Gannett, Publisher of USA Today, Cuts Release Time By 75% Using Applitools and Continuous Integration
“With iOS native testing, at first our developers didn’t believe in visual automation. Now they’ve been singing Applitools’ praises because it catches critical bugs. Applitools caught something recently that was literally off by 10 pixels. No one could have seen that. This is the type of benefit we’re seeing using Applitools.” — Greg Sypolt, Director of Quality Engineering At Gannett (USA Today)
- Gannett, publisher of USA Today and 200+ publications and digital brands across the world, needed a way to automate the visual UI testing of its iOS app.
- After learning about Applitools, the iOS team began using it for automatic screenshot and to automate their tedious manual testing process per release.
- Thanks to Applitools and Continuous Integration, release times have been cut by 75%, a huge savings across the company and a major step forward as the company redefines itself to be “digital first.”
Gannett Company, Inc is the largest newspaper publisher in the United States. While its most notable brand is USA Today, Gannett also manages 109 local publications across 34 states and Guam, and more than 160 digital brands in the UK. Keeping up with 24/7 news coverage across such a wide-ranging set of print and digital publications requires an intense focus on quality. Content must be delivered to millions of digital news consumers using an array of desktop browsers, mobile devices and operating systems.
“In general, quality should be important to any software product,” says Greg Sypolt, Director of Quality Engineering at Gannett. “But as a news company handling breaking news and trying to get people to come to the site, it’s critical to have a robust application.”
Greg says that at USA Today, for instance, there are dozens of modules on the online version of the paper, from the money section to sports. To provide an optimal digital experience, these modules must work functionally and render visually perfect each time the content is updated or new code is pushed out.
Any time a user has a bad experience, especially someone who couldn’t read the news, they’ll go elsewhere,” says Greg. “There are other information sources out there. It’s a tough industry. It’s imperative you attract and retain those audiences that want to use your digital applications.
Gannett is making a shift to being regarded as a digital-first media company by moving its infrastructure to the cloud and doing continuous integration — all in an effort to deliver news faster and better. To keep up with the demands of the industry and provide this top-notch digital experience, Gannett relies heavily on test automation.
Greg’s role as a test architect is to work with more than 40 teams within the company, from Security to Ads to Mobile, to provide the resources and tooling that leverage testing and automation best practices. But one area he struggled with was providing the automation tooling recommendations to the iOS team, who wanted to automate their screenshot process. At this point, they were relying on manual testing for verifying visual issue, which was time-consuming and slowing down their release cycles.
When he learned about Applitools at a conference, it seemed almost too good to be true. “We thought that the industry wasn’t fully there for mobile automation. Then Applitools came along,” he says.
It didn’t take long for the iOS developers to see the value in Applitools. While some were hesitant to believe that an AI-powered tool like Applitools could catch something that their human eye couldn’t, that’s exactly what happened. They tested a feature and Applitools captured a part of the UI that was off by 10 pixels — almost incalculable for the human eye to notice — but something that no human tester or developer could catch.
“That was all it took for them to sing the praises of Applitools,” Greg says. “Now they see how important it is to have a tool catch the things our eyes can’t quite see. It has changed their whole mindset.”
Applitools became the first tool to get full buy-in from the mobile developers. Now the Android teams are also using Applitools and the plan is to add Applitools to the desktop application and use it for responsive design testing in 2017.
“We have this page divider in our app,” Greg says, sharing another recent example of Applitools in action. “It’s probably only 30 pixels long but the divider color has to match the color scheme of the local market Gannett launches in. So it’s an important feature. During development, that divider completely disappeared and Applitools caught that before we pushed to production and any users saw it.”
Since integrating CI and using Applitools, there’s been a vast improvement in release times, down from three to four weeks to one week. This was due primarily to the back and forth between testers and developers, and not always having the proper automation tooling in place. Greg predicts that as usage of Applitools grows at Gannett, they will reduce their manual testing time even further, by at least 50%.
“The whole goal with automation is to get feedback to developers as soon as possible,” Greg says. “Applitools lets us do that. I’m more confident and comfortable across our test coverage. Applitools helps you get a better return on investment.”