When clients come to a software company asking to develop a new software system for increasing business efficiency, they, most probably, want it to include as many useful features as possible. The thing is, the more you increase the complexity of an application, the more challenges appear. Different modules of an enterprise-wide software system work with varying data types and have to exchange it to enable efficient interaction between company departments. Each module behavior is potentially prone to multiple errors itself, and if you’re dealing with a number of them, the risks are even higher. Fortunately, there’s no shortcoming in software testing methodologies that help overcome the possible problems. This article will consider the specifics of different approaches to application testing and help you better understand how they affect the overall product quality.
The Basics of Ensuring Software Quality
First of all, let’s determine what we mean when talking about software testing methodologies. During the initial stages of software building, the team creates a bunch of documents describing the specifics of its functionality. Then, the software testing methodologies aim to determine if the application works following these specifications. Also, any bugs detected in the process must be fixed so a software company’s client won’t be disappointed while using it. Finally, the app must display all UI elements correctly, show no lags, and not crush under predictable scenarios.
Since software creation follows a specific plan and takes a long time, you can’t perform testing activities randomly or follow the Quality Assurance specialists’ instincts. Ensuring top-notch quality requires a systematic approach. That’s the reason why developers must follow a specific methodology that fits the way the app is created. Only in this case, there are the chances that each problem will be detected as quickly as possible so that solving it will require relatively little time and money.
What’s also important to remember is that there’s a difference between software testing methodologies and types of testing the QA specialists apply. Testing methodologies are deeply rooted in project management and have a systematic nature. Different types of testing help check if a specific technical side of the application has minimum possible errors. For example, stress testing will be irreplaceable if you plan your app to cope with the influx of a large number of concurrent users.
From Waterfall to Agile, There’s a Plenty to Choose From
The Waterfall methodology is possibly the most straightforward approach of making things that can be applied to any process, be it software development or building a house. It implies that you perform tasks sequentially and don’t start a new project phase before the previous one is completed. As you can suggest, since, in this case, there are no chances to start over a specific phase of development, all the requirements and specifications must be unequivocally determined during the very first stage. Next, the testing specialists should make due efforts to analyze the project scope scrupulously and develop a strategy to ensure that the final software will meet the client’s needs. After that, developers determine what architecture will better suit this particular project. Finally, when it’s time to start writing the actual code of the app, the testing team, once again, enters the stage. Their main task is to perform all planned tests and ensure that the software has as few bugs as possible.
As one of the main advantages of this approach, we can mention its simplicity. The waterfall methodology has no hidden challenges. All you need to do is strictly determine what results will satisfy you, and don’t forget to test everything along the way.
Unfortunately, such simplicity of this methodology has its drawbacks. Like in real life, in Waterfall, there’s no way you can change your mind and go back in time to fix a single aspect of a software project that you did not pay due attention to. Therefore, if you only have a general understanding of what the final software product should look like, it won’t be a wise decision to choose Waterfall for application development and testing.
Iterative development can be described as a bunch of small waterfalls following each other. According to this testing methodology, a complex project can be divided into a set of iterations, which can be pretty handy if you develop a system with a modular structure. In such a scenario, you can define what modules your application will need (e.g., CRM, HRM, Warehouse Management, etc.) and start developing and testing each one of them according to the Waterfall methodology. The testing process itself begins after you finish working on a specific iteration. After the coders have finished creating a new module or improving the existing one, the testing team checks if the whole system works properly. Feedback received from testers can be used during the next iteration.
Among the advantages of iterative development methodology and testing, we can mention the continuous approach and immediate availability of testing results. Developers can incrementally increase software quality without any interruptions needed for performing testing activities and waiting for their results.
The weak side of such an approach is the need to ensure uninterrupted communication at the end of each iteration. The amount of info to be provided by the testing team is quite large. All problems detected after adding a new module and increasing the overall complexity of the application must be passed to the next iteration. Due to this reason, communication overhead is a thing one should consider.
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Today, Agile is, in a manner, a standard of software development. This approach enables incremental development that helps to achieve consistent improvement in product quality and functionality. The primary purpose of adopting an agile methodology is to help the team deal with unclear software requirements. If a software company customer has some business issues but doesn’t have a clear understanding of how to overcome them, the Agile methodology can be an excellent option. After a new incremental cycle of building the product is finished, the team can demonstrate how the application works at the current state. For example, suppose a customer doesn’t like how newly added features change the application behavior or decides that a specific new functionality will improve the next cycle. In that case, these changes can be added to the project.
Each small increment of the overall application development, according to this methodology, among other things, includes testing activities. The information gathered during them allows minimizing the risks when it comes to starting a new cycle. For example, suppose a client has a legacy system and wants to modernize it and adopt a cloud web application. The legacy system’s data accumulated during the years of work is vital for business continuity, and it’s crucial to transfer it to a new and shiny cloud application. During one of the cycles, the testing team may find out that the old application uses an outdated version of the database management system. Transferring the data will lead to some potential problems. With this info in mind, the testing team can devote more effort to this particular problem in the next cycle. This problem, like any others, can be discussed by the testing team members during the review meeting.
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As follows from our explanation, one of the main strong sides of testing from the Agile methodology perspective is the ability to make changes during the project life cycle. As a result, developers and testers don’t have to follow a once-chosen plan. Instead, they can choose an appropriate approach to guarantee that the final app fully meets the requirements. Risks, in this case, are pretty low both for the software company and its customer.
Unfortunately, the idyllic picture has several flaws. First, it’s essential to constantly demonstrate the work results to a client to ensure that the application fully satisfies him. If not, the changes must be applied. This need for constant interaction brings potential time delays.
Despite its name, the Extreme Programming methodology is not something exotic for an average development team like extreme sports, for example. On the contrary, it’s a commonly used approach to developing and testing software and one of the Agile methodology varieties. The development team divides the project into a set of tasks, implements some features, and demonstrates the results to a customer. Customer’s opinion, in its turn, will become a basis for new changes. Test-driven development is a distinctive feature of extreme programming. Here’s how everything works in a nutshell. First, the testing team decides what tests to perform in order to check if the features that will be implemented work correctly. Then the team runs the test, and they fail since new features are not added yet. After that, the development team writes the code that implements the needed functionality, and the testing team reruns tests to ensure that they pass, which signals that the code works just fine.
Since extreme programming methodology is a development approach similar to Agile, it has the same significant advantage: the ability for a customer to get satisfactory results even if the application requirements are unclear at the start of the project. Also, working in small cycles and applying rigorous testing, the development team has all the chances to deliver a top-notch product that can satisfy even the most demanding customers. However, the need to meet with the customer regularly to get his opinion on the course of development brings additional time requirements, which is a weak side of extreme programming.
You can’t say for sure if application testing is less important than its actual implementation from the business point of view. Developers could spend countless hours creating eye-catching designs, UI that provides the best possible experience, or features that can automate tasks that would take half a day if employees did them manually. However, a tiny bug that escaped testers’ eyes can ruin all these efforts. Likewise, your clients won’t care how many lines of finely written code your application consists of if they can’t make a banking transaction using it, and all they see is an endless loading animation. Luckily, there are many testing methodologies, each of which can be applied to a specific type of application to cover your back.
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