Shifting Left: WeightWatchers’ Approach to Mobile Development

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Shifting Left WeightWatchers’ Approach to Mobile Development

I recently had a fantastic conversation with Li Rajaraman, Senior Manager of Quality Engineering at WeightWatchers during the Mobile Testing and Experience Summit. Our discussion delved into the concept of “shifting left from anywhere,” emphasizing the importance of early testing and quality assurance in the mobile development process. “Quality is not just a QA org’s ownership. Everybody should worry about quality” she explained. Here are some of the highlights of what Li shared with us:

Li Rajaraman on her role at WeightWatchers

Li is part of the quality engineering organization at WeightWatchers. She oversees the quality for various member experiences in their mobile applications, which includes tracking activities, food, weight, and other aspects of a member’s journey to better health and fitness. She leads a team of technical full-stack quality engineers who work on both front-end and back-end testing, integration testing, and more. 

Shifting Left: WeightWatchers’ Approach to Mobile Development

The Significance of the Mobile Experience for WeightWatchers

WeightWatchers has undergone a strategic shift that places mobile at the core of their business. The shift has not only created new opportunities but also changed the demographic of their customer base. Most of their members use mobile apps to engage with the program, and this shift is influenced by factors like ease of use and the prevalence of smartphones.

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The Role of Mobile App Testing

Li emphasized the critical role of mobile app testing in ensuring the success of their digital initiatives. Their focus is on delivering high-quality, user-friendly features and making small tweaks via A/B testing. The quality assurance process is crucial to avoid disrupting members’ experiences, and it’s aimed at improving quality, usability, and performance.

Approach to Mobile App Testing at WeightWatchers

WeightWatchers employs a “shift left” approach to mobile app testing. They have formalized and standardized this approach, involving not only their quality engineering team but also engineering, project management, and product owners. Developers test their code changes to ensure they don’t break existing features before code is even merged. The team uses a combination of manual and automated testing and follows a “test more at the level earlier on” philosophy.

WeightWatchers focuses on more end-to-end testing toward the end of the development cycle when features are stable. They have a robust automated testing framework, which includes a low-maintenance set of critical test cases that capture mission-critical use cases.

Choosing Real Device Configurations

When selecting device configurations, WeightWatchers relies on member usage data to determine the most popular and supported devices and OS versions. Additionally, they prioritize devices that align with their member demographics and usage patterns.

Overcoming Skepticism and Driving Collaboration

Li acknowledged that there was some initial skepticism within the engineering team about incorporating more testing into their development process. To overcome this, they used data to demonstrate the value of the automated tests. By tagging issues found by the tests, they showed that the framework was finding real issues, helping the engineering team understand its impact.

Security Considerations

While their automation frameworks don’t directly focus on security testing, WeightWatchers is careful about not using production data in their tests. They also make sure not to leave any test environment-related data behind.

Testing on Real Devices vs. Emulators/Simulators

Li believes there is a case to be made for testing on real devices because that’s where their users are. While simulators and emulators have their place, real devices offer a more accurate representation of how users will interact with the application.

WeightWatchers has successfully embraced a “shift left” approach to mobile app testing, prioritizing quality and user experience. Their focus on collaboration between engineering and quality engineering, data-driven decision-making, and testing on the right devices has allowed them to adapt to the changing landscape of mobile app development.

As Li Rajaraman aptly put it, “Make an impact. If you’re writing code, it has to make an impact. If you’re performing manual testing, the same applies. Use your time to only perform testing where it matters and not just because we ask for regression testing everywhere.”

Mobile app testing and mobile automation testing are integral to WeightWatchers’ strategy and success, ensuring they provide a top-notch experience to their members. If you’re in the business of mobile app development, take a page from their book, and consider these insights in your own testing strategies.

Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)

We wrapped up with a discussion of key performance indicators (KPIs). WeightWatchers measured their success based on agility, flexibility, and the ability to fail fast and iterate quickly. Their KPIs included the stability and reliability of their automation frameworks, the ability to run tests rapidly, and the efficiency of the sign-off process. The goal was to ensure that their testing processes did not disrupt the member experience.


By focusing on quality and user experience, leveraging automation frameworks, and making data-driven decisions, WeightWatchers has successfully embraced mobile as the cornerstone of its digital initiatives. The key takeaway is the importance of collaborative testing efforts and the flexibility to adapt to the ever-evolving mobile landscape.

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