Software Testing Best Practices
Software testing best practices must be used when products are updated constantly to improve their performance and functionalities. Software testing has been imperative not only during the first development phase but also throughout maintenance. Therefore, your team needs to have a proper testing strategy that works in all circumstances.
Thus, we need to follow software testing best practices to make Quality Assurance effective. There are many advantages to Quality Assurance. Some of them are creating quality products, reducing costs, increasing end users’ satisfaction, and improving the security of the final product.
In this article, we will discuss the best practices your team can follow during the four levels of software testing.
Plan Quality Assurance (QA) testing and processes
The first step is to plan the QA process by creating a proper test plan to help the software teams communicate quickly. It will include all the procedures used for software testing purposes. As a result, the document is beneficial for the new testers who join the testing team.
Quality Assurance (QA) tests and their correlated tasks must be carefully planned in the very beginning. This helps us to outline terms and objectives while generating robust testing documentation. Besides, the QA testing methodologies offer the design and development teams the details to build a quality application.
Software Quality Assurance does not rely on testing. Instead, it relies on the results of the QA tests. It is mandatory to adopt the QA testing approach according to the product the team is developing.
Components of a Quality Assurance (QA) plan
- Test policy – Test policy describes the organization’s test principles selected and approved and its primary test objectives.
- Quality Management Plan – Quality Management Plan includes software quality requirements. The Quality Management Plan defines the adequate level of quality targeted for.
- Test Strategy – Test Strategy is a high-level document that aims at the business requirements of the application.
- Test Plan – The Test Plan is an operational document that detects the testing realm and other correlated tasks.
- Test Case – Test case defines the activities or set of requirements to test.
Integrate all Quality Assurance (QA) tests with the CI/CD pipeline
The software testing process will be very successful if you test the development code as existing code is modified. The QA processes that we plan to execute must be automated within the CI setup to test existing code quickly. As a result, when the development code changes, it will pass through a test before the changes deploy to production.
Why is it essential to integrate Quality Assurance (QA) tests with the CI/CD pipeline?
As part of the CI/CD setup, using test automation is one of the industry-standard testing best practices to deploy code to the production system without bugs and faults.
Consequently, each code must be automatically tested within the CI pipeline to acquire the best outcome from the development phase. Furthermore, testing within automated CI/CD pipelines improves the product’s security by discovering issues quickly.
Steps to follow when integrating quality assurance (QA) tests with the CI/CD pipeline
- Select the appropriate CI/CD tool (e.g., Jenkins, Circle CI, Travis CI, etc.) for the project.
- Document the CI/CD pipeline components and elements.
- Use an efficient testing workflow with the test automation tool.
- Recognize the processes that can and should be automated.
- Recognize vulnerable points that result in crackups.
- Improve the collaboration among software developers and the QA teams.
Generate reports from tests
The main reason why you need to generate reports is to know whether the tests are successful. Apart from the software developers and software test teams, even the stakeholders will use these test reports to verify the status of the application.
We use these generated reports to log all the information related to the testing tasks and their frameworks. In other words, we need to log all the testing modules and their outcomes.
How to generate a beneficial test report?
- Include the results of all the test modules.
- Add a separate section to record the bugs.
- Explain the nature and behavior of the bugs together with the frequency of their occurrence.
- Come up with solutions for the recorded bugs.
- Reproduce a bug before reporting it and include the steps of it.
- Include screenshots as evidence for the existing defects and bugs.
- Include a bug summary to discover the nature and the state of the bug/fault quickly.
- Integrate the report with a bug tracking system.
Test Early and Test Often with a Shift-left approach
Planning for quality assurance activities should be initiated at the start of development to yield optimal results. By focusing on testing throughout the entire SDLC, more realistic expectations can be set about deadlines without sacrificing product quality.
Traditionally, testing has begun after development was finished. However, the agile methodology requires testers to begin testing from the start of the project. By commencing testing earlier in the software development process, defects are uncovered earlier. As we all know, the earlier you find a bug, the earlier you can fix it. Thus, time and money are saved, positive team relationships are maintained, product delivery is accelerated, and test coverage is boosted.
Teams that implement Continuous Testing end up executing tests as a part of the delivery pipeline. Therefore potential defect feedback is obtained faster leading to more frequent releases.
Shift-Left Continuous Testing
Combining both Shift-Left and Continuous Testing principles yields Shift-Left Continuous Testing. The primary goal is to:
- Automate our product to the best of our abilities.
