If there is one thing in your product or service that makes it stand out above others and enhances your chances for success, it has to be quality. It is paramount in all industries, as well as in software development. Ensuring the best quality in your software will help you with many factors and provide you with trust and credibility in the future.
Since it is so important, it’s worth considering how we can achieve it and bring it to a desired level. The only way to improve the quality of your software is to test it in multiple ways and implement the repairs until it reaches the standards. The necessity in this process is to have a great tester on your team. An excellent quality tester can be an immense treasure as it will notice the problems that everyone before overlooked and search in the places everyone neglected. For example, at first glance, a website or platform might seem fine, but some problems and bugs can occur during exploitation which can cause significant problems in the future of your product or service and your whole enterprise.
Luckily I gathered some basic questions and prepared a brief overview of SQA and Software Testing.
The basics: Software Quality Assurance, Software Testing and Quality Control
To ensure your project reaches the best quality, there are a few terms you need to understand. The whole process can be divided into three distinct parts:
- Software Quality Assurance (SQA) is the backbone of the software development process. It involves creating and defining processes and procedures that help maintain the quality of the software. SQA aims to prevent defects from occurring in the first place, ensuring that the software is built according to defined quality standards and requirements.
- Software Testing is the process of executing a software system or application under controlled conditions to identify defects or bugs in the software. Testing can be manual or automated and is focused on ensuring that the software is functional, reliable, and meets the needs of its users.
- Quality Control (QC) is the last stage of software development, involving identifying and fixing defects or errors in the software product. QC activities include testing, inspections, and reviews, ensuring the software product is defect-free and meets the required quality standards.
Together, SQA, testing, and QC stages ensure the creation of high-quality software products that meet the needs and expectations of the end-users.
Why QA is so important
Based on my experience as a QA tester I can help you better understand how it affects the success of software development:
- Takes a proactive approach to prevent defects in the software by implementing processes and procedures that help identify and address potential issues before they become significant problems.
- By preventing defects and errors early in the development cycle, SQA can help reduce the overall cost of software development. This can save time, money, and resources by reducing the need for rework and bug fixing.
- QA plays a crucial role in ensuring that the software meets user needs and expectations. This involves implementing quality standards and requirements that guarantee the software’s functionality and reliability, making it compatible with the needs of its users.
- Compliance is critical for industries such as healthcare and finance. SQA can help verify that software complies with industry standards and regulations.
- QA can help establish a positive reputation for the software development company. By delivering high-quality software products that meet or exceed user expectations, companies can establish a positive reputation in the industry, leading to increased business opportunities and customer satisfaction.
Testing vs Checking
When reading about software quality assurance, you may stumble upon terms that may seem similar but, in fact, they are different.
It involves engaging in discovery, exploration, investigation, and learning. It is the act of configuring, operating and observing a product to assess its performance or identify unexpected issues. Testing is also about uncovering the boundaries and constraints of a product and its design, driven by unanswered or unasked questions.
It is a procedure of affirming, verifying, and validating. It involves verifying our existing beliefs to ensure their accuracy. For instance, we conduct checks when we modify code and need to ensure that all previously functioning aspects still operate correctly. Similarly, we verify critical assumptions through checks to confirm their validity.
Principles of Software Testing
Effective software testing is essential for ensuring high-quality software that meets user needs. There are two main facets of software quality: functional and non-functional. To achieve effective testing, seven principles should be followed:
- testing early and continuously
- based on clear requirements
- systematic and thorough testing
- early defect identification and fixing
- independent testing
- skilled professionals
- transparent reporting
Following these principles helps ensure that software meets high quality and user satisfaction standards. If you are more interested to understand the principles of software testing be sure to stay tuned for our following article on it.
Software testing role in software development life cycle
By testing early and often, software development teams can ensure that software is delivered on time, within budget, and with the highest levels of quality and reliability. There are different approaches to testing and here are just a few:
- Waterfall model
In the waterfall model, testing typically occurs towards the end of the development cycle, after requirements gathering, design, and implementation. Testing ensures that the software meets the requirements and specifications defined earlier in the cycle. However, this model is rarely recommended as the list of the final errors to repair can be very long if they are not addressed right away, which often requires costly changing the whole concept at the very end.
