Software testing

What Is Software Testing? All the Basics You Need to Know

Imagine this. Your organization has been working hard on its product for two years. The release of the first version is fast approaching and everyone is excited. The stakes are high, so people are nervous, but they also believe in the quality of their work.

Then the big day finally comes… and it’s awful. Sure, the app looks great and its features are fantastic. However, the app is full of embarrassing bugs. Users are not happy and the reviews are relentless.

How could this be prevented? The answer, of course, is software testing.

To err is human. No matter how much of a perfectionist you are, we are all bound to make mistakes. Every organization has an end goal that comes with its own set of expectations.

For some businesses, success is indicated by a high frequency of actual results matching expected results. However, before reaching its ultimate goal, every business must face the consequences of human error.

No business can use a manual error as an excuse to ship a compromised product. In order to ensure a high quality product, there must be something that can eliminate the errors. Software testing is a fundamental solution to this problem for software development companies.

In this post I will cover some software testing basics you need to know. Here are some of the topics you will read about:

  • Definition of software testing
  • Importance of software testing
  • Types of software testing
  • How does the software testing process work?
  • How can you decide which types of software tests to use?

Let’s get started.

software testing

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What is software testing? A Definition

Software testing is the process of finding bugs in a product being developed. It also checks whether the actual results can match the expected results and also helps in identifying defects, missing requirements or gaps.

Testing is the penultimate step before launching a product on the market. It involves examining, analyzing, observing and evaluating various aspects of the product.

Professional software testers use a combination of manual testing with automated tools. After the tests are done, the testers report the results to the development team. The ultimate goal is to deliver a quality product to the customer, which is why software testing is so important.

Importance of software testing

It is common for many startups to skip testing. They might say that their budget is the reason they are overlooking such an important step. They believe that this will not have any major consequences. But to make a strong and positive first impression, it must be top-notch. And that’s why testing the product for bugs is a must.

To really understand why software testing is important, we need to compare it to real-world examples that have caused serious problems in the past, including a few examples;

  • In October 2014, Flipkart, an Indian e-commerce company, had an offer called the “Big Billion Sale”. When it was launched, it had high traffic and as a result, its website could not handle the enormous load leading to website outages, order cancellations, etc. The reputation of the organization was badly affected by this problem.
  • In 2015, the Royal Bank of Scotland was unable to process around 600,000 payments due to an error. They were fined £66m for this
  • Yahoo suffered a major data breach in September 2016 that exposed the credentials of 500 million users.
  • Recently, Okta, an American authentication firm, had a digital breach due to a software bug that could affect their user details. This also affected Okto’s reputation.

Similarly, established organizations need to maintain their client base and their image. Therefore, they must ensure the delivery of error-free products to the end user. Let’s look at some points and see why software testing is vital to good software development.

Increase product quality

A business can only bring value to its customers when the delivered product is ideal. And to achieve this, organizations need to make sure that users do not face any problem while using their product. A safe way to do this is to ensure that your product is bug-free.

Organizations must focus on application testing and fixing bugs that testing reveals before releasing a product. When the team solves problems before the product reaches the customer, the quality of the delivery increases.

Improve security

When customers use the product, they are required to disclose some personal information. To prevent hackers from obtaining this data, security testing is required before software is released. When an organization follows a proper testing process, it ensures a secure product that makes customers feel safe while using the product.

For example, banking applications or e-shops need payment data. If developers do not fix security-related bugs, it can cause huge financial losses.

Another part of security is not losing your data. Today it is common for people to store data in cloud storage. You probably also have your photos and files stored on iCloud or Google Drive.

What if something goes wrong and you lose all your data? One of your nightmares, right? Product security not only protects information from hackers, but also ensures that it is not lost or damaged.

Find out about compatibility with different devices and platforms

Gone are the days when customers worked exclusively on beefy PCs. In the mobile age, device compatibility testing is a must.

For example, let’s say your organization has created a website. The tester needs to check if the website runs on different device resolutions. In addition, it should also run on different browsers.

Another reason why testing is becoming more important is the ever-increasing browser capabilities. What works well in Chrome may not work well in Safari or Internet Explorer. This raises the need for cross-browser testing, which involves checking the compatibility of the application on different browsers.

Classification of software testing

Software testing is not the only thing. Instead, it comes in many different varieties that you can categorize according to several criteria.

For example, you can categorize testing types into manual or automated testing. When it comes to the automated variety, tests can be code-based or code-less – and you can also have hybrid approaches that combine the best of both worlds.

