Live stream testing comes with unique challenges that sets it apart from mobile app or web application testing.

When you offer a live stream of a national sporting event or political debate, millions of viewers flock to utilize your TV app, mobile app, or web app (or all three). Not only is performance at stake, but there can also be API, syndication, and CDN issues that threaten to derail the live stream.

When a live stream goes down, it creates enormous frustration. Viewers might ditch your service and view the program through another provider. You’ll be flooded with support requests, and brand reputation and advertising revenue can suffer.

1. Run a dress rehearsal

Your goal is for testers to only find inconsequential, minor bugs during the actual live event. To identify and address major bugs before streaming, it’s essential to run a dress rehearsal – a simulated pre-event test cycle.

A practice run offers testers information about critical potential errors and how the live stream content is being served, so they know how to describe bugs and escalate them during the event. 

For popular events, run the dress rehearsal approximately 2 months before the event. This time frame allows developers to fix issues and improve the live stream test plan. During this rehearsal, live stream other content and have real QA testers logging bugs, running through stability checks, and viewing the content in various environments. 

2. Have testers watch the event live

For your testing strategy, you might have testers working on different ways to stream the content, including:

  • Different apps (TV, mobile, tablet, web)
  • Multiple closed captioning languages
  • Different connectivity and internet quality
  • Varieties of subscription tiers and user account types

Consider all of the different environments that your viewers will encounter, and make sure that testers are covering each.

3. Use testers’ geolocation to cover key markets

The user type, device, environment, and connectivity are important, but these are all factors that come into play with testing nearly any app.

Testing live streaming, however, comes with other complications that aren’t an issue for traditional Software as a Service apps. And these issues all have to do with the live content. Testers have to be ready to answer these questions: Which CDNs are being served? What API is feeding the live event? How are large metro areas receiving the content? Are ads and data being served correctly? 

You need to have testers in all of your important designated market areas (DMA) so that they can catch feed issues well before a customer can lodge a complaint. Internal testers, or testing partners, need to cover major media markets around the U.S and the world to audit data and monitor stream health.

It’s impossible to assure live stream quality without boots on the ground. Make sure that you are covering all of your target markets during the event.

4. Set up a war room with a QA and development lead

During the live event, you’re going to need a central place for quality assurance leaders to instantly communicate about issues and hot fixes. 

By manning the war room together, a QA lead and engineering lead can act as quality orchestrators to engage resources as needed. There is no better way to ensure that issues are being communicated and handled swiftly than for these two leaders to be together during the stream. The live war room helps ensure that the live stream is the key focus—not getting pulled into email or handling other work in Slack. 

5. Work with a software testing company that specializes in media and live streams for comprehensive testing

Because live stream testing is unique and requires media market coverage, it’s challenging to handle this completely with your inhouse team. First, you probably don’t even employ testers in all of your metro markets. 

For common issues like streaming quality, API failures, app crashes, and massive close captioning delays, an experienced testing company will be better able to prepare and train testers to catch, communicate, and escalate issues. 

What’s more, the right QA vendor can help you test every aspect of the live stream event. Not only the event quality, but the user notifications, in-app content promotions, data integrity, advertising, and other key elements of a quality user experience.

Dayana is a QA engineer turned technology writer living in Milan, Italy. She's always down for a smoothie.