Automate CI/CD and Spend More Time Writing Code

This article was sponsored by Microsoft Visual Studio App Center. Thank you for supporting the partners who make SitePoint possible.

What’s the best part about developing software? Writing amazing code.

What’s the worst part? Everything else.

Developing software is a wonderful job. You get to solve problems in new ways, delight users, and see something you built making lives better. But for all the hours we spend writing code, there are often just as many spent managing the overhead that comes along with it—and it’s all a big waste of time. Here are some of the biggest productivity sinkholes, and how we at Microsoft are trying to scrape back some of that time for you.

1. Building

What’s the first step to getting your awesome app in the hands of happy users? Making it exist. Some may think moving from source code to binary wouldn’t still be such a pain, but it is. Depending on the project, you might compile several times a day, on different platforms, and all that waiting is time you could have spent coding. Plus, if you’re building iOS apps, you need a Mac build agent—not necessarily your primary development tool, particularly if you’re building apps in a cross-platform framework.

You want to claim back that time, and the best way to do that is (it won’t be the last time I say this) automation. You need to automate away the configuration and hardware management so the apps just build when they’re supposed to.

Build with Microsoft Mobile Center

Our attempt to answer that need is Visual Studio App Center Build, a service that automates all the steps you don’t want to reproduce manually, so you can build every time you check in code, or any time you, your QA team, or your release managers want to. Just point Build at a Github, Bitbucket, or VSTS repo, pick a branch, configure a few parameters, and you’re building Android, UWP, and even iOS and macOS apps in the cloud, without managing any hardware. And if you need to do something special, you can add post-clone, pre-build, and post-build scripts to customize.

2. Testing

I’ve spent many years testing software, and throughout my career, there were three questions I always hated hearing:

“Are you done yet?”

“Can you reproduce it?”

“Is it really that bad?”

In the past, there’s rarely been enough time or resources for thorough, proper testing, but mobile development has exacerbated that particular problem. We now deliver more code, more frequently to more devices. We can’t waste hours trying to recreate that elusive critical failure, and we don’t have time to argue over whether a bug is a showstopper. At the same time, we’re the gatekeepers who are ultimately responsible for a high-visibility failure or a poor-quality product, and as members of a team, we want to get ahead of problems to increase quality, rather than just standing in the way of shipping.

So what’s the answer? “Automation,” sure. But automation that makes sense. Spreadsheets of data and folders of screenshots mean nothing if you can’t put it all together. When you’re up against a deadline and have to convince product owners to make a call, you need to deliver information they can understand, while still giving devs the detail they need to make the fix.

Test with Microsoft Mobile Center

To help with that, we’ve created App Center Test, a service that performs automated UI tests on hundreds of configurations across thousands of real devices. Since the tests are automated, you run exactly the same test every time, so you can identify performance and UX deviations right away, with every build. Tests produce screenshots or videos alongside performance data, so anyone can spot issues, and devs can click down into the detailed logs and start fixing right away. You can spot-check your code by testing on a few devices with every commit, then run regressions on hundreds of devices to verify that everything works for all your users.

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Source: Sitepoint