Written by Veronica Parker, Senior Test Specialist

Excellence in software development requires dedication, commitment and practice. The worst-case scenario for any software developer is to release software and then discover that there are issues.

Often under-estimated by developers, software testing is an integral part of software development.   Software testing is done during development, prior to its release and is an ongoing process to ensure the product performs correctly and efficiently to meet the requirements of the clients and end-users.

Different companies use different methods which results in confusion as to what best method should be used for software testing. Despite different methods software best practices should always be clearly defined in the test plan and expectations clearly communicated to team members. This a compilation of the top ten software testing practices.

Basic Software Testing Practices

These are just what they sound like, basic software testing practices.  The problem with basics is that software developers tend to start skipping over them, creating more complicated testing methods.  However, when you skip on the basics, you can end up missing errors.  Do not discount software testing methods just because they are basic, as these basic testing methods are solid methods that work well for a broad spectrum of software products.

1.  Functional Specifications

The Functional Specifications (FS) is the blueprint for software development; a guideline, or an outline that describes what the program will do when finished.  It will detail out what the software’s capabilities are, what the software will look like, and the users’ interaction.  Depending on the organization it will be the developer or the business analyst who will write the user manual and the FS.

The FS lists all the software functions, details as to how they are executed, and specifications for how the user interface looks and works.   In other words the FS documents the operations and activities the software must perform.  The FS may also contain descriptions of user tasks, dependencies on other products, and usability criteria.

Testing the software as defined in the FS is validating valid types of transactions against the documented business requirements.  By exercising this practice the organization maintains the highest of standards applied to software development.

2. Entry and Exit Criteria

Entry and exit criteria are the set of conditions that need to be met in order to launch and close out a particular project phase.  The idea of having an entry and exit criteria is that software development is done in stages, and for every stage or step of the process the entry and exit criteria must be defined.

If at the end of one stage or step, the product does not meet the exit criteria, then it will not progress to the next step in the process.  The fail safe is that if the product does not conform to the specific criteria to enter the next step, then it cannot progress.  This is a two-step control, meaning that not only do specific criteria have to be met for one stage (entry criteria) to be considered complete, but also there is another set of specific criteria for the exit criteria that must be met for the software to begin the next state.  The identification of entry and exit criteria is an integral piece for software testing. Understanding the entry and exit criteria in software testing phase enables your application to reach the level of quality; reaching your organization’s goal.

3. Inspection and Review

This is a common method of software testing and debugging because it has been used for years with great success.  When you do an inspection, a well-defined process is used to inspect and review the software, looking for errors.  Because the product is being reviewed by peers, the chances of errors being found are high; errors are found, corrected and then the software is inspected again and this continues until it passes the inspection.

Inspection and review is an important and essential part of software development; maximizing the quality of software delivered and setting a high standard for a company’s development team.

4. Multi-platform Testing

Multi-platform testing is extremely important with today’s evolving technology, demands for products and services to be portable or interoperable on different platforms (e.g. operating systems, browsers).  Single platform products do not last long in today’s marketplace.  When products need to run on various platforms, it needs to run well on all.  The same coding that works well on one platform may not perform so well on another, requiring modifications and refinements.  All software needs to be tested on all platforms in order to ensure functionality.  Assuming that it will work on all platforms just because it works on one can lead to disaster.

5. Nightly Builds

Nightly builds are source code that is used by debuggers and testers to track bugs and to track previously reported bugs to see if they have been fixed.  Nightly builds can be done daily or weekly, but they are done at regular intervals.  They are an excellent way of testing software for bugs and reporting them. This allows the developer to ensure that nothing is broken with the latest build.

6. Beta Testing – Internal

There are two types of beta testing, to release a beta product to a select group of users in order to test the software and gain feedback and to beta test the product internally, with your own employees.  Instead of an external beta test, allow your own employees to test the software themselves for a length of time.  Developers have found that this helps prepare the product for being launched as an external beta product, or even for being ready for public release.  Beta testing reduces product failure. It ensures requirements are met, addressing issues before the product is launched to the client or public resulting in a quality product.

Advanced Software Testing Practices

These are testing methods that are not as well known, but they have been used with great success for a long time.  No matter what type of software being developed, these methods can help find errors that the basic testing methods might not reveal.  When combined with the basics, they offer solid protection against errors.

7. Usability Testing

Now that you know a product’s function, you need to know the usability factor.  Usability testing allows for an assessment to be made of how the software works; evaluating the product or service by testing with users. The intent is to identify usability issues, gather data and determine if the user is satisfied.   Software can be functional, but needs to be user friendly.  Usability testing encompasses how easy it is for new or infrequent users learn the use of the product or service, and helps ensure that the user experience is a positive one.

8. Automated Testing

Today most testing projects translate their manual test cases to an automated one. Manual testing is time consuming; which is why automation testing is the best approach.  Testing software is used to execute a series of tests on the software being developed to see if the software will work as expected.  This greatly reduces the time that it takes to perform repetitive testing that must be done allowing the software quality team to focus on software’s new features.  Adopting this practice will result in a higher quality of software releases, positive impact on a company’s profitability, time management, and above all, happy clients.

9. User Scenarios

User scenario testing is end to end testing of the product or service. User scenarios are developed to ensure the software functions as it should from the users’ perspective.   When developers incorporate user scenarios, it allows applying specific functionality of a product or service that reflects its use.  User scenarios focus on the actual use of the usage of the software versus the software application features.

10. Clientele Requirements

Software is developed for a reason, either to provide a useful function for the public, or for a specific client.  Either way, the software needs to meet the expectations and more importantly, the requirements that the clients have for the software.

This testing will reveal if the end product fully satisfies the needs of the client or of the clientele.  No matter how you choose to test, never rely on just one method.  By using a variety of software testing methods, you will be increasing your chances of producing quality software that is both functional and has a high usability factor.