QA To Support Software Development Life Cycle: Best Practices To Follow
To meet business requirements, open-minded companies embed QA into an SDLC. Learn which QA activities should be introduced at each development stage.
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Hardly anyone would argue that speed and innovation are pillars of efficient product delivery contributing to success on the market today. With the ability to smoothly introduce tech novelties and release top-tier software faster, companies embark on the path to recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic and its aftermath and adjusting to the "next normal."
To do it confidently and guarantee that software meets planned business requirements, open-minded companies embed QA into a software development life cycle (SDLC).
QA is an indispensable part of all process phases helping avoid unforeseen expenses on critical defect fixing, increasing software credibility and security, and lowering the risk of sudden system downtime. Apart from improving functionality, QA gauges the business influence of releasing features into the production environment in their current state, thus, increasing customer loyalty and boosting overall sales.
So, what QA activities should be introduced at each development stage? Let’s have a closer look at the answer in this article.
Must-Have Best Practices Within 4 SDLC Stages
Waterfall, Agile, rapid application development (RAD), spiral model… Depending on the methodology and product characteristics, stages in the development process slightly differ. However, whatever the approach your company sticks to, testing on each SDLC stage is becoming crucial.
Here’s a real-life case: Several years ago, Samsung recalled 2.5 million Note 7 smartphones, resulting in billions of dollars in lost revenue. This was all due to a software defect - a bottleneck in the battery management system - responsible for monitoring and stopping the charging process, which led to overcharging and explosion.
Unfortunately, such cases are a common occurrence. Therefore, to maximize development efficiency and reduce financial and reputational losses caused by fixing late found defects, I offer to consider QA activities requisite on each basic development stage.
1. Requirements Gathering
Planning development and testing efforts is impossible without understanding the target audience, the problem the app solves, performance, security, compliance, and many other criteria.
Bearing in mind that the cost of fixing a defect grows exponentially within each stage, QA engineers perform requirements testing to reduce rework from the get-go and spot errors, ambiguities, or inconsistencies in the business logic of an IT solution.
While testing requirements, the experts confirm that product features, UI, the necessary hardware and software criteria are consistent, clear, and error-free. This allows for further creating faultless test plans, test cases, use cases, traceability matrixes, and other artifacts.
However, testing is only half the battle. The hallmark of test documentation is its dynamic nature. It gradually becomes worthless without any updates, created by changing requirements, shifted priorities, or constant shipping of new code to the production environment. Therefore, apart from testing, the QA team must timely update test documentation to eliminate any process failures.
2. Analysis and Design
Based on the results of the previous phase, the development team designs the architecture of the forthcoming app and creates its prototype.
To ensure the product reaches its commercial success, QA teams first fulfill prototype testing to spot problems early in the SDLC based on the customer feedback and introduce necessary changes even before the development starts. By focusing on identifying logical shortcomings that may later cause system failures, the engineers significantly decrease the time and financial efforts required for additional software creation processes.
Specific attention goes to the usability testing of a prototype. It’s only a first step on the way to providing engaging design, and some limitations must be taken into account, as they may influence testing results at this stage. For instance, a poorly conceived color array can lack intuitive elements on the screen that complicates using a product. Bearing them in mind helps identify the required tests and better grasp the outcomes.
3. Software Development
Let's look at how software testing activities contribute to delivering a faultless product. For example, unit testing separately verifies each application component that can be logically isolated within a system to make sure it behaves the way it’s designed.
With unit testing in place, the developers can enable confident code refactoring to make the workflow more agile, spot software issues early, ensure simplified integration and debugging processes, and substantially lower the costs of fixing defects.
Tested units now form modules that in turn create a complete system. Following unit testing, integration verifications help software engineers make sure these system components written by diverse teams harmoniously blend in with one another.
Unit and integration testing within Agile and DevOps ecosystems can often be automated to significantly cut testing time, maximize test coverage, reuse the same test cases multiple times, and avoid the human factor.
While developers are preoccupied with performing unit and integration tests, the QA team creates testing artifacts to assure high software quality and prepare functionality for a release. To make it a success, here are 10 testing types, requisite depending on the product specifics and business needs, that may come in handy:
1. Functional Testing
From the get-go, functional testing ensures the absence of critical issues that could block further testing and guarantees that recently added functionality has been implemented fully without affecting the logic of the product.
