In today’s agile software project management environment, technical writers are increasingly taking on quality assurance (QA) and testing roles, whether formally or informally. If you find yourself in a similar position, this beginner’s guide will help you understand the theoretical aspects of software testing and their real-world implementation.
What Is Software Testing, And Why Is It Important?
Software is a series of bundled instructions that tell a computer what to do. Before any software is rolled out to an end user, it has to undergo a series of tests that look at areas, such as performance, stability, and error handling.
The general aims of software testing are:
- To ensure that the software meets the agreed upon design specifications and requirements
- To test whether the software does what it is meant to do
- To identify any bugs and errors
Advantages of Software Testing
To the team that creates the software and to the end user, software testing has many benefits, including:
- Speeds up development by identifying bugs at an early stage
- Reduces the risk of legal liabilities
- Maximizes the value of the software
- Assures the successful launch of a product, a process that saves time, money, and the reputation of the company
- Ensures that the end user receives a quality product
Ensuring that the end user receives a quality product is very important. Imagine having a PC repair tool that doesn’t even come close to repairing your computer, but instead adds more errors. You would lose all trust in the product vendor because of this. And knowing this, software developers go the extra mile by thoroughly testing for quality.
Quality is the degree of excellence.
When testing software, the matter of quality is approached from the perspective of the customer; after all, software is usually created so that it can serve the needs of an end user who, more often than not, has to part with some money. What constitutes quality covers a wide range of features and expectations which depend on the software product in question. But generally, the following are the typical user’s ideas of quality:
- Conformance to specifications
- Excellent performance on platforms/configurations
- Meets operational requirements. If they can be exceeded, the better.
- Compatible with all end user equipment.
- No negative impact on the end user at the moment of introduction
Validation and Verification
In the world of software testing, two terms are common: validation and verification. Validation is the process of checking whether what has been delivered is what the user requested. Verification is the process of reviewing the software for consistency and conformance with set specifications.
Software testing falls into the verification category and uses techniques such as reviews, walkthroughs, and inspections. Sometimes, software testing is confused with debugging. The latter is a process that is used to locate and eliminate bugs in a software. It remains an ongoing process even after the testing phase has been done with, and this is because there is rarely a software product that is 100% bug-free.
A claim can even be made that debugging, and not testing or development, is the mainstay of the software development process. For example, many tech sites offer little documentation except debugging tutorials.
Types of Software Testing
Software testing can be broadly divided into two parts: black box testing and white box testing. Black box testing is high-level and does not take the internal workings of a software into account. In this type of testing, there is no need for the tester to know the inner workings of the software.
On the other hand, white box testing tests at the lowest levels of a software. It may, for instance, test component integration and for functions performance.
Software Testing Techniques
Testing for all aspects of a software is most of the time impossible. That is why, over the years, software developers have come up with ways of testing software that save time and money. Three of the most popular testing techniques in the industry are: the equivalence partitioning test technique, pair-wise testing, and boundary value analysis.
Equivalence partitioning test technique is a black box test technique that works by eliminating test input data that has the software behaving in the same way. In other words, if test cases result in the same output, they are eliminated and classified as equivalent data. That way, software testers can reduce the number of redundancies and save time.
Pairwise testing, also known as combinatorial testing, is a black box testing design that software developers use to test for all the possible discrete combinations of the parameters involved. This method is handy, especially when the number of permutations are so many that it is impossible to test each one of them.
Boundary value analysis tests the performance of a software at the boundaries. This is often done when checking for a range of values, say 0-100. The assumption is that if the software works as expected for the lower and upper bounds, then it must surely perform just as good for input data within the boundaries.
A whole lot more could be said about software testing, but this is just a beginner’s guide to software testing, so there is no need to go into a lot of details. The field is expansive, to say the least, and this article, if anything, is just meant to make you appreciate what goes into making any software, be it an Android cleaner and booster, Microsoft Word, or even a PC repair software.
A Computer Engineer by degree and a writer by profession, Cathy Trimidal writes for Software Tested and Outbyte. For years now, she has contributed articles focusing on the trends in IT, VPN, web apps, SEO, and digital marketing. Although she spends most of her days living in a virtual realm, she still finds time to satisfy her infinite list of interests.