Bug List

The Importance Of… Testing

Given the importance of testing a software product, it is surprising to still find people who consider it a menial task. Despite testing being a defined stage in the software development life cycle, and increasingly sophisticated tools and approaches, some still believe that testing is simply about “checking it works”. Perhaps this is more prevalent in web application development. After all, anyone should be able to use a website, so perhaps these people think that testing is just about using the site and finding things that don’t work.

Of course, this doesn’t paint an accurate picture of what testing can or should involve. A test engineer working on a moderately complex web application can find many ways to spend their time:

  • Unit testing (although it is more common for developers to write their own unit tests, there can be advantages to having a test engineer write them separately)
  • Integration testing
  • Functional testing
  • End-to-end testing
  • Regression testing
  • Load/stress testing
  • Usability testing
  • Browser testing

It is this last item that seems to be the focus in web application development, to the detriment of everything else. All areas of testing require some specialist technical knowledge, so it can be irksome to find browser testing categorised as something anyone can do, particularly when this area can be a world in of itself.

For example, support for multiple browser versions will increase testing time dramatically (particularly when Internet Explorer is involved), and will require a more advanced understanding of the behaviour and support for technologies provided in each of these versions. Similarly, mobile or responsive support (almost certainly a requirement today as mobile use increases) will require an understanding of the particular  idiosyncrasies of each platform, device resolutions, and the design changes across break points.

All of this is required to ensure that the product being released works as intended in every way. A bad release can turn your customers and potential customers against you, or cause financial penalties when SLA’s are not met. Insufficient testing can mean more time is wasted in solving an issue – investigating an issue 2 months after the development is much harder than doing it the same week, as they will have forgotten the detail of the implementation and will need to re-investigate. It will be even harder if the original developer of the feature has left. Skipping the load testing can put you in an awkward position at peaks, while skipping usability testing might mean you find less users when you expected more.

Lack of proper testing will also pit the development team against you – they want a product they can be proud of, and they will realise that skimping on the testing will cause them more headaches and create more unnecessary work for them, even if you don’t – no one wants to stay late at the office to prepare an emergency release for an easily preventable problem.

So please, hire test engineers, and spend the time to test thoroughly.¬† A good test engineer will be a very valuable asset in multiple aspects of the product’s reliability and behaviour, and they will save you money in the long run.

Photo by Pascal via flickr.

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