Tests can also be categorized based on how much they know about the internal implementation of the system under test. According to this criterion, we can classify tests as white-box, black-box or gray-box. Finally, we can group tests into functional and non-functional tests based on whether they validate the business requirements of the application.

Functional testing

Functional testing verifies every function of an application or software. The tester verifies functionality with a specified set of requirements. So, the source code of the software or application does not play a major role in this case. Testing software behavior is a major concern.

Different types of functional testing include:

Unit testing. During unit testing, the tester checks individual software components. The goal is to test whether the components behave as required.

Integration testing. Integration testing deals with the testing of individual components or modules after their connection in a group.

System testing. Here, the tester executes the test cases to verify the compliance of the integrated and completed software along with the specifications.

Sanity testing. This tests logical reasoning related to the operation of the program.

Smoke testing. Smoke testing tests simple and basic functionality, such as whether a user is able to log in or log out.

Interface testing. These tests verify that the communication between two software systems is working correctly.

Regression testing. This is probably one of the most important testing phases. Here, the old test cases of the entire application are executed after the implementation of the new functionality.

Beta/acceptance testing. Here, intended users test the product and report bugs.

Non-Functional Testing

Non-functional testing considers parameters such as reliability, usability and performance. A broken test can check how many users can log into the system at the same time.

Non-functional types of testing include:

Performance testing. The performance or speed of the application is tested under the required load.

Load testing. This tests the behavior of the application under heavy workloads. So if you are testing a website, stress testing checks the functionality and performance of the website under high traffic.

Stress testing. Stress testing determines the robustness of software by assessing whether it performs beyond normal operation.

Volume testing. This tests the performance of the system by loading the database into an increased volume of data.

Security testing. Here, test cases are executed to verify that the system is secure against sudden or deliberate attacks from internal and external sources.

Compatibility testing. Test cases are executed to verify that the application is compatible with different environments. For example, if you’re testing a web application, compatibility testing deals with how the website performs on different browsers or devices.

Install testing. These tests verify that the product works as expected after installation.

Recovery testing. Here, testers determine the application’s ability to recover from crashes and hardware failures.

Reliability testing. This procedure checks where an application can perform a certain task without failing within a certain time frame. For example, suppose you are testing a cryptocurrency mining application. A scenario where an application can mine continuously for eight hours without crashing might be something you’re looking for during reliability testing.

Usability testing. Usability testing examines the end user’s ease of use in terms of learning, operating, and preparing inputs and outputs.

Compliance testing. This determines the compliance of the system with external and internal standards.

Localization testing. Here, testers check the behavior of the product according to the local or cultural setting and environment.

Based on the amount of information you know about the product to be tested, software testing can be divided into different types: black box testing, white box testing, and gray box testing.

Black box testing

In this type of testing, you have the least information about how the product is built. You don’t know the structure of the product, its code or logic. You would use the product as an end user. Because in black box testing you would have the same amount of information as your customer, it is used for functional testing.

This type of testing can only occur when the code is run. That is why dynamic testing is used. Dynamic testing is the type where you have to run the code and test the product while the code is being executed. It is mostly done to check how it would be when it is in operation and how the user would experience it.

White box testing

In white-box testing, you have most of the information about the product. White-box testing is mostly used to improve code. This type of testing is identified by looking for code inefficiencies, bad coding practices, and unnecessary lines of code. Most code optimizations and security fixes are the result of this testing.

White-box testing does not focus mainly on how the web application works. Rather, it focuses on how it could be improved. There are many improvements you can make to your product, but the last few steps to perfection are difficult. And it can’t be perfect until it has no problems.

Perfection requires thorough inspection. Since a running product cannot give you all the statistics, you will need to review the code without running it. This is known as static testing.

Static testing is also used in the early stages of development when it is simple and you don’t have to wait for the product to be deployed.

Gorilla testing

Gorilla testing is a type of software testing where a module is often tested using random inputs and ensures that the modules are checked without errors. This type of testing is performed manually and repeatedly, where only a few selected modules of the system are tested to determine whether the module is working correctly or not. Other names for Gorilla testing include; torture testing, fault tolerance testing and frustrating testing.

Gray box testing

With this type of testing, you have partial information about the product. This type of testing is useful for finding bugs that the user would not be aware of.

A very simple example, if you designed an element to have a blue tint, but it has a green tint. The user wouldn’t know it was an error because they would think it was meant to be. But your partial knowledge of the product would help you identify such errors.

Now that you understand what testing is all about, it’s time for you to know how to go about the software testing process.

