Software Testing FAQs: What It Is, Why It Matters and How It’s Done
Testing is an essential part of the software development lifecycle, no matter what type of application you’re building. Get answers to some of the most commonly asked questions about software testing, including what it is, why it's important, and different methods of testing. Whether you're new to software testing or just looking to learn more, we hope you find this FAQ helpful.
What is software testing?
Software testing is the process of evaluating a software application or system to determine whether it meets the specified requirements and functions correctly. Testing identifies any defects, bugs, or errors in the software that prevent the application from performing as intended. Testing may also uncover flaws in the user experience.
Why is software testing important?
Software testing’s importance lies in ensuring that a software application or system is of high quality and performs as intended, before it is made generally available. Testing can help developers prevent bugs and errors from reaching customers, which can save time and money in the long run. Additionally, testing can help identify any issues or bugs in the software early in the development process, which makes them easier and less expensive to fix.
What are the different types of software testing?
Types of software testing include unit testing, integration testing, system testing, acceptance testing, and regression testing, among others. Here are brief definitions of some of the most common types of software testing:
Unit testing: Evaluates individual components or modules of the software application or system to ensure that they are working correctly.
Integration testing: Assesses how different components or modules of the software application or system work together.
System testing: Ensures the entire software application or system meets the specified requirements and functions correctly from end to end.
Acceptance testing: Determines whether the software application or system meets the needs of the end users and is ready for deployment.
Regression testing: Revisits previously tested components or modules of the software application or system to ensure that they still work correctly after changes have been made.
Usability testing: Assesses how intuitive or user-friendly a customer finds the product. While functional tests focus on whether or not a product or feature works, usability testing focuses on how users feel about the way that something works.
Find more information on different software testing types here.
How do I create a software testing plan?
A good software testing plan incorporates both code coverage and test coverage, as well as multiple testing approaches, including manual, automated, exploratory, user acceptance and non-functional. Start by setting the scope for what portions of the application, functionality, or integrations you want to test. Then determine what types of tests you want to use — each type of test fulfills a different role in assuring product quality. Document the test cases you want to perform to ensure consistency, and add more or adjust as your applications — and your plans — evolve over time.
Combine code coverage with test coverage to gain confidence that you have exercised a good percentage of the code and thoroughly vetted application features. Where possible, automate tests to save time and increase coverage, while conducting manual tests to guarantee that new features meet your end users’ needs and expectations. The types of tests you should prioritize can vary dramatically between different organizations and products. Put some deep thought into the business, application and users to find your ideal balance, understanding that your test strategy will evolve over time.
A holistic testing strategy incorporates manual, automated, exploratory, user acceptance and non-functional testing to ensure product quality. Learn more about this approach.
What tools and techniques can be used for automated software testing?
Automated software testing requires collaboration between the QA tester and the person automating the tests to identify and prioritize testing needs. Initially, focus on automating only critical items, such as ensuring the backend connections and processes are functioning. Then, build your suite to also cover the highest-priority functions for the main customer workflows.
QA teams can also get more involved with setting priorities for ‘risk-based testing,’ which helps you prioritize testing based on the risk of failure. If a failed test has an impact on the business, then input should come from product owners. However, for the more complex areas of the application that are likely to contain more coding issues, input should come from development. QA can leverage formal ways to process and manage risk-based testing and report it as a metric.
If your application changes significantly with every release, your automation strategy should include a way to maintain the test scripts so they remain valid and executable. The only errors you want to see are true defects, not automated script issues. A good rule is your automation test script should be as good or better than the script it’s testing.
There are a wide range of tools available to help with writing, executing and maintaining automated software tests. Test automation tools will vary based on the type of application you’re testing: web, mobile, or desktop. Commercial and open-source tools each have their own advantages, as do code-based, low-code, codeless and hybrid options.
How can I ensure that my software testing is thorough and effective?
To be thorough and effective, software testing must include adequate code and device coverage and assess all aspects of the user experience. Software testing should operate in an efficient way that delivers value back to the business, making sure that the application performs its intended purpose and meets users’ needs. Effective testing occurs at a point in the SDLC that allows you to uncover critical defects or UX issues before they reach users. Thorough testing balances structured test cases with exploratory testing, which can reveal unexpected use patterns or edge cases. It also considers the end-to-end user experience across various dimensions, including functionality, usability, accessibility and more.
How can I measure the effectiveness of my software testing?
