The Keys to Effective Test Suite Design

Designing effective, valid and defect-finding test suites is critical for successful software test execution. Regardless of the complexity of the applications, creating a solid test suite for smoke, regression and other test efforts helps ensure effective test coverage. A quality base of test suites enables the software testing group to find defects on the surface as well as those lurking underneath the UI.

But there’s one major hitch to designing highly effective test suites: the quality of the application code. Most software applications carry a burden of existing defects that are sitting and just waiting to get fixed. When application code contains significant numbers of known defects or technical debt, it makes a well-organized, effective set of test suites even more valuable to ensuring a positive overall customer experience.

Read on to learn why developing test suites is important, why suites must be well-organized, and how to select tests for test suites. We’ll also provide the top 10 tips for creating test suites that generate results and protect the application and its customer experience.

Why should I develop test suites?

In business, there’s little that’s more important than your brand’s reputation. And brand reputation depends on the quality of the customer experience an application delivers. It’s business critical to keep a good reputation or move in a positive direction. It’s near-impossible to thrive without providing a smooth customer experience in our digital age.

Here are some reasons why you should develop effective test suites:

  • Evidence. Test suites provide evidence of the type, depth and scope of executed tests. These details are required for regulatory compliance and application standards.

  • Defect identification. The best way to build trust with your customers is to find defects before they do.

  • Positive customer experience. The easier the product is to use, the more customers will want to use it. Make updates a pleasant experience for your customers and ease onboarding for new ones.

  • Reduce the customer support workload. Allow customer support employees to work on providing service rather than fight defects all day.

Effective, well-organized and intentionally designed test suites provide evidence of test coverage and purpose. Software testing adds significant business value to digital products and protects customers from defects. The best way to increase software testing’s business value is by creating effective test suites that ultimately improve the customer experience.

Customers have more choices than ever in digital products. If one doesn’t fulfill their needs, they can quite easily switch providers. Unlike the early days of software, there’s no more ignoring the customer experience. To succeed, applications must deliver a positive customer experience on the first release and every customer release thereafter.


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Why must test suites be well organized?

Test suites are most effective when they are well organized and intentionally designed. Well-organized test suites provide structure for testing, and they help QA teams find defects targeted to the application’s core functions. Additionally, well-organized test suites speed up test execution and support defect identification. With meticulous test suites, testers can engage in useful and valuable test execution rather than waste time trying to figure out what to test, where, when and how.

Test suites that are well-designed and organized help QA professionals execute tests that generate results. Results can include identifying defects (functional tests) or ensuring the application meets quality standards and customer expectations (non-functional tests). The better the organization of the test suites, the faster tests can be executed and results analyzed.

What are 10 ways to design high-quality test suites?

Effective test suites depend on efficient test design. There are a variety of ways to achieve this goal.

Here are 10 ways to design effective test suites:

  1. Create test groups with a mix of tests. These tests should cover all application functionality. Each test group includes at least one test for each function.

  2. Rotate test execution. Mix it up and rotate testing each group when time is short.

  3. Prioritize the customer experience. Create test suites that include testing known customer workflows and popular application features.

  4. Conduct critical tests first. Prioritize tests within groups so the most critical ones are executed first. Organize each group’s priorities so the most critical tests are completed first.

  5. Cover all functional code. Ensure test suites provide test coverage for all functionality at least once.

  6. Test connectivity. Always include back-end, database, messaging and other integration tests. Back-end or connectivity defects have an immediate effect on customers and are usually severe. Avoid unleashing obvious bugs to customers.

  7. Cover code with high defect rates. This helps ensure a well-tested app that generates positive customer experiences. Every application has parts of the code that are highly complex where even simple changes cause ripple effect defects — include tests in these areas in all groups.

  8. Remember performance tests. Non-functional tests ensure the application works effectively for customers. Significant performance changes between releases are disconcerting to customers and negatively impact the application’s brand. When you waste the customer’s time, applications fail.

  9. Stuff in as much security testing as possible. There’s never enough security testing or preparedness for vulnerabilities.

  10. Plan time for automated test script failure analysis. Allow time to distinguish code defects from script issues.

How should I group tests in testing suites?

There are several designs for developing a test suite. The goal is to maximize efficiency while retaining optimal test coverage. For example, if you’re creating a regression test suite you must plan for the length of time to execute if it’s a set cycle time. If you’re testing continuously, you can create test suites with all the valuable tests. When time is short and testers cannot execute all existing tests, consider options that help condense the testing time without sacrificing test coverage.


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For example, you might create regression test suites using groups of tests that cover all the application functionality, both superficially and at depth. Group the tests into separate suites that cover new features, base functionality, integration or other logical areas. When executing the test suites, simply start with the first group and continue executing the remaining groups. Organize each group to contain the minimum number of valid tests to exercise the application’s critical functionality from both an engineering perspective and the customer’s perspective. This group becomes test suite A.

Continue grouping the remaining test cases into similar groups. Depending on the number of valid test cases, you might end up with several groups. If you cannot execute them all, rotate your regression test execution by using only one group. For example, start with A this round, then select a group for the next execution cycle, and so on.

Another option for grouping tests into suites is by application functionality. Then, during a regression testing cycle, execute the groups where the most feature and defect changes have occurred for the release. This way, the affected functionality is thoroughly tested. If you prioritize each functional group, you can create and organize a master test suite by priority and continue testing each group possible within the test execution time frame.

Alternatively, consider using continuous testing for both manual and automated testing. With continuous testing, you can create test suite groups in priority order and then continue testing them over and over again. With continuous testing, there’s little to no downtime for testers. Rather than schedule separate test executions, software testing simply continues one test suite after another.

When you have automated tests, keep them in a separate group of test suites and schedule text execution as frequently as possible. Keep in mind that it takes time to analyze automated test failures. Ensure the test suite groups are small, prioritized and executable in short time frames. Automated test suites are an excellent way to kick off a test execution cycle to evaluate the application’s functional state before beginning more complex manual testing.

How do effective test suites add value over time?

There is significant business value to testing application functionality with a large number of test cases. This comprehensive approach helps ensure the ongoing quality of the application with each release.

However, test suites require maintenance to remain valid and optimal for test execution as application features change. It’s not a simple task to organize and design tests into suites for execution. Proper test suite organization and creation are important to ensure test coverage when it’s not possible to execute all tests.

Some organizations resort to skipping regression testing altogether — this is a mistake, as the risk of releasing severe defects to customers is high in this situation. When customers experience defects that disrupt their experience, the application’s — if not the brand’s — reputation may be permanently damaged. Never skip test execution because of a lack of time.


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Amy Reichert
Freelance QA SME/Test Engineer
Reading time: 8 min

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