Software testing process

Like any other process, software testing can be divided into different phases. This sequence of phases is often known as the software testing life cycle. Let’s take a look at them in brief.

Planning

Every process starts with planning. At this stage, you collect all the required product data. You collect a list of tasks that need to be tested first. If you’re testing after fixing a bug, then you’d want to know what the bug was and what the ideal behavior is.

Then you prioritize your to-do checklist. If a complete team is involved, then division of tasks can also be done at this stage.

Preparation

Once you know what to do, you need to create a foundation for testing. This includes preparing the test environment, collecting test cases, exploring product features and test cases. A collection of tools and techniques for testing and familiarization should also be done here.

Execution

This is when you actually run the product tests. You execute test cases and collect results. Then you compare the results with the expected result and find out whether the product works as expected or not. You record all successful and failed tests and test cases.

Reporting

This is the final stage of software testing where you must document all your findings and present them to the appropriate personnel. The most interesting here are the test case failures. A proper and clear explanation of test progress and outputs should be mentioned.

For comprehensive tests, steps to reproduce the error, screenshots, and anything else useful should be provided.

Two ways of Software testing

As we know, in today’s machine age, everything that involves manual effort is slowly being automated. And the same is happening in the field of testing. There are two different ways of performing software testing – manual and automation.

Manual work in any field requires a lot of time and effort. Manual testing is a process in which testers examine various features of an application. Here the tester performs the process without using any tools or test scripts. Without using any automated tools, testers carry out the execution of various test cases. Finally, they will generate a test report.

Quality assurance analysts test developing software for bugs. They do this by writing the scenarios in an Excel file or QA tool and manually testing each scenario.

But in automated testing, testers use scripts to test (thereby automating the process). Pre-scripted tests run automatically and compare actual and expected results. With test automation, where constant human intervention is not required, things like regression testing and performing repetitive tasks don’t seem like a huge effort.

Is automated testing making manual testing obsolete?

Now that you understand what manual and automated testing are, we need to clarify an important question.

Is automation testing making manual testing obsolete? No.

Even though the automatic performance of most processes takes place in automation testing, some manual work is still a must. Generating the initial script for testing requires human effort. Human supervision is also mandatory in any automated process.

Automation simply makes the testing process easier. However, manual testing is not obsolete. The best result can only be achieved by a combination of manual and automated tests.

Why is there such a huge demand for test automation?

As testing is more efficient and faster, there is a huge demand for automation testing as compared to manual testing. And the reason is that it helps to find more bugs in less time. By checking each individual unit, automated testing also increases test coverage. As a result, the productivity of the organization increases.

How to choose between different types of software testing? Enter the test automation pyramid

As you have seen, software testing comes in many shapes and sizes. Each type provides a different kind of feedback, meaning they are not interchangeable. Each type of testing also has its own costs and associated challenges.

Given that your team and organization have limited resources, how can you choose between the many types of testing available in a way that maximizes test coverage and ensures that you can deliver high-quality software while using your resources in the most efficient way?

This is where a concept known as the Test Automation Pyramid comes in handy.

We have a whole post about this concept, but here’s the short version: the test automation pyramid – test pyramid for short – is a concept that helps you think about different types of software testing and choose between them.

At the bottom of the pyramid you have unit tests. Unit tests are simpler and cheaper than most other forms of testing. Because they don’t communicate with external dependencies, they run fast and are extremely accurate in the feedback they provide. So it makes sense to have a lot of them.

The center of the pyramid consists of service tests or integration tests. They offer more “realistic” feedback than unit tests because they verify integration between units and talk to real dependencies. But that also makes them slower to launch, more complex to write and maintain, and offer less accurate feedback.

Integration tests are valuable, but given their limitations, it makes sense for an employer to have fewer.

Finally, the top of the pyramid contains end-to-end tests. End-to-end tests are the most realistic of all types of software testing because they run the application in the same way as a real user. However, they tend to be slower and more fragile, in addition to being more expensive to write, maintain, and implement.

It pays to have these types of tests in your test suite, but it would be wise to have few of them.

Testing is the lifeline of software

No company can underestimate the importance of delivering the best possible product to customers. And the types of testing are constantly evolving and the list goes on. Depending on the nature and scope of your products, you can perform different testing procedures.

Once the test team gives the green signal, the product is ready to go to market. However, businesses still need to keep in mind that customer trust is not easily established. To earn the trust of customers, you need to provide consistent and reliable products. Therefore, testing is an integral part of the software development life cycle.

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One thought on “What Is Software Testing? All the Basics You Need to Know

  1. Good post. I absolutely appreciate this website. Thanks!

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