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8 December 2023
09 Min. Read

What is BDD (Behavior-Driven Development)?

What is BDD (Behavior-Driven Development)?

Fast Facts

Get a quick overview of this blog

  1. Get to know in detail about the BDD concept

  2. Learn how its continuous feedback look can improve your product quality

  3. Get to know about the common challenges while implementing BDD

  4. See how BDD transformed Spotify’s product development cycle

What is BDD (Behavior-Driven Development)?

Behavior-Driven Development (BDD) is an agile software development process that encourages collaboration among developers, QA, and non-technical or business participants in a software project. It focuses on obtaining a clear understanding of desired software behavior through discussion with stakeholders. This is achieved by defining behavior in a simple, understandable language that fosters clearer communication.

In BDD, the focus is on the desired behavior of the system rather than its technical implementation. This is often expressed in a simple structured format:

Given [initial context],
When [event occurs],
Then [ensure some outcomes].

This format helps all stakeholders, including those with no technical background, to understand the system's behavior without needing to know how that behavior is achieved in the code.

Features of BDD

Behavior-Driven Development (BDD) is a modern approach to software development that enhances the communication and collaboration between stakeholders. Its features are designed to bring a shared understanding of the project's goals and requirements. Here's a detailed look at these features:

1. Clear and Understandable Language (Ubiquitous Language):

  • BDD utilizes a common, non-technical language that is easily understandable by all stakeholders, regardless of their technical expertise. This language, often based on the domain-specific language of the business, ensures that developers, testers, and business representatives are on the same page.

  • The ubiquitous language helps in minimizing misunderstandings and misinterpretations of requirements. It translates complex technical jargon into simple, clear terms.

  • Example: In an online booking system, the term "reservation" might be used instead of technical jargon like "database entry."

Given a user has selected a flight
When the user confirms the reservation
Then a reservation should be created in the system

2. Specification by Example (Executable Specifications):

  • BDD emphasizes defining requirements through concrete examples. These examples illustrate how the application should behave in different scenarios, providing a practical and clear guide for development.

  • This approach leads to executable specifications, where the examples can be converted into automated tests. These tests serve both as specifications and as validation that the software meets the specified criteria.

Behavioral Specifications:

  • In BDD, the functionality of an application is defined in terms of its behavior from the user's perspective. This approach shifts the focus from writing feature-based code to developing functionalities that fulfill specific user behaviors.

  • Behavioral specifications are often written in a structured format, like Gherkin syntax, which follows the "Given-When-Then" pattern. This pattern is instrumental in defining the context (Given), the event (When), and the expected outcome (Then).

Collaboration and Stakeholder Involvement:

  • BDD fosters close collaboration between developers, testers, and business stakeholders. This collaboration is crucial in understanding and refining the project requirements.

  • Regular interactions and discussions among team members ensure that everyone has a shared understanding of the project's goals and how each functionality should behave.

Living Documentation:

  • The scenarios and tests written in BDD serve as living documentation of the system. This documentation is always up-to-date and reflects the current state of the system.

  • Living documentation is easily accessible and understandable, making it a valuable resource for new team members and stakeholders who need to get up to speed with the project.

Customer-Centric Approach:

  • BDD places the customer's needs at the center of the development process. By focusing on delivering features that provide real value to the user, BDD ensures that the development efforts are aligned with customer requirements and business objectives.

  • This approach helps in building a product that truly meets the user's needs and expectations, enhancing customer satisfaction and engagement.

    Example: Building a feature that allows users to reset their password easily, based on customer feedback.

Feature: Password Reset
  Scenario: Resetting a forgotten password
    Given the user has forgotten their password
    When the user requests a password reset
    Then they should receive a password reset email

3. Integration with Agile Practices:

  • BDD complements and enhances other agile practices. It integrates seamlessly with methodologies like Scrum or Kanban, adding a layer of clarity and specificity to user stories and acceptance criteria.

  • By incorporating BDD, agile teams can improve their efficiency and effectiveness in delivering high-quality software.

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Advantages of BDD Testing

Behavior-Driven Development (BDD) Testing offers a range of advantages that streamline and enhance the software development process. Below is a detailed examination of these benefits, supplemented with practical examples to illustrate their impact.

  1. Enhanced Communication and Collaboration:

    BDD fosters improved communication between developers, testers, and business stakeholders by using a common language. This clarity minimizes misunderstandings and ensures that all team members have a unified understanding of the feature.