- Boost test coverage as much as possible.
- Run all tests in the development pipeline immediately.
Run Frequent QA Technical Reviews
Formal reviews of a technical nature are helpful because they uncover logical or functional errors in code, especially during the early stages of the SDLC.
Logical errors are caused by a defect and result in functionality behaving wrongly. A logical error does not cause the application to crash or terminate unexpectedly. On the other hand, functional errors happen when subpar exception handling breaks referential transparency.
These reviews take place in a formal setting such as a group meeting. Typically, stakeholders with varying roles establish the application meets standards and requirements.
The name for these meetings is “formal technical reviews” or FTR. An FTR is commonly performed on mature applications where market segmentation and target users are already entrenched.
Reports are generated as outputs from the FTR. These reports answer the following questions:
- What was reviewed?
- Who was involved in the review?
- What were the findings of the review?
- What decisions were made?
There are three primary methods of review:
The product’s author conducts the review and introduces the solution to the panel of other reviewers. Feedback on potential changes is received and release timelines are discussed.
A meeting is called to review the source code in an attempt to find defects, more efficient ways of coding, and observe the documentation.
Inspections are held to expand the initial standard and identify if defects found earlier are still reproducible.
Create a separate software team for testing
Some companies expect developers to do QA testing. But software quality control is a field that requires a different skillset from development. Also, developers won’t like to see bugs in their codes. Hence they could ignore some of the bugs they find or deliberately do a lousy job at testing. Therefore every company should have a QA team of software testers, which eventually leads to building a Testing Center of Excellence.
The main task of the software testing team members is to look for software bugs. They are responsible for planning tests, writing test cases, executing tests, etc. Much of the test documentation is held in software Test Management Software. In addition, if they find any bugs within the code, they are in charge of documenting and reporting them to the developers. As you can see, the duties of each QA role are vast.
What are the primary Quality Assurance (QA) roles?
Let us look at the primary quality assurance roles that contribute to the success of software testing.
- Software test engineer
- QA Engineer
- Test analyst
- Test automation engineer
- Software development engineer in test
- QA Specialist
- Test architect
- Test manager/QA Team Leader
What skills should a software tester have in general?
Software testers must have strong skills in a variety of categories. Following is a list of skills a software tester should have in general.
- Ability to automate and write tests
- Ability to do manual testing
- Analytical and critical thinking
- Spontaneous reporting and proper documentation skills
- High adaptability
- Capability to comprehend the business and the requirements
- Be aware of project management and agile software testing best practices
- Ability to learn new technologies and tools
- Time management
- Outstanding communication skills
Write Tests for Maximum Coverage
We should write all types of tests that cover most of the functionalities of the software. In addition, it is better to include all the valid/predicted conditions and unpredicted conditions for the test cases. This will test each functionality of the software against all possible outcomes.
Writing tests for maximum coverage will assist your QA team in recognizing the gaps in QA testing. As a result, you will be aware of the software components in your application that lack test coverage. Moreover, it evaluates the standard of existing tests and figures out useless test cases.
How to gain maximum coverage?
Maximum test coverage is gained through the following.
- Product Coverage helps your QA team verify the functions and features of the application are working as expected. In addition, it will guarantee the non-functional aspects such as performance, usability, and availability.
- Risk Coverage assists us in evaluating the risks in the application.
- Requirements Coverage will outline the business requirements of the application and ensure tests are covering them.
Optimize the use of automated tests
One of the QA best practices to enhance the quality of the software applications is by automating QA tests and making use of automation tools to execute the tests. This approach conserves time, lessens human errors, enhances test coverage, and performs batch testing together with parallel execution.
However, every test can’t be and shouldn’t be automated. Therefore it is vital to understand when to use automated testing and when to use manual testing. The key advantage of automated testing is it can be integrated with Agile workflows easily. This is a healthy solution for the companies that are moving fast towards Agile development.
Examples for automation testing tools
Following is a list of testing automation tools.
- Katalon Studio
- Unified Functional Testing (UFT)
- Test Complete
API automation can be extremely challenging for manual testers. AccelaTest empowers manual testers to create automated tests without requiring them to write a line of code.
Software testing best practices to follow before and while automating tests
- Determine the tests your QA team needs to automate.
- Assign the test tasks among the QA teams considering the level of expertise and skills of testers.
- Do not put the entire burden on a single QA engineer or a tester. Make sure all the members of the QA team have a responsibility. With this, the whole development team will be aware of what is happening.