Here, testing is integrated throughout the development cycle and closely tied to each phase of the SDLC. Testing is carried out in parallel with each development phase to identify and fix defects early and ensure that each stage of the SDLC is properly completed before moving on to the next.
Such kind of testing is a continuous and iterative process that takes place throughout the development cycle. Testing is closely integrated with development and design, focusing on delivering working software in small increments that users can test and evaluate.
- DevOps/Continuous Delivery
DevOps/Continuous Delivery involves automating the steps of building, testing, configuring, and deploying software from a development environment to a production environment. Testing here is essential to the automated delivery pipeline. It is carried out continuously and automatically at every stage of the SDLC, focusing on rapid feedback, defect detection, and ensuring that software is delivered reliably and frequently to users.
Software testing process
Since you come so far you may ask yourself: How do I start? Where should I begin? To not get overwhelmed we covered a basic testing process for you.
As it is a continuous process involving several phases, each of which is critical in ensuring software quality and reliability we can distinguish activities like:
First, you define the testing objectives, scope, and strategies. Then test plans, test cases, and test scenarios are created, and the testing environment is set up. Planning helps ensure that testing is well-organized, efficient, and effective.
In the next phase, tests are performed based on the test cases and scenarios defined in the planning phase. Testers execute the tests, collect data, and report any defects or issues found during testing. Execution helps ensure that the software meets the requirements and specifications in the SDLC.
The testing results are analyzed, documented, and reported to stakeholders in this phase. Reports may include metrics such as defect density, test coverage, and pass/fail rates. Reporting helps ensure that the software meets the highest standards of quality and reliability.
- Shift Left or Shift Right:
Shift Left refers to testing activities performed earlier in the SDLC, such as unit testing, component testing, and integration testing. Shift Right refers to testing activities performed later in the SDLC, such as acceptance, system, and regression testing. These approaches impact the software testing process by shifting the focus to early defect detection, reducing rework and cost, and ensuring that software is tested thoroughly across all stages of the SDLC.
Methods of software testing & best practices
To help you better understand how testing is actually done, let me find you the testing methods and best practices that will help you in your software development process. I gathered a few to give a deeper understanding:
It is a set of techniques where testing done relies on the quality of the code itself. Testing activities are performed by developers who ensure their code is free from obvious mistakes and executable in a clear way. Multiple chunks of code can be examined at the same time and while they are made, ensuring consistency at the lowest level. We can distinguish three main testing approaches used in the coding itself:
Test-driven development is a software development process that emphasizes the creation of automated tests before the software is developed. In TDD, software requirements are converted into test cases, which are then used to guide the development process. The software is continually tested against all test cases throughout development to ensure it meets the required functionality and specifications.
- Unit tests
Unit testing can be a crucial part of the test-driven development (TDD) process, but it can be also used without TDD to ensure continuous testing and refinement of a product developed in an Agile manner. As the first level of software testing, unit testing is performed before other types of testing, such as integration testing. Unit tests are designed to be self-contained and not rely on external code or functions. While manual testing is an option here, unit testing is almost always automated for greater efficiency and accuracy.
- White box testing
White box testing is a type of application testing that grants the tester full access to the application being tested, including its source code and design documents. With this comprehensive visibility, white box testing can detect issues that are not apparent in gray and black box testing methods but also utilizes more general product knowledge than is needed in the unit tests.
Interaction-based testing is a testing technique that originated in the Extreme Programming community. This method focuses on the behavior of objects and explores how they interact with their collaborators through method calls rather than their internal state.
In component testing, the program is evaluated based on its behavior, without considering the underlying code details. This type of testing is conducted on a fully developed section of code to ensure that it functions properly as a standalone component within the overall application. It ensures that all the pieces work together, even if specified by different specification groups at different times. Integrated testing helps identify and fix any issues that may arise from the interaction.
System testing, also referred to as system-level tests or system-integration testing, is the process in which a quality assurance (QA) team evaluates how the various components of an application interact together in the full, integrated system or application.
- Grey box
Grey-box testing combines white-box testing and black-box testing to search for defects caused by improper structure or usage of applications. It aims to uncover defects that may not be detected by traditional black-box testing while maintaining a degree of independence from the system’s internal workings.