    Example: In a project for an e-commerce application, business analysts describe a new feature for applying discount codes. They use simple language to write scenarios that are easily understood by both developers and testers, ensuring everyone is aligned on the feature's expectations.

  2. Clear and Precise Requirements:

    BDD helps in defining precise and unambiguous requirements. It reduces the risk of misinterpretation and ensures that the developed feature aligns with user expectations.

  3. Early Identification of Issues and Misconceptions:

    BDD allows for early detection of misunderstandings or issues in the requirements. Early resolution of such issues prevents costly rework in later stages of development. Example: During a scenario review session for a banking app, a tester points out a scenario that doesn’t account for currency conversion, which was overlooked in the initial requirements.

  4. Streamlined Test Automation:

    BDD scenarios can be directly converted into automated test scripts. Automating tests from the get-go ensures continuous validation of features and speeds up the testing process.

  5. Customer and Business Value Focus:

    BDD emphasizes delivering features that provide real value to the end user and the business. This approach ensures that development efforts are aligned with business goals and user needs, leading to a more successful product.

    Example: A retail company develops a feature to recommend products based on user browsing history, a direct outcome of a BDD session focused on enhancing user experience and increasing sales.

  6. Living Documentation:

    The BDD scenarios serve as up-to-date documentation of system behavior. Living documentation is invaluable for onboarding new team members and for stakeholders to keep track of the project’s progress.

    Example: For an evolving health tracking app, the BDD scenarios are continuously updated with each new feature, providing a current and comprehensive overview of the app’s capabilities.

  7. Facilitates Continuous Feedback and Improvement:

    BDD encourages ongoing feedback from stakeholders, leading to continuous improvement. This loop of feedback and improvement ensures that the final product is finely tuned to meet user requirements and business objectives.

    Example: After each iteration of a project management tool, stakeholders review the BDD scenarios and provide feedback, leading to immediate improvements in the next cycle.

What Are the Challenges of BDD?

While Behavior-Driven Development (BDD) offers significant benefits, it also presents certain challenges that teams may encounter. Understanding these challenges is key to effectively implementing BDD in a project.

  1. Initial Learning Curve and Adaptation:

    Teams new to BDD often face a learning curve in understanding and effectively implementing its practices. This initial phase can slow down the development process and may require additional training and patience.

    Example: A team transitioning from traditional development methods might struggle with the nuances of writing effective Gherkin scenarios or integrating BDD tools into their workflow.

  2. Writing Effective and Clear Scenarios:

    Crafting well-defined, concise, and non-redundant BDD scenarios is a skill that requires practice. Poorly written scenarios can lead to confusion, misinterpretation, and implementation issues.

    Example: A team may write overly complex or vague scenarios, such as "Given a user is logged in, When they perform an action, Then a result should happen," which lacks specificity and clarity.

  3. Collaboration Among Diverse Stakeholders:

    Effective BDD implementation requires active collaboration among stakeholders with varying expertise and perspectives. Lack of collaboration can result in a mismatch between developed features and business/user requirements.

  4. Integrating BDD with Existing Processes:

    Incorporating BDD into existing development processes and workflows can be complex and challenging. This challenge can lead to resistance, confusion, and a blend of methodologies that may not yield the full benefits of BDD.

  5. Maintaining Up-to-Date Documentation:

    Keeping BDD documentation updated with evolving requirements and features can be demanding. Outdated documentation can mislead new team members and stakeholders, affecting both development and decision-making.

  6. Balancing Technical and Business Perspectives:

    Striking the right balance between technical implementation details and business-focused behavior specifications is crucial. This can lead to a disconnect between what is developed and what the business actually needs.

    Example: A developer might focus too much on the technical aspects in a scenario, making it difficult for business stakeholders to understand and provide input.

  7. Tool and Integration Challenges:

    Selecting and integrating the right BDD tools with existing development tools can be a hurdle. This can lead to inefficiencies and delays in the development process.

Types of BDD Tools

Behavior-Driven Development (BDD) relies on a variety of tools to facilitate its processes. These tools not only assist in writing and managing BDD tests but also enhance collaboration among team members and integrate with other aspects of software development.

1. Test Frameworks and Languages:

These are the core tools for writing and executing BDD scenarios. They use domain-specific languages (DSLs) like Gherkin to define behavior in a readable format. 1.1: Key Features:

  • Support for writing human-readable specifications.

  • Integration with various programming languages and testing frameworks.

  • Execution of BDD scenarios as automated tests.

