B testing. If IT policies prevent the use of third-party SaaS platforms for A/B testing, however, organizations will need to implement a platform in-house.

A/B testing
A/B testing enables developers to try out different mobile app features.

In-house A/B testing seems relatively simple in theory, but it is very challenging in practice. It's not difficult for developers to implement remote features management in their apps and back end.

Remote features management is the ability for developers to remotely control the features of their application, typically through a dashboard in a third-party SaaS platform such as Mixpanel or Firebase. When developers change some parameters in the dashboard, the platform applies different configurations to individual installs of the application. This way, you can change the behavior of the application features after it's already installed on end users' devices remotely without a need to update the app.

The core of A/B testing is not features management, however, but data processing. The algorithms that gather analytics, control A/B tests and interpret the results are very important.

Developers should investigate open source analytics and A/B testing platforms, such as Matomo and Wasabi. These tools take care of the difficult parts of A/B testing, and developers can self-host them on your servers.

This was last published in September 2018

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