You've probably heard the saying: “Beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder”; software developers should always keep this in mind. Once an application or solution is released, it is used by millions of customers. Therefore, its beauty should appeal to the needs of the “beholders”. The challenge often lies in the fact that everyone has different expectations and tastes. Consequently, if a system fails to satisfy the majority of users, all the time, money and effort spent on its development would have been in vain. The onus is therefore on testers and analysts who validate solutions, to ensure that the solution satisfies the needs and desires of the targeted users.
Most software development companies spend weeks or even months, testing solutions before releasing it to the public. Google, home to some of the best programmers in the world, keeps its flagship products in beta for years. Allocating time to rigorous testing is essential because any software that has been publicly released is expected to be perfect (no matter how ideal this sounds). While users may overlook a minor defect, any application or solution with more than a few minor defects can deal a significant reputation blow to the people who built it.
Project managers and members of the testing team need to stay alert to ensure that the software is rolled out with minimum risks. While these tips are meant for persons leading the software team, all personnel involved in the software testing effort can also benefit from them.
1. Understand the end goal of testing
You can and should test written requirement documents against business or project objectives for completeness and correctness. If you don’t test requirements on paper, you will build errors into the system that you could have easily removed much earlier – Dorothy Graham
Testers who understand how business goals are reflected in requirements are in a better position to test the software for expected outcomes. Testers should therefore, endeavour to work with requirements clearly specified and validated by stakeholders. This would ensure that the stakeholders do not feel that the software is lacking important features when it is finally delivered. The first rule of testing should therefore, be that every member of the testing team be aware of the purpose of the software.
There should be a solid link between requirements and test cases. Paying attention to requirement flaws from the onset will reduce the number of system defects and errors built into the application.
2. Set quality targets
The testing team should always be aware of quality targets. Non-functional requirements are directly related to the quality attributes expected of the solution. Ensure that the solution meets quality requirements whether they have been explicitly specified or not. Exploratory testing where no specifications exist or where requirements have been poorly specified, can reveal interesting insights into the workings of the application. For example, testers could explore different aspects of the system: Is the user interface intuitive?, Can the system accommodate multi-tasking? If the software will be used by 1000 users, can it handle the pressure of all these users logging on at the same time? What happens when the 1001th member logs in? Ideally, software should be able to handle a few additional users beyond its set limit. Needless to say, the areas you look into would depend on the kind of software you are testing. I could go on but you get the drift.
3. Start with a plan
Quality assurance activities should follow a plan. Typical activities include writing test scripts, conceptualizing the test environment, developing test data, populating databases with test data and sending the data to the team of developers so that they can resolve any ensuing problems. While this may sound obvious, not all testers approach testing as methodically as they should. Dorothy Graham in her article, Requirements and Testing: Seven Missing-Link Myths, suggests that test planning be done in parallel with requirements analysis. This will ensure that the effects of poor requirements (on which future tests are based) are nipped in the bud.
4. Avoid taking one step forward and two steps back
Software upgrades are a crucial issue and testers should ensure that existing features or functionalities do not get affected in future releases. Although you can replace an old feature and offer something better, the core functionalities must not be lost. Testers are responsible for ensuring that the latest versions of the code do not have an adverse effect on existing functionalities.
5. Tick all the boxes in the checklist
At the onset of the testing process, testers usually have a list of conditions that the software must fulfill. After the testing process has gone through the required number of cycles, testers should ensure that the final product meets all the preconditions agreed from the onset. All the boxes in your checklist must be ticked; leaving even one blank can jeopardize the efficiency of the software.
6. Iron out all the kinks
Ask the Q&A team to create a report when the software fails to pass a test and send the report to the programming team so that they can find a solution to the problem. Unless and until you are completely satisfied with test reports, don’t launch the software into the market. If users don’t get the best possible experience, they will lose faith in your products. Hence, it is better to spend extra time testing than maiming your brand name by taking shortcuts.
Software testing does not have to be difficult. By outlining requirements clearly, developing an effective testing strategy, using the right tools and paying full attention to all the details, you can ensure that your software is as close to perfection as possible.
Prashant Chambakara is a test automation technology enthusiast who loves to share insights, views and information on software testing and its associated branches like automation testing, test automation tools, etc. He is currently working with a parent company of TestingWhiz, a web browser automation tool. Feel free to contact us. Connect with Prashant on Twitter @PChambakara.