We’ve all been there before. You’re watching the most exciting moment of the season finale of your favorite show when the video freezes. Or maybe the application crashes, or the audio drops out, or there’s a connection issue that prevents you from opening the app in the first place. In that moment, these small annoyances of the digital world are the most frustrating thing imaginable.
The content providers, developers, and QA testers behind streaming video apps feel that frustration too. In an ideal world, every video would be delivered perfectly whenever you press play. In reality, it has never been more complicated.
Let’s consider a single streaming app, like Netflix or Hulu. They are available on dozens of different platforms, such as iOS, Android, Smart TVs, Fire Sticks, gaming consoles, and more, which are then deployed all over the world on a wide variety of different networks. They use dozens of different frameworks, involving dozens of different companies and partners. How could a single app developer possibly test the performance on every single set-up?
The same can be said for user interactions. Just last month, an unprecedented number of viewers tuned in to a major streaming platform to watch a live premiere, crashing the app for thousands of users. With so many factors to consider, how can streaming video providers properly prepare?
The Importance of Quality of Experience
It’s essential for content providers to measure the Quality of Experience (QoE) that their customers receive at home. Simply testing the quality of the videos that are stored on their servers isn’t enough. Ensuring a high QoE for viewers across every platform they use is the best way to stand out from the competition and retain customers.
Maintaining a high QoE requires testing and monitoring. QA teams test new software releases around the clock to ensure that updates launch with as few bugs as possible. After a software release, monitoring video performance across all available platforms and networks is equally important. Even with unlimited resources, accomplishing these goals solely through manual work would be a huge challenge. This is why automated testing and proactive monitoring are so crucial.
A Universal Approach
Automated testing allows developers and their teams to program testing scenarios and view the results in real time. Automated technology can interact with software in the same way as human users, allowing teams to systematize certain aspects of their workflow and remain agile, while focusing more manual effort on pain points.
A major benefit of using test automation is the ability to test more platforms simultaneously. If a QA team is testing a new software release on a Set-Top Box, they can simultaneously run automated tests to see how the same software performs on Smart TVs, mobile devices, and web browsers – thus ensuring consistent performance quality across every device. Knowing how each software release affects each specific platform is invaluable.
Automated testing is also valuable for replicating user behavior in ways that human testers cannot. It’s difficult to manually test how a video streaming app is performing after fifteen hours of continuous use or constant channel changes. This type of usage is inevitable when the software is widely released. Automated testing helps cover the stress, endurance, and performance testing that is impossible to accomplish manually.
This approach also allows teams to better divide their focus. When technology is tackling the most tedious and taxing parts of the workflow, team members can turn their efforts to the more hands-on aspects of testing. In other words, operators are achieving results around the clock – even while the team is sleeping – and resources are used more efficiently throughout the process.
Proactive monitoring technology uses a similar approach to measure QoE on publicly available software: It can run on physical devices located in any market you are testing. Using unique algorithms, it analyzes video streams in real time and assesses them on the same criteria as a human user would.
Proactive monitoring is particularly helpful in the event of a service disruption or interruption. The technology can immediately send alerts that an asset is not available or that the streaming quality has dipped, allowing video operations teams to resolve this before customers even notice. This reduces the usual time and resources it would take to identify, and then fix, an issue. Staying proactive is the best defense in combatting service interruptions.
Work More Efficiently, Not More Hours
Maintaining a high QoE for your customers isn’t easy, but it’s the key to long-term success. Teams working on video streaming content can stay agile by relying on automated testing and proactive monitoring. It allows operators to divide resources more effectively to ensure their software runs well on a wide variety of platforms and networks.
Remember that feeling of frustration when the perfect video moment was ruined by an app crash? How different it would have been if everything had gone smoothly. Test automation and proactive monitoring help streaming video providers get closer to that goal and work more efficiently along the way.