7 Practical Reasons Why Software Testing Is Imperative to the Development Cycle
This article explains why software testing is important to the development cycle and how to implement it.
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Thorough testing is critical to the development of any software product. It can cost companies order of magnitude much more to fix a bug in the wild than if they’d caught it early in development.
These bugs cost money, lose customers, and tarnish your brand. Trust in your brand is critically important in B2B software; users depend on you to pay their employees. This is one reason software testing is necessary before your business app launch.
What Is Software Testing?
Any software product that works as intended had at least one round of software testing. But we’re covering implementing that testing at more minor, iterative scales and automating it wherever possible.
This is critical for large software products and scrappy startups working on their minimum viable product. Big, mature software gets unwieldy without maintenance. You can’t afford to spend time on anything that doesn’t scale in a startup. In either case, using automated software testing tools to reduce stand-up meetings that are necessary for development is a great business decision.
Software Testing Ideas
We can separate software testing into three main types.
1. White Box Testing
A tester carries out White Box testing with access to the source code; unit testing usually ensures the code meets the basic requirements.
2. Black Box Testing
In Black Box testing, the tester has no access to the code and uses the software as a customer to find bugs. This is more like the exploratory testing style where the tester is free to figure things out themselves, as they look for bugs the developer might never have considered.
3. Gray Box Testing
Gray Box testing is a mixture of the two. Testers use the product like a customer but with limited access to the database and internal documentation. This is effective because, as a customer comprehensive bug reports, the tester can see the cause-effect relationship between user input and the first “layer” of software and data storage like the hidden cache on Android.
There’s no one ideal way to implement software testing. As products become more complex, a suite of iterative development processes becomes the norm among tech companies. Two main ways of doing this are simple iterative development and agile development.
Simple Iterative Development
In simple iterative development, software architects will plan out the whole structure of the product. Developers then work on different sections in parallel. This has many benefits for productivity, including that it’s easy to add new developers to the project. Also, the existing ones don’t need to wait on their colleagues before moving on to other tasks.
It’s also suitable for testing because, by splitting the whole product into “components,” such as a login manager or file transfer system, as it develops, it is easier to maintain the software. The structure makes it easy to trace errors to the most recently-changed component.
Agile development takes these ideas even further. Every “component” is treated as an application that works independently of the others. Changes are made in short sprints, which enable developers to release new updates at a rapid cadence.
The traditional “waterfall” model of software development, Design -> Code -> Test -> Deploy, is applied to every component rather than the product as a whole. All this speeds up development, but it also creates new problems. If you’re constantly changing many features, it’s easy for new additions on different sides of the product to clash with each other.
Agile development tools, like JIRA Agile and Active Collab, will help you avoid these kinds of collisions. They’re just one of many strategies when using a hybrid cloud integration platform for risk mitigation in your migration to iterative software testing.
Benefits of Software Testing
There are many benefits to implementing software testing and iterative development in your company. Here are just seven of the more practical ones that affect your bottom line.
1. Prevent Bugs
Automated testing benefits not only reduce the number of bugs you’ll encounter but also makes fixing those bugs much more cost-effective. Catching and quashing bugs in the early design and development phases is much easier and more efficient than in the busy production world.
For example, Apple is so busy maintaining software that over a billion people use daily that old bugs must be de-prioritized over new regressions. One group at Apple even had “not a regression” t-shirts printed to make light of this fact.
2. Prevent Regressions
Those regressions can be prevented, in part, by automated software testing. Manual quality assurance is prone to human error. Years after a feature, or a chunk of code, has been introduced, a QA tester can’t remember everything that had to be tested in the early days that could have gone wrong.
If significant changes are made to old software, regressions become more likely as people forget what was likely to break in the initial development cycle. Automated functional testing in Agile makes it easy for new hires to work on the products’ older parts without worrying about accidentally ripping off a band-aid fix that nobody still working at the company knows about.
3. Improve Quality
Rigorous software testing might feel like tedious work to start with. But in the long run, it’s a great way to avoid technical debt that could slow the whole business down in years to come.
Because early-stage developers are forced to stop and do unit testing, they have to think more carefully about the long-term architectural decisions they’re making. Software testing disincentivizes quick copy-and-paste fixes that will get you paid sooner but cost you more down the line. This results in higher-quality code that’s a reliable foundation for future work.
4. Improve Documentation
Good code is easy to read, with good commenting and clear naming of functions, variables, etc. Unit-testing legend has the secondary effect of making your code cleaner and more evident in purpose.
This isn’t just good programming. It’s also a crucial part of good documentation. By making your code easier to read, you’re making life easier for future developers who engage with your work. You’re also making it easier for your future self – how often have you come across your old code and had to puzzle until your puzzler was sore from figuring out what it was even doing?
5. Help Code Reviewers
Tests make your code easier to read. They also give code reviewers a prominent place to start. It’s common for code reviewers to begin with the unit tests, often covering the core functionality of your script. Once they’ve quickly got the basics out of the way, they can start looking for potential errors you haven’t considered.
When managing employees who work from home, make coders and code reviewers less dependent on conference calls because the reviewer can quickly establish what the code is supposed to do. If you conduct reviews over a video call, you can spend more time-solving problems and less time clearing up fundamental facts about the code.
6. Add New Features Faster
The older and more interconnected a piece of software gets, the harder it is to change. Because so much future code was written assuming that code could be relied on, one change could have consequences that ripple throughout the software.
Unit tests make it easier to change old code because it makes everything more legible for future developers. This makes your whole product more agile because you’re not bound to decisions made years ago by developers who may no longer be with the company.
7. Debug Edge Cases
Software testing eliminates all the basic, predictable errors from the QA testing process. This leaves the edge cases, which unit tests can help with. If you see a bug in production that didn’t appear in the QA run, it’s easy to write a unit test that produces the same error deliberately. Once you have this as an example, you can pattern-match it to the existing code to spot the offending lines in the actual script more easily.
How to Implement Software Testing
Once you’ve made the business case for it, iterative software testing processes can be implemented gradually. There’s no need for one big web conference to communicate everything simultaneously. Iterative methods can, themselves, be implemented iteratively.
Automating your end-to-end testing is an excellent place to start, making sure nothing critical is broken, and from there, it’s not so hard to graft tests for return types onto existing code. As testing becomes more embedded in the company culture, your new code will be built with testing in mind. And then your business will start to feel the benefits.
The Practical Benefits of Software Testing
Software testing and iterative development models save your business time and money. They also streamline the development process in the long run and reduce the number of headache-inducing bugs for you and your users. All this gives you more time to complete the things that are important rather than fixing bugs that could have been prevented earlier on.
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