Desktop Application Testing vs. Web Application Testing

Normally, desktop applications are developed by targeting a particular operating system and based on specific hardware requirements. To optimize the usage of a desktop application, the user has to install it on a particular operating system, and meet all hardware requirements. On the other hand, web applications can be accessed across different devices and operating systems through a browser. A large percentage of modern people even access websites and web applications on their mobile devices. Hence, an enterprise cannot adopt the same approach to test two distinct types of software. The QA team must make a comprehensive test plan by keeping in mind the major differences between desktop application testing and web application testing.

Key Differences between Desktop Application Testing and Web Application Testing

Targeted Device and Operating System:

As noted earlier, desktop applications are designed by targeting a particular operating system and based on specific hardware requirements. So the testers can easily assess all aspects of the application thoroughly by using a particular operating system and a single computer or workstation. However, many companies nowadays launch different versions of the same desktop application for multiple platforms. So the testers need to test the desktop application using different combinations of operating systems and computers. On the other hand, each web application needs to run flawlessly on each browser, device and operating system. The testers must test the application across major browsers, devices and operating systems.

Number of Users:

Each desktop application can be used by a single user at a time. So the testers are not required to assess the performance of a desktop application under different loads. On the other hand, each web application can be accesses by unlimited number of users at a time. Also, it needs to run flawlessly on each user’s browser, device and platform. Hence, the testers have to emulate the behavior and actions of a variety of users while testing a web application.

Separation of Client and Server:

The desktop applications are designed as standalone applications. So testers are not required to keep in mind the differences between the client and the server. But web application testing involves both the client and the server. The web application is loaded on the web server, and accessed by the users through web browsers. There are also chances the testers may have to evaluate the web application without knowing location and other details of the server. Also, they need to adopt a URL-driven testing to assess the performance of a website more accurately.

Testing Environment:

The front-end and back-end of a desktop application run on the same system. So the application can be tested thoroughly with a computer that meets its hardware requirements. The testing professionals can even use the machine as testing environment. But the web applications normally run on multiple systems. Also, the testers need to assess both front-end and back-end of a web application separately. Often web application testing is performed on three distinct tiers, i.e., application, web server, and backend system. The testers further need to use a variety of web browsers as testing environment to evaluate a web application efficiently.

Features to be tested:

The testing professionals can easily test a desktop application by focusing on key features like the graphical user interface (GUI), functionality and backend systems like database. But they have to consider several factors to test a web application effectively along with its features and functionality. The testers also need to assess its compatibility with various browsers and operating systems. Also, they have to check the look and feel of the application across multiple mobile devices. Hence, web application testing is more complex and comprehensive than desktop application testing.

Issues Faced by Testers:

While developing modern web applications, the developers need to ensure that it looks good and functions flawlessly on any device, operating system or browser. So the testers have to address a number of issues to test all aspects of a web application within a shorter amount of time. The test plan for web applications must consider browser compatibility, hardware compatibility, version compatibility and web accessibility, along with performance and security issues. Also, they need to test the web application in many environments to assess the performance issues accurately.

Performance and Load Testing:

Normally, desktop applications are installed on user’ desktop computers. The users can access the applications when the computer is handy. Also, most desktop applications operate without internet connection. So the performance of a desktop application does not fluctuate based on internet connection and speed. On the other hand, the internet connection and speed impact the performance of a web application directly. There are also chances that a website may crash due to heavy and frequent traffic. That is why; the test plan for web application must consider elaborate performance and load testing.

Security Testing:

Desktop applications are considered to be more reliable and secure than web applications. Also, these applications operate in a closed environment, and often without internet connection. But the functionality and performance of web applications depends on the internet which is not secure. The web applications are more vulnerable to targeted malware attacks and hacking. That is why; the manager must perform elaborate security and use penetration testing tools to test and keep the application and sensitive data secure.

On the whole, desktop application or web application has its own strengths, shortcomings, and niches. The modern web applications are required to deliver complex functionalities across many devices and platforms. Also, the performance of web applications is directly impacted by a number of factors like type of network and broadband speed. So the test manager must keep in mind the pros, cons and niche of each type of application to plan and manage the testing project effectively.

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