Software testing effectiveness can be measured in several ways, including:
Code coverage: The percentage of the code that has been tested.
Defect density: The number of defects found per unit of code.
Test case effectiveness: The percentage of test cases that identify defects or bugs in the software.
Time to detect and fix defects: The time it takes to identify and fix defects or bugs in the software.
How can I improve my software testing process?
Some common software testing process improvements include test-driven development (TDD), a shift-left approach, leveraging test automation, and clearly documenting test plans, test cases and test run results. The following practices can also improve testing:
Continuous improvement: Organizations should constantly work to better their efficiency to catch defects earlier. Rather than improve processes on a one-off basis, continuous improvement helps organizations approach the task iteratively.
Benchmarking: QA benchmarking gives you an idea of where your product stands compared to your own past measurements or those of the competition, enabling you to put a proactive improvement plan in place. There are four types of benchmarking: performance, practice, internal and external.
Cost-benefit analysis: Business-oriented techniques, such as a cost-benefit or operations analysis, can help identify the appropriate level of quality for the business’ level of comfort. There’s a cost to quality, and there’s a cost to lack of quality. By measuring the cost-benefit of software quality assurance processes, the business can decide what, where and how to invest in digital quality.
What are the best practices for software testing?
Examples of some best practices for testing software include:
Testing throughout the SDLC, including in-sprint testing in pre-production
Maintaining a defined device coverage matrix based on data about website/app usage and revisiting as new devices enter the market
Incorporating the voice of the customer into product design
Delivering exceptional UX and experiences across all touchpoints
Maintaining a strong test case management process
Automating all repetitive tests that humans can’t do better
Reviewing and refining testing processes regularly
Proactively balancing manual functional, exploratory and automated testing; documenting when to use each test type
Exploring new testing processes to boost quality, efficiency and coverage
Driving innovation throughout the SDLC
Using reports to analyze trends and identify areas for improvement
How can I debug software tests that are failing?
To debug software that has failed a test, follow a systematic approach to find the root cause of failure and correct errors that prevent the application from working properly. Start by looking at any error messages — compare the expected behavior to actual behavior to see how they differ. Next, reproduce the bug, so you can understand what conditions cause the test to fail. Examine the relevant code sections to identify any potential problems or areas of concern. Pay attention to the code logic, data flow, and dependencies.
You can also take advantage of debugging tools in your development environment or programming language to walk through the code step by step, inspect variables, and track the program's execution flow. Set breakpoints at critical points to pause execution and examine the program state – you may also want to insert print statements or logging statements in strategic locations within the code to track the program's execution.
Use a process of elimination to narrow down the potential causes of the problem. Focus on specific code sections, functions, or modules to identify the root cause. If possible, break down the software into smaller units and test each unit individually. This can help isolate the problem to a specific module or function. Collaborating with teammates or online communities can help if you’re really stuck. Sharing the problem with others can provide fresh perspectives and insights that may lead to a solution.
Once you have identified the cause of the failure, implement the necessary code changes to fix the problem. Make sure to thoroughly test the software again to ensure the fix resolves the issue without introducing new problems or impacting existing functionality. Remember, debugging can sometimes be a complex and iterative process. Patience, attention to detail, and a systematic approach will help you effectively identify and resolve the issues causing test failures.
What is integration testing and why is it important?
Integration testing focuses on testing the interaction between different modules, components or subsystems of a software system. Performed after unit testing, which tests individual units of code in isolation, integration testing verifies that the integrated components work together properly.
The primary goals of integration testing are:
Detecting interface issues: Integration testing ensures that the interfaces between various components or modules are functioning correctly. It identifies any problems related to data transfers, parameter mismatches, communication protocols or compatibility issues.
Identifying interaction problems: Integration testing helps uncover issues based on the interaction between different components. This includes problems like incorrect data flow, timing issues, race conditions, deadlocks or exceptions that occur when multiple components interact.
Validating system behavior: By testing how well various components work together, integration testing validates the behavior of the entire system. It ensures that the system as a whole works as intended and meets the specified requirements.
Improving system reliability: Integration testing helps increase the overall reliability and stability of the software system. It helps uncover defects and vulnerabilities that could impact the system's performance, security or user experience.
Overall, integration testing plays a crucial role in ensuring the overall quality, functionality and reliability of a software system. It helps identify and address issues that arise when different components are combined, allowing for early detection and resolution of integration problems before they appear in real-world scenarios.