Today almost 34% of consumers in the US own a tablet of some kind and 43% of those users spend more time on their tablet then a desktop according to a study by Google Inc.
In my mind this data reinforces that fact that companies need to have an amazing mobile/tablet application to have any hope of surviving in the growing mobile market place.
Experts agree that the most important area to start when creating these apps is: Ease of Use. So you ask yourself, how do we do that?
Make sure searching is very obvious and easy: Just like with all good web applications, users need to be able to search and find things very easily. The suggestions are to put the search box at the top of the screen with both a "magnifying glass" and the word "search" to let the users know they can type a query in there.
Be "Big" on browsing: Tablets are not much heavier than most magazines, and many users use their tablets in the same way they would page through a magazine. Focus should be on images and minimal navigation options so they don't take up much space. Also allowing users to enlarge images by tapping or stretching their fingers and offering visual signs such as arrows to notify users that there is more content available.
Minimize the need for typing: Although it is easier to type on a tablet then a mobile phone, it still is not the way most users interact with their tablets. Focus on collecting information that is only "absolutely" necessary and consider using multiple choice questions to reduce the amount of typing required. Another great point is to increase the entry field size to make the form field boxes large enough to tap. The same should go for buttons, increase the size so they fit the larger tip of a finger.
Now that we know what areas of your tablet apps should be designed in, we can talk about hot spots for testing these types of apps.
Usability should be your top concern: If users do not find your app intuitive, have trouble finding features or simply don't like the layout, it can drive them away very quickly or worse drive up costs by calling your call centers asking questions. Colors, layouts, imagery, etc can have negative impacts on the overall user experience. Of course this becomes a more of a exploratory testing exercise because no automation tool can provide this "usability" experience information.
Load Capacity is highly critical: Many companies have learned hard lessons when an unexpected (or expected) level of load negatively impacts their apps. With today's consumers ability to Blog/Facebook/Tweet about such negative experiences, a company can see a hugh inconvenience with an app that is sluggish or worse completely crashes. There are studies that show once a user experiences such an issue, they will not come back to your app. Using a "Hybrid" model for doing load testing gives you a clearer picture of how an app performs under pressure. This "hybrid" model allows you to do manual functional testing while the app is under a heavy synthetic old. A typical load test will not tell you if a user "feels" your app being slow.
In comes, "Testing in the Wild". This is a concept that started with the DevOps movement but really has been expanded with 3rd party companies that provide "crowd source testing". By providing an application that can be instrumented and monitored in production, I argue that monitoring this real data will provide teams with more insight and actionable information than traditional pass/fail test cases. I have worked with teams that have huge automated and manual regression suites and they still release with defects found by customers. I realize that tablet apps are arguably harder to do this type of testing in production because release cycles are dependent on Apple and Google. However there are creative ways to install and release beta versions of your apps to specific users that you have worked out agreements to provide detailed information and not go to their social network and ruin your brand.
I consider "Testing in the Wild" an extremely viable option for both web and mobile/tablet testing and you should too.