Software testing has significant importance in the software development process. That is the main reason why agile testing has become so popular during very little time. A quality of a product has to do a lot with its testing methodology. Compressing software testing to one particular stage of the development cycle won’t work practically. It should be done throughout the development process parallelly. The software testing process can be improved in various ways and adopting them accordingly to your business is a key requirement to be in the competition. Let’s see how can we really improve software testing.
First of all, before we dig into specific technicalities of software testing, let’s discuss the essentials to improve testing. There are some basics that should be implemented and followed through in software testing. Those are the roots of a strong software testing process.
Everything has a plan and that’s where exactly one should start. Software testing itself should have a sophisticated plan to execute the testing process. Usually, testing is done by QA teams. In a compelling testing plan, there will be both developers and end clients or users engaged in the testing process. Most of the time testing processes differ from one project to another. In such cases, planning becomes very crucial in directing the testing process the right way. Planning has two major elements. One is well defining the goals of a project, particularly to its testing and the other is the documentation. So effective planning is the root of success. Below are the quality assurance planning documents that should be well defined and documented in the planning phase of a testing project. Sometimes depending on the scope of a project, you might not need all these elements to be documented or defined yet these are the essential components of a comprehensive test plan. QA teams and the leads will have the freedom to adopt and adjust these according their own project.
Quality Assurance roles are important in the testing process as they perform it. Defining QA roles might be dependent on the scale of a business or a project. Because many small development teams will only have a small team of people as their QA team or sometimes it can be a set of developers themselves performing the testing tasks. But for large organizations with a bigger number of QA members should definitely follow this in order to reap better results. But if possible even for a small team having predefined tasks or QA roles is a huge benefit for the efficiency and accuracy of the testing process. These are common roles and their core tasks of a QA.
Whatever the team is, effective communication is a must. In software testing communication between development teams and the end users is very important. It is also good to have QA with development skills specially to have better communication with development teams and also to give more time to software developers to focus on the product so that QA can resolve their own little problems. So the teams should have proper communication channels that are recommended and implemented by the organization or at least by the team plus the organizational environment itself should encourage employees to have face-to-face communication which is really effective. Conducting retrospective meetings on sprints to iterate the process and to innovate new ways and plan for the future can help streamline structured communication. And the next is rarely noticed under effective communication but should be given more consideration, that is unstructured or personal communication. Personal communication between team members should be encouraged too in order to gain better results. Paying enough attention to their personal opinions and being open to their new ideas can ultimately help you grow as a team.
Bug reporting is a main step of the testing process. Testing is performed to see whether a specific software or a part of it works properly. So usually in the process of testing, a QA team is expected to find bugs in it. Identifying the failures and reporting them to the development teams play a major role in the testing process. Documenting bug reports effectively while avoiding misconceptions is a crucial part of it. It is not only documenting the problems but suggesting solutions should also be added to the report for a better overcome. Clarity of the report is necessary which means the right elaboration of the bug, as well as the right elaboration of the expected outcome, should be stated clearly in the report. It’s QA’s responsibility to provide clear instruction on how to reproduce a bug in a bug report. Considering of providing screenshots of problems is a vice thing to do as it can simplify the tasks for development to get the better view of a bug while adding a precise bug summary can give a finished look to a bug report while reducing the fix time.
When you are all good with the basics, now it’s time to see what specific methods or technologies could be further adopted to gain a competitive edge in the industry.
Test-oriented software development management
It is advisable to convert into a test-oriented software development management process for anybody who wants to improve his/her testing further because it is proven for higher quality products. Below are two extreme programming practices that fall under test-oriented methodology.
Pair programming is another way that you can improve the testing process. In pair programming, two programmers will work together in one computer on the same part of the software. One will be coding while the other one will be navigating the code. So the same code goes through two different people at once where the bugs can be identified then and there. This helps reducing the unnecessary time taken in debugging. This approach helps sharing knowledge among team members as the pairs can be moved around different projects and also the role of navigator and coder can be switched from time to time. Specially working as a pair enables to share the knowledge and experience well. With pair programming, the teams will achieve a clear code with higher code quality.
Test Driven Development (TDD) is a software development process which requires writing test cases before coding. This is a test-first approach that enables the developers to focus more on the outcome of the coding. Initially failed test cases will be focused on their code functionality to get it passed. The development will focus on short sprints and features. TDD has a direct impact on reducing development costs. This approach ensures higher quality as well as productivity.
Shift - left approach
Shift – left approach is contrary to shift – right approach which is based on a testing process from the very beginning of the development. In contrast to the traditional methods of testing, this approach conducts small tests frequently to follow up with the development so that if bugs occurred they can be solved immediately. So the basic idea of this approach is to prevent problems instead of reacting to them. A higher interaction of QA among developers and customers is expected throughout the process. This approach is more suitable for highly skilled cross-functional teams.
User acceptance testing
User acceptance testing is an end user testing method but it does not come at the end of the development stage as it usually occurs in the traditional methods. As it is clear that user personas cannot fulfill the full spectrum of client behaviours so the probability of a software product not reaching out to the client’s requirement is high. To avoid this harm in the development process involvement of the end user is crucial. But what happens in the traditional method of engaging the end user at the final stage of development is still not effective since debugging at such a stage would consume a lot of time and effort while making it a huge loss of profit and often this could lead to delays of delivery and customer dissatisfaction. As an agile practice, User Acceptance Testing involves end users from the early stage of the development process in the customer environment itself which provides a cutting edge to successful completion.
Test automation is becoming more viral with its unbelievable results. There are so many reasons why you should consider test automation. Test automation gives more space for developers to focus on development. At the same time automated tests are more reliable than manual tests. The drawback of automated tests is the investment for it. For small teams, it might not be the best option due to the investment incurred. The good thing about this is, that it is not compulsory for you to automate the whole testing process. You can automate several parts of the testing and mix it up with manual testing as an effective and affordable way of testing. There are open source as well as commercial tools for test automation. Adopting an automated testing practice might be the best and next option you should look for.
Exploratory and Ad hoc testing
Exploratory testing and ad hoc testing come into play when all other structured testing processes fail to cover the full scope and potential of the software testing. Every testing method has its own limitation. These two methods try to uncover such conditions.
Exploratory testing is a method that explores the creativity of the testers. This can be done at any stage of the development process, unlike the ad hoc which is usually done as the last step of testing once the software is completely developed and all the other tests are performed. Exploratory testing in every sprint enables the tester to uncover bugs using their knowledge, expertise as well as creativity. So this practice can help the tester to learn more about the software. Both the exploratory and ad hoc testing methods are randomly done since there will be less or no documentation at all. The defects that are observed and fixed using these two methods can be hard to reproduce since there is no documentation. Ad hoc has some similarities to the exploratory method while these two are completely different approaches. Ad hoc’s main task is to detect unusual, undiscoverable defects. So this method requires the tester to feed random or unusual data to see what results it could generate. This way the hidden defects can be identified. This is far from other error-guessing methods. Even though the exploratory methods have some predefined scope this ad hoc method is a completely random test.