- Choose the most suitable test automation tool depending on the nature of the application, the expertise of the QA teams, and the budget.
- Arrange the setup to test the application within the production environment.
- Continue to document the test cases.
- Make sure to execute tests during the early phases of the software development lifecycle.
- Make use of automation tests frequently.
Carry out Regression Tests
I would say this is the chief best practice in software testing best practices. We use regression tests to guarantee existing features work fine even after modifying the application’s code. Regression tests have to re-run the existing test cases and ensure they do not fail when we add a program or code modification. For that reason, regression tests are helpful when there are requirement changes and when we wish to add a new feature to the software application.
Steps of regression testing
Following are the steps you need to follow if you wish to execute regression tests.
- Debug the code base and recognize the bugs and faults.
- Fix the bugs and faults.
- Choose the associated test cases from the test suite that includes modified segments of the source code.
- Execute the selected test cases.
What are the regression testing tools?
Following is a list of regression testing tools to automate the test cases and gain the maximum benefit of its reusability.
- Avo Assure
- Unified Functional Test/Quick Test Professional (UFT/QTP)
- Rational Functional Tester (RFT)
Rely on all levels of a testing pyramid
The Testing Pyramid is the most basic framework that assists software testers to accomplish testing goals and build reliable test plans. The testing pyramid levels (E2E tests, Unit testing, and Integration tests) define the order and regularity of tests. The following figure is an image of the testing pyramid.
Benefits of relying on the testing pyramid
There are several benefits of relying on the testing pyramid. Some of the benefits are,
- It can streamline the testing process.
- Easy to carry out the tasks when introducing the testing requirements.
- It allows easy tests to execute in the very beginning. As a result, it enhances time management.
- It provides QA testers with the right priorities
- It gives the maximum test coverage.
- More suitable for the agile processes due to the efficiency.
Create Testable Requirements
A development team’s dream is to have well-documented requirements that are consumable and right-sized. Conversely, their nightmare is having obscure requirements that leave them scratching their head. How well functional requirements are written determines how testable they are and ultimately the number of resulting bugs.
When requirements are well-written, they adequately describe how the software feature is to behave. Having good requirements leads to the ability to write tests that determine whether each requirement condition has been met.
To sum up, requirements should be written in the active voice with clarity, completeness, and void of ambiguity.
Ideal Methods to Writing Requirements
There are numerous ways to write requirements that can lead to success. From traditional requirements to the more agile methods of TDD, BDD, and ATDD:
Test-Driven Development (TDD)
Requirements are created as developer unit tests in this method. However, testers usually work with their developers to create thorough tests. Some techniques teams have great success with are equivalence partitioning, and boundary value analysis.
Behavioral-Driven Development (BDD)
A special syntax (Gherkin) is used to create real examples of how the system shall function. Thus, BDD rids requirements of abstract language in favor of simpler language.
As the name implies, users are focused on in this method of requirements writing. User Stories are written in the format of user-role, features, and goals.
Acceptance Test-Driven Development (ATDD)
ATDD combines user stories with acceptance criteria to display how the software application is intended to function.
Re-writing similar test cases, again and again, is a burden for a software tester. Similarly, writing the same set of codes in each test case is cumbersome. Even if the software testers manage to accomplish that task in the first place, they will face challenges when a requirement change appears.
Utilizing test design patterns and shared libraries will allow testers to minimize code duplication. As a result, the software testers are capable of managing their time while managing tests efficiently.
What are examples of test design patterns?
Following is a set of test design patterns that are popular among software testers.
- Page-Object Pattern
- Business-Layer Page-Object pattern
- Builder pattern
- Factory method pattern
- Lazy initialization pattern
- Singleton pattern can
- Adapter pattern
- Composite pattern
- Decorator pattern
- Façade pattern
- Iterator pattern
- Servant pattern
- Template method pattern
Follow the “green light” strategy and create backups
Even though we automate the tests for ease, we cannot ignore the possibility of such tests failing. Sometimes, these tests fail without any indication or without letting the testers know. Or in some cases, these failing tests are ignored or removed without investigating further. As a result, errors in the testing pipeline will arise.
The “green light” approach can fix failing tests. Therefore, the testing pipeline will not encounter any errors, and the tests will produce expected outcomes. The “green light” approach has the potential to resolve flaky tests that yield several results.