- Automated checks – used partially or as end-to-end approach (including regression testing)
End-to-end testing is a technique that assesses an application’s performance, functionality, dependencies, and integration issues throughout each stage of the software development life cycle (SDLC) mimicking whole or partial journey through projected software use. This type of testing involves replicating end-user behaviour, in example buying products through the website and is similar to user acceptance testing. It also tests and measures the performance of the integrated system as a whole and is typically performed by a technical testing team or quality assurance (QA), making it a form of business process testing.
Exploratory testing is a type of software testing that relies on the tester’s domain knowledge, intuition, and experience to uncover defects in the application. It is an opportunity-dependent approach that does not rely on pre-defined test cases or scripts but instead adapts to the changing needs of the testing process and focuses on possibilities not covered by more structured testing techniques.
- Risk analysis (and risk-based testing):
Allows identifying potential risks that could occur during the development and testing process and assessing their impact on the project. Risk-based testing is a technique that prioritizes testing efforts based on the identified risks and can affect the direction of the software development in Agile approaches.
- Documentation analysis:
Reviews the project’s documentation, including requirements, specifications, and design documents, to ensure they are complete, accurate, and consistent. Can discover potential gaps and redundancies within the designed features and address users’ needs early.
- Black box testing:
A testing approach involves testing an application without knowing the internal workings of the code. Testers focus on the application’s inputs and outputs to ensure it meets the expected functionality and performance requirements. Often used to uncover undesired behaviour of the application or side effects of used solutions.
- Dynamic exploration:
The exploratory testing technique involves testing an application by dynamically exploring it, experimenting with different scenarios, and performing actions not part of the original test plan. Another technique that allows to assess the application performance and curb undesired effects.
- User acceptance testing:
A type of testing involves end-users testing the software to ensure it meets their requirements and expectations. Typically performed by or in presence of the stakeholders who decide on the scope.
- Ad hoc testing:
The informal testing technique involves testing an application without a pre-defined test plan. Usually guest or external testers focus on finding defects by randomly testing the application’s functionality.
- Control groups and A/B testing:
Techniques used to compare the effectiveness of different versions of an application, usually done in the design/usability part of software testing. Control groups test a version of the application with no changes, while A/B testing involves testing two versions with a single variable changed to determine which version is more effective.
The software development industry is constantly evolving, and staying up-to-date with the latest trends and technologies is important. Here are some of the main technology tendencies that are worth mentioning:
- Mixing different methods and best practices:
There is no one-size-fits-all approach to software development testing, and it is often beneficial to mix different methods and best practices to find what works best for your team and project. This happens very often in agile methodologies, DevOps practices, and test-driven development.
- Ongoing discussion:
Quality is the entire team’s responsibility, not just the quality assurance (QA) team’s or person’s. It should be embedded in all activities, from requirements gathering to deployment. Ongoing discussions happening within the development team and with the stakeholders about what quality means for the project and how it will be measured are essential for ensuring everyone is on the same page and the emerging software solution meets the required needs.
- Going fast, failing fast, but recovering in agile methods:
Agile methodologies prioritize speed and flexibility, but this can lead to failures and setbacks. The key is to fail fast and recover quickly, using feedback from failures to improve the product and process. Software development starts quicker without preparing extensive documentation and the solution is tweaked on the go.
- The vast array of tools for all methods and practices:
No silver bullet, but adapted and crafted solutions: there is a wide range of tools and methods available for software development, testing, and deployment, but there is no one tool that will work for every team and project. Adapting and crafting solutions that meet your team’s needs and goals is essential. This can involve using a combination of tools and techniques to find the best approach for your project including how, when and in which way the project is to be tested.
Testing is extremely important in software development and cannot be skipped. It contributes to the quality embedded into the whole development process and makes the project actually usable and thus successful. Testing approaches and methods largely depend on the software’s features under the test. There is no scheme you can follow with folded eyes and no solution that fits all the tested software.
In conclusion, each software needs a tester and this is a step you cannot skip. With such a rapid change in technology and everything connected with it, you should consider hiring a team of quality advocates that will work closely with each team member to ensure the best quality of your project.
If this seems overwhelming to you, SolveQ has a lot of experience in ensuring the quality of your project. Contact us here if you consider software development that meets the higher standards!