2. Performance Testing
Through server-side performance testing, QA engineers estimate whether the system can withstand the load, spot its weaknesses, and provide detailed recommendations for improvement. Which helps reduce software TCO and establish effective performance monitoring.
Client-side performance QA gauges the load and render time for HTML pages and spots issues that affect customer experience (heavy interfaces, long response times, poor overall performance) and impede pleasant interaction with the brand.
3. Cybersecurity Testing
Manual and automated vulnerability assessment based on OWASP methodology spots security loopholes and ensures high protection of users’ sensitive data. By infusing best security practices early into SDLC, companies can minimize the risks of attacks performed by malicious intruders and save their reputations.
4. Test Automation
With quality at speed being the cornerstone of agile methodologies and efficient product delivery, test automation adoption is the way to build, test, and ship high-quality software faster.
To reach these objectives, QA engineers define the scope for automation and toolkit, implement a required framework, configure the environment, prepare test data and develop scripts, analyze test results, along with providing full-fledged support and monitoring of automated tests.
5. Cross-Browser Testing
Identifying whether the app can seamlessly run in diverse browsers contributes to delivering engaging UX and enlarging the target audience. For that, the QA engineers analyze browser usage statistics amid different geographical regions, choose the most in-demand variants, and perform testing to ensure consistent software operation.
6. Cross-Platform Testing
The more operating systems are compatible with the software, the more clients a company can attract. Therefore, a QA vendor performs testing to spot low OS-level performance, UI inconsistencies, and platform-specific impediments as well as to make sure that the software operates as designed under minimum system requirements.
7. Mobile App Testing
According to Statista, the worldwide profit that mobile apps will bring by 2023 will comprise more than $935 billion. With the increasing number of downloads globally, fierce competition on the market compels companies to think more of their quality and introduce QA. To boost its efficiency and accuracy of results, providers perform testing on real devices.
8. Accessibility Testing
With more than a billion people (15% of the world population) experiencing particular physical or cognitive disability, as stated by WHO, designing software suitable for all social groups comes to the forefront. By verifying its compliance with international standards like WCAG 2.1 or AODA, companies can take care of the target audience and extend their client bases.
9. Localization Testing
Software adaptation for international markets plays the first fiddle with regard to meeting the linguistic, cultural, and regional requirements of a particular country. To tailor a product so that it’s perceived by a target audience as a unique solution corresponding to their demands, QA engineers focus on:
- Local regulations (e.g., compliance with data privacy laws)
- Cultural aspects (e.g., avoiding offensive symbols or inappropriate colors)
- User experience (e.g., layouts of dates, addresses, and currencies)
- Visual materials (e.g., must fit cultural expectations)
- Scripts (e.g., all aspects from content to UI are displayed per established language rules)
10. Usability Testing
By evaluating how easily users adapt to the application design and execute different tasks, QA engineers find flaws they may have overlooked during prototyping to ensure maximally transparent, intuitive, and simple user journeys.
4. Deployment and Maintenance
Before a long-awaited release, user acceptance testing must take place to make sure the software is production-ready, meets all user needs and business requirements, and has the lowest probability of any missed defects.
The team rolls out functionality as soon as the UAT exit criteria are attained. As a rule, each company sets its indicator, like the amount of successfully fulfilled tests or the percentage of identified issues of differing severity.
Once the release is over, new functionality is on its way, which means that each time code changes are shipped to production, the QA team must perform regression testing to guarantee that a modified software part hasn’t affected existing features.
By analyzing potential areas of risks and performing several (up to three) rounds of regression testing with intermediate defect validation, the QA engineers polish software quality and stabilize a revamped software application.
Building Credible IT Products With QA
To deliver engaging software solutions that appeal to set target audiences, companies can infuse QA into the entire software development life cycle rather than overload the QA engineers with tasks fulfilled after the development finishes.
Thus, essential quality assurance practices companies should stick to throughout core SDLC stages should include:
- Requirements testing during planning
- Prototype and usability verifications while designing
- Test documentation creation and comprehensive testing to strengthen the product quality during the development phase
- UAT and regression testing during the deployment and post-release support phase.
When applied in complex, these activities help organizations decrease operational expenses due to identifying software issues early enough for their fixing cost to be minimal and boost development velocity because of low chances of rework enabled by thorough testing from the get-go.
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