Our intention should not only be the passing of test cases. We must take the necessary steps to prepare for unexpected events, such as tests crashing or cyber-attacks. Hence one of the software testing best practices is to get regular backups of the data and other important things related to testing.
Rely Only on a Controlled Security Environment for Testing
Specifically, there is a high risk of getting caught with internet fraud and stolen data when software testers work outside the secured office environment.
How to establish a secure environment to execute software tests?
- Avoid initiating connections with public networks – Connecting to a public network is unsafe as there is a high risk of an attack. This will put the project and test data at risk. There will be an economic effect on the software company if the testers face an attack.
- Get to know who has access to your network. – It is essential to know whether any other person has access to your network and who they are. If they do not belong to your software company, there is a chance that they will tend to steal data. To avoid this situation, we can provide access only to the software testers and associate people.
Enhance security awareness among the QA team. – Giving a proper understanding of how to secure the testing environment will guarantee the execution of software tests in a secure environment. Following is a list of things software testers can do to enhance the security of the environment.
- Email verification.
- Avoid clicking on unknown links and advertisement banners.
- Limit official data only to your work computer.
- Lock the computer when you are not using it.
- Avoid using personal accounts on work computers.
- Avoid using third-party software and update the software often – By making sure you are using only genuine software, you can minimize risks. Whenever a software product recognizes a vulnerability, the product owners fix the issues and release an update. Hence, making use of the updated software will enhance the security of the test environment.
Concentrate on code changes and make use of code quality measurements
There are scenarios where software developers must modify the existing code. For example, if there is a requested requirement change, the developers will modify the code to fulfill the requirement. As a result, the test case written for the modified code set might not execute correctly and could fail. Hence it is essential to focus on the code changes and do the necessary modifications to the associated test cases.
Other than that, using code quality measurements will also allow us to get the maximum benefit of tests.
What are Software quality indicators and test metrics?
Even though there is no definite technique to estimate the code quality, we can use quality indicators and metrics discussed below to get it done.
Reliability is one of the metrics we can use to know the duration an application can function without failure. The reason behind using reliability as a metric is to minimize application downtime. Reliability can be estimated by calculating the bug count in production. This can be achieved by reliability testing as well.
- Performance efficiency
We can utilize Performance efficiency to be aware of the responsiveness of an application to perform an activity within a specific time duration.
Following measures can be used to estimate performance efficiency.
- Stress testing
- Soak testing
- Application performance monitoring
The capacity of an application to guard its data from dangers such as software breaches is known as Security. We can calculate the vulnerabilities count through security testing. This count will represent the security status of the application.
If the software can transform, adapt, and re-adjust depending on its requirements, its maintainability is high. We can measure the maintainability of an application by calculating the number of code lines. The maintainability is low if the number of lines of code is high.
In addition, we can use complexity metrics such as cyclomatic complexity to estimate the complexity of the software. Know that the application is challenging to maintain when the complexity is high.
- Rate of Software Delivery
The Rate of Software Delivery is the only metric to know how often end users received a software release or an update.
Break Tests in Small Fractions
One of the best ways to avoid complications and easily handle tests is by breaking them down into small fractions. Most of the major tests are complicated with many lines of code.
Breaking down the tests into small chunks will help save time and resources when executing QA tests often throughout the software development life cycle. This testing process assists us in understanding each QA test individually. As a result, if a test fails, we are aware of the exact reason behind it.
For example, consider a scenario where we are testing GET, POST, and PUT endpoints of an API. If we include all the tests into a single test and the test fails, it is difficult to understand the failure exactly and the related endpoint. But if we define three test cases for the three endpoints, we can get rid of this issue. However, depending on the test requirements and the application’s architecture, the breaking down of test scenarios will differ.
External library testing in Software Testing Best Practices
External libraries your project pulls in should be thoroughly tested by their providers. Therefore you should not need to test the functionality of external libraries. However, you still need to perform integration testing on the libraries to ensure they are properly integrated.
Form effective test strategies by understanding product objectives
The most effective testers bridge the gap between technical perspective and business perspective. To successfully test a system, they must put end-users first and understand the user’s problem being solved by the software.
When testers only focus on the requirements and lack business knowledge, they typically cannot see the forest for the trees. To successfully test the software, you must not have a narrow focus fixated on technical functionality. Therefore, having a deep understanding of how the whole product comes together to solve customer needs through all of its components, dependencies, integration points, and data flows is paramount.
Implement User Acceptance Testing (UAT)
Identify and create user personas for your software. These personas should be an approximation and target the optimal user of your software.