    1.2: Tools:

  • Cucumber: Widely used across various programming languages, Cucumber supports Gherkin syntax and integrates with many testing frameworks.

  • SpecFlow: Specifically designed for .NET projects, SpecFlow integrates seamlessly with Visual Studio and supports Gherkin.

  • Behave: A BDD tool for Python developers, Behave uses Gherkin to write tests in a language that is easy to understand.

2. IDE Plugins and Extensions:

Integrated Development Environment (IDE) plugins extend the functionality of standard development tools to support BDD. 2.1: Key Features:

  • Syntax highlighting and auto-completion for BDD languages like Gherkin.

  • Easy navigation between feature files and step definitions.

  • Integration with version control and build systems.

    2.2: Tools:

  • Cucumber for Java (IntelliJ IDEA plugin): Provides tools for writing and running Cucumber feature files in IntelliJ IDEA.

  • SpecFlow for Visual Studio: Enhances Visual Studio with features specifically for writing and managing SpecFlow scenarios.

3. Collaboration and Management Tools:

These tools aid in collaboration between team members and help manage BDD specifications and documentation. 3.1: Key Features:

  • Shared platforms for writing and reviewing BDD scenarios.

  • Version control and history tracking of feature files.

  • Integration with project management and issue tracking tools.

    3.2: Tools:

  • JIRA with BDD plugins: JIRA can be augmented with BDD plugins to manage feature files and scenarios alongside development tasks.

  • Hiptest (now part of SmartBear): A collaborative platform that allows teams to create, manage, and execute BDD scenarios.

4. Test Automation and Reporting Tools:

These tools focus on automating the execution of BDD tests and generating reports. 4.1: Key Features:

  • Ability to run BDD scenarios as automated tests across different environments.

  • Detailed reporting on test execution and results.

  • Integration with continuous integration/continuous deployment (CI/CD) pipelines. 4.2: Tools:

  • Selenium with Cucumber: Combining Selenium for web automation with Cucumber for BDD testing provides a powerful tool for web application testing.

  • TestComplete: Offers BDD testing capabilities with detailed reporting features.

5. Mocking and Test Doubles Frameworks:

Used to simulate the behavior of complex, real-world systems that are difficult to replicate in a testing environment. 5.1: Key Features:

  • Creation of mock objects, stubs, and fakes to mimic real system components.

  • Integration with BDD frameworks to test scenarios in isolation.

    5.2: Tools:

  • Mockito (for Java): A mocking framework that is often used in conjunction with BDD tools in Java projects.

  • Moq (for .NET): A popular mocking library for .NET, used to create test doubles in BDD scenarios.

These various types of BDD tools, each with their unique features and applications, collectively support the BDD process, enhancing the development workflow, ensuring clarity and efficiency, and aiding in delivering high-quality software.

BDD in Action

Consider an online shopping cart. A BDD scenario for adding an item to the cart could look like this:

Feature: Add product to shopping cart
  As a customer
  I want to add products to my shopping cart
  So that I can manage my purchases easily

Scenario: Add a single product to the cart
    Given the user has navigated to the product page
    When the user clicks on "Add to Cart" for a product
    Then the product should be added to the shopping cart
    And the cart count should increase by 1

In this example, the feature is described in a language that is understandable to all stakeholders. The scenario is specific and provides a clear description of the expected behavior.


BDD or Behavior driven testing is a powerful approach that can significantly improve the clarity, quality, and efficiency of the software development process. By bridging the gap between technical and non-technical stakeholders, it ensures that the software being developed closely aligns with business needs and user expectations.

Click here to know how implementing BDD approach helped Spotify in significantly improving their development process, collaboration, and product quality.

Related to Integration Testing

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What is BDD Behavior driven development?

Behavior Driven Development (BDD) is a software development approach that emphasizes collaboration among developers, QA, and non-technical stakeholders. It uses plain-language descriptions to define application behavior, promoting understanding and communication throughout the development process.

2. What is the concept of BDD?

Behavior Driven Development (BDD) is a collaborative software development methodology. It employs plain-language scenarios to describe desired application behavior, fostering communication between technical and non-technical team members for effective collaboration.

3. What are the principles of BDD?

BDD principles include collaboration among cross-functional teams, using plain language for scenario descriptions that focus on user behavior, and automating tests based on these scenarios. Continuous feedback loops, shared understanding through examples, and refining requirements through discussions are key. BDD aligns development with business goals, enhancing communication and fostering a culture of collaboration.

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