The Developer Day | Staying Curious



Benefits of Testing and Types of Testing

Software development produces products as any other industry. It is an interesting issue that products produced by the software development industry are not always as well tested as in other industries. One of the main reasons is due to the fact that in most companies software is manually tested by the same developers who built it.

Developers are not necessarily good testers. Good software developers while sharing some traits are different from good testers.  A good developer may be excellent at software design but won’t notice spelling mistakes. Developers tend to take the testing path that usually works while cutting corners on special cases. It is also known as happy testing.

Most reasons why software is tested manually boil down to:

  • Not knowing how
  • Not having the time
  • Maintaining legacy code

Hardly any of these reasons are valid excuses. Truth be told automated testing is not easy. It is a skill that has to be learned and doesn’t come naturally. It’s a skill that takes years to master. It may seem that automated tests take too much time and at first it will. Due to the same fact that it’s a skill and takes time to master. In some way it is like skiing. Before going down a steep mountain racing the wind one has to learn how to otherwise it’s an unpleasant struggle climbing down with your skis across the shoulder. Automated testing won’t do miracles but when done properly it may increase productivity by 10 - 20%.

There are many types of software testing with their own benefits and downsides. Bellow are the three most important and common types of testing.

Unit Testing

Unit testing is about testing the smallest individual parts of an application. For example instead of testing the whole engine of a car all individual pieces are tested separately as units. All dependencies are replaced with stubs or mocks or fakes. Unit tests are meant to be lightning fast and execute thousands of tests in a few seconds therefore they shouldn’t connect to the database, web services or send emails. Unit tests are most effective when executed very frequently during development to inform the developer of any broken parts allowing to fix the problem immediately without losing line of thought.

Integration Testing

Integration tests ensure that all of the application’s parts work correctly when they are assembled in a simulated production environment. An example of an integration test can be a batch job executing against a database with test data. Integration tests are a lot slower than unit tests and usually work best integrated with a continuous build system. While integration tests are not good at identifying broken parts they are excellent at testing if an overall group of components is correctly wired together and produces the desired outcome.

Acceptance Testing

Acceptance testing also known as functional testing or QA testing involves testing a complete system that is usually identical to the user’s anticipated system. Acceptance tests can be automated or may be carried out by a QA team. In agile software development terms an acceptance test tests a business story. For example a simple story may be “As a manager I am able to list invoices, filter them by name and date and approve or reject them” An acceptance test would test that scenarios mentioned in the story can be done on a completed system. Automated web application development acceptance tests can be carried out by selenium that simulates recorded browser actions or by asserting HTML structures. Acceptance tests shine in proving if the user story scenarios can be completed but are usually not very good at pinpointing the nature of a problem. They tend to be slow and complicated to set up. Even testing a relatively simple back office application would require to set up an up to date test database, provide datasets for every possible scenario, provide a way to test sending out emails and their contents.

Software development testing is a vast topic that deserves more attention from the the ever growing industry. Automated software testing is often times disregarded as boring, time consuming or ineffective. Mainly because of lack of knowledge and skill to make it work for you and not against you.

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