Whether you’re working on an early proof of concept, or a beta of an Android app used by hundreds of millions of people around the world, the ability to get your app in the hands of testers is a critical part of the product development cycle. Being able to quickly iterate, distribute, measure, and learn is the best way to create a great app your users love. Staying in the know about crashes in your app and being able to collect feedback on what your users do and don’t like is equally important to the success of your app. In this post you learn about the new improvement of our distribution feature and how you can easily get your app in the hands of your testers, engage them, automate your workflow with integration to the Google Play Store, and more.
Go from APK to a Tester’s Device, FAST
Getting started with Visual Studio App Center is easy. There are no hidden steps, no obscure technicalities, and no SDK requirements. Simply create a distribution group, invite testers using their email address, and distribute your build. It’s that easy (and it can be even easier, which we’ll discuss next!).
It all starts with organizing testers into distribution groups. You can make a distribution group for your internal QA team, alpha testers, beta testers, and so on. App Center lets you create any combination of private and public distribution groups as well; the possibilities are endless. For the scenario below, I've chosen to create Alpha, Beta (internal), and beta (public) tester groups for one of my apps. These groups allow me to get my app into different groups at various stages in my release cycle. I usually start by distributing a release to my alpha testers group and after I've verified that the release is functional, I send the release to my internal beta testers group, then ultimately my public beta testers group. The following picture shows my three custom distribution groups.
App Center allows for both private and public distribution groups. The fastest method of delivering your builds to a tester’s device would be through using a public distribution group, as it allows you to completely skip the tester email retrieval process. You no longer need to collect emails from testers to distribute your releases. Creating a public distribution group generates a link that can be distributed to testers freely and quickly. Using just that link, they’re directed to our installation portal and can download your app on their devices. We understand there are cases where you don't want your release to be publicly distributed, instead being made available to certain individuals, which is why private distribution groups are created. By adding an individual’s email address to a private group, they receive an email every time a new release is available, which can be downloaded by that user. All in all, regardless of the route you choose, the release will be immediately available to your testers.
How to Engage your Testers for the Best Outcomes
As we all know, testers are an integral part of any successful app. As developers, we must ask ourselves “how do we remove all barriers so testers can quickly test our app?” The answer is simple: by providing both you and your testers with a delightful, intuitive, and streamlined distribution work flow.
One integral part of this is in-app updates. In-app updates enable your testers to easily stay up to date with the latest releases. Without in-app updates, testers would have to rely on emails or the installation portal to see new releases, but in-app updates simplifies this and allows testers to easily update the app whenever you decide to distribute a new release. Enabling it presents testers with a native update dialogue that allows them to easily update the app whenever you distribute a release. All you must do is add the App Center distribute module to your app and enable it. It’s a painless process and we have easy to follow documentation that will guide you every step of the way.
Visual Distribution Statistics and Insights
The more your testers engage with your app, the more data and insights you can learn from their usage. Our distribution statistics dashboard enables you to learn more about the metrics and overall release engagement for your apps.
Learning from your testers is so important and we have made it a goal to help ease that process with this feature. As you can see in the above image, we provide statistics such as daily sessions, session duration, and app downloads that allow you to gauge how your testers are using your app. This allows you to stay on top of your metrics and take a deep dive into how your users are interacting with your app. This can lead to very useful insights on your tester's usage.
We've just recently released our Android HockeyApp tester app to give you the power of the App Center installation portal in a simple and easy to use native app and to also aid in app discoverability for new testers. The App Center installation portal allows testers to see the different apps that are available to download, details about those apps, release notes, various organizations their account is a member of, and other useful account information. Our Android app gives testers all this functionality with the added benefit of downloading all your releases directly from the apps page on their devices.
With App Center, your testers can get up and running with your app in a few clicks. Our Tester App aims to make the process of distributing a beta build seem familiar to all types of testers in an effort to get your testers using your apps and to also reduce churn. We aim to alleviate the hiccups in app distribution and to allow testers to focus on the only thing that's important: testing. You can get started with the Tester App by downloading it directly from the store.
Automate your Workflow with Integration to the Google Play Store
App Center distribution strives to allow you to easily and quickly get your builds into the hands of your users, whether they’re testers on your QA team or they’re real customers downloading your app from the Google Play store. We aim to help you every step of the way. We hope this post serves as a guide on how you can streamline your workflow using App Center distribution.