Personas are relevant for Quality Assurance teams who use them as their guiding light as they navigate through the system. They help the tester anticipate how a defect or functional error could be triggered as they interact with the application.
However, having a user persona is not a guarantee of catching all bugs. Software testers cannot anticipate how an actual user will interact with the system as our users can be very unpredictable in their behavior patterns.
Therefore, bringing end-users to participate in the software testing cycle is extremely important. User Acceptance Testing is typically performed during the last testing phase of an application. Reaching this important stage of testing is a milestone and one of the final steps to the production release.
Our end-users observe a product through a different lens. As a tester who helps build a product from the ground up, you will have pre-conceived notions and intimate knowledge of how the system behaves. The end-user does not have the experience of testing a product every day, so each feature and response is novel to them. Thus, obtaining their unbiased perspective of the product is critical and one of the software testing best practices.
The 5 types of UAT testing are:
Contract Acceptance Testing
This type of UAT determines whether the application conforms to contract requirements.
Alpha and Beta Testing
Both types are pre-release phase testing. Alpha testing is performed at an early stage of development while beta testing is open to end-users who are typically early adopters. Beta testers have some level of acceptance and expectations of observing bugs.
Black Box Testing
Similar to an airplane’s black box, the content of a black box is not known. Similarly, during black-box testing, the testers know what the software should do, but are not aware of how the software will meet the expectation.
Regulation Acceptance Testing
There are many legal requirements an application may need to meet. This is how you can determine if they are met.
Production Readiness Testing
This UAT type determines if the application is ready for prime-time. All workflows and business processes are verified.
Carry out tests throughout the Software Development Cycle
Carrying out the testing processes only during the SDLC phase is not sufficient. For a better outcome from the testing processes, it is mandatory to execute tests (especially unit tests and integration tests) whenever a significant modification is done within the software development process or when a new feature is added or removed. Therefore, we need to plan the testing schedule at the very beginning of the software development process.
Test-Driven Development (TDD)
In TDD, automated tests are created before any actual code for the application is developed. Every new feature begins with an automated test that fails.
After the test is created, the feature’s code is written ensuring the currently failing test passes. TDD boosts productivity, code quality, simplifies the code, and makes for better documentation.
As with most things in life, two is better than one. Would you rather have two cookies or one? The same principle can be applied to testing scrunity and is a form of extreme programming. Two software engineers join one another to work collaboratively on a single computer. One engineer slings the code while the other makes suggestions and reviews.
A significant benefit of executing tests throughout the software development life cycle is detecting and identifying bugs and faults early as possible. As a result, we can enhance the quality of the software and reduce the number of defects in the final stages of the software development life cycle. This will also reduce the pressure for the software developers and build confidence among them to add required modifications to the application.
Increase the quality and speed
Gaining a high quality and increased speed are two main aims of any application regardless of the type of the software, i.e., web application, downloadable software, or an API. When it comes to quality control of an application, we have to ensure that the efficiency of the QA process is high as we need to execute in different stages throughout the software development life cycle.
How to increase the speed of test cycles?
Following is a list of software testing best practices your QA team should follow to increase the speed of test cycles.
- Organizing Quality Control test cases correctly.
- Minimize the data creation time by creating test data directly in the database.
- Leverage AccelaTest’s hybrid approach to testing.
- Avoid testing test cases one after another. Make use of parallel testing.
- Utilize a modular approach to handle and manage test cases.
- Follow the testing levels in the test pyramid.
- Communicate often with the QA team.
- Figure out the correct parameters.
- Figure out the test cases that require automation.
- Utilize testing tools.
The quality of the QA tests can be maintained using test management systems. For example, if your team uses Jira, you need to use one of the best workflow management tools that fit Jira. In addition, it is essential to test the code written for the automated tests to enhance the quality.
Managing a set of quality objectives is also essential for faster market speed and higher quality. Make sure the goals are appropriately aligned with the requirements of the end users. This will assist designers, software developers, and software testers to be aware of the expected requirements.
Software Testing Best Practices Conclusion
Software testing is the process that we execute in the software development process to determine the performance of an application and discover whether the implemented software meets the requirements or not. In parallel, this process helps us to recognize the deficiencies and faults to guarantee the software product is defect-free to deliver a standard product.
Regardless of the testing method and the testing approach (manual testing or automated testing, white box testing, or black-box testing) used, it is necessary to follow the QA best practices discussed above to get effective results from the software testing tasks.