Another Black Friday has come and gone, and the final count down to Christmas is here. But while some people are opening their advent calendars, others are fixing bugs.
Unlike previous years, Black Friday 2019 had almost zero website crashes in the UK, showing a significant rise in the amount of website testing being done before peak events. But it wasn't plain sailing for all of us. NatWest, unfortunately, experienced an app crash with users being unable to access their account, and some even 'losing' their money in transit as their bank account showed the dreaded £0.00 total.
Consequently, customers took to Twitter to voice their frustrations and contact help teams hoping to find a solution to the problem.
The app era
It's been just over a decade since apps were introduced to the public and in 2019, it's hard to imagine a world without our mobile phones or the apps on them. In fact, stats show 54% of people living in the UK would find it difficult to be without their phone for more than 2 days. Looking at this globally, 500 million people visit the Apple App Store every week, with 1 billion downloading a game from the App Store.
Evidently, there is a huge consumer need for apps that organise our lives, finances and make our day to day activities easier. In the UK, online banking apps, such as NatWest's app, have steadily grown in popularity due to convenience and the increase of store branches closing due to the infamous 'high street apocalypse'. On average, 6.4 billion Great Britain pounds are transferred every week through online banking apps and the internet, with a further 14.7 million banking apps for mobile and tablet being downloaded every year.
Why did the NatWest app crash?
This year Black Friday took place on the last Friday of the month and for many workers, this meant their accounts would be topped up the same day the sales began. For many shoppers, Black Friday would signify the start of their Christmas shopping, and users took to the digital world to bag that unmissable deal.
For online banking apps, this meant money would be transferred across accounts up to 50 times more than usual pushing apps to their absolute maximum.
In the case of NatWest, the app appeared to be unable to cope with the level of transactions happening across the UK and unfortunately crashed, producing bugs as it went down. NatWest, however, isn't alone. This year the National Lottery's app also experienced an app crash ahead of the huge EuroMillions £165 million jackpot event. App users were encouraged to head to the website to complete transactions and maximise their chances of winning, as the website could cope with high levels of traffic and conversions.
How does website testing prevent app crashes?
Just like websites, apps require the same amount of testing to ensure seamless user experiences. For apps dealing with large amounts of traffic or conversions, load or stress testing is often conducted to simulate peak levels of activity, and to help internal teams work out how the app will behave when under pressure.
Although load and stress testing are similar in many ways, depending upon the goal you want to achieve through testing, one will be more suitable than the other. Load testing is a safer version of stress testing, as it simulates large amounts of users logging into an app and performing conversions on key customer journeys to find bugs that are produced due to high traffic levels. Load testing is useful for businesses during Black Friday or other key calendar events dependent on the industry, as the results can be exactly true to life when using a community testing team with real human testers on real devices.
App stress testing, on the other hand, pushes an app until it effectively crashes or breaks to test the exact level of activity the app can cope with. Although useful, if performed incorrectly stress testing can cause more problems than it solves and should be performed during development to prevent any critical damage to security, being potentially dangerous to users and their sensitive information.
Both forms of testing aim to increase the security and stability of an app, and for companies like NatWest which deal with sensitive user information on a daily basis, app testing is a blessing in disguise.