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12 January 2024

09 Min. Read

Smoke Testing

What is Smoke Testing? and Why Is It Important?

What is Smoke Testing? and Why Is It Important?

Key Highlights

In this blog, we cover following key highlights:

  1. Smoke testing is a quick, early check for major software flaws.

  2. It focuses on core functionalities, not comprehensive coverage.

  3. Vital for saving time and resources in the development process.

  4. Enhances software quality and user satisfaction through early issue detection.

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Smoke testing, in the world of software development and quality assurance, is a bit like checking if a newly constructed chimney can handle smoke without leaking. It's a preliminary test to ensure the basic functionality of a software application before it undergoes more rigorous testing. The term "smoke testing" is borrowed from a similar test in plumbing, where smoke is blown through pipes to find leaks.


What is Smoke Testing?

  • Imagine you've just baked a cake (your software application) and you want to make sure it's not a complete disaster before serving it to guests (end-users).

  • Smoke testing is like quickly checking if the cake looks okay, smells right, and isn't burnt to a crisp. It's not about tasting every layer and decoration (that's more detailed testing), but making sure it's not an outright flop.


Smoke testing is a sanity check for software. It's about making sure the basic, critical functions work before you dive deeper. It's like checking if a car starts and moves before you test its top speed and fuel efficiency. This approach helps in catching big, obvious issues early, saving time and effort in the development process.


Let's say you've built a new email application. A smoke test would involve basic tasks like ensuring the app opens, you can compose an email, add recipients, and send the email. If the app crashes when you try to open it, or if the 'send' button doesn't work, it fails the smoke test. This quick check can save you and your team a lot of time because you identify major problems before you get into the nitty-gritty of testing every single feature in depth.

What’s the need of Smoke Testing?

Smoke Testing plays a crucial role in the software development lifecycle, serving as a frontline defense in identifying critical issues early. Its necessity can be understood through a blend of technical and pragmatic perspectives.


1. Early Bug Identification: It quickly reveals glaring defects or system breakdowns post a new build or update. This early detection is vital, as fixing bugs in later stages of development becomes exponentially more complex and costly.


2. Verifying Build Stability: Smoke Testing checks the stability of a software build. If the fundamental components are malfunctioning, it's a signal that the build is unstable and not ready for further, more detailed testing.


3. Continuous Integration and Deployment (CI/CD) Support: In the world of CI/CD, where software updates are frequent and rapid, Smoke Testing acts like a quick health check-up, ensuring that each new release doesn't disrupt basic functionalities.


4. Resource Optimization: Smoke Testing helps in efficiently allocating resources. By catching major flaws early, it prevents wastage of time and effort on a faulty build.


5. Customer Confidence: In the competitive software market, user trust is a valuable currency. Regular smoke tests ensure that the most visible parts of the software are always functional, thereby maintaining user confidence and satisfaction.


6. Foundation for Further Testing: Smoke Testing lays the groundwork for more comprehensive testing methods like functional testing, regression testing, and performance testing. It ensures that these subsequent testing phases are built on a solid, error-free foundation.


7. Agile and DevOps Environments: In Agile and DevOps methodologies, where quick product iterations and updates are the norms, Smoke Testing aligns perfectly by offering rapid feedback on the health of the software.


Who performs Smoke Testing?

Smoke testing is primarily conducted by Quality Assurance (QA) Testers, who specialize in identifying critical functionalities for initial testing. In Agile and DevOps environments, Software Developers often perform these tests to ensure their recent changes haven't disrupted the software's core functions. This collaborative approach ensures early detection of major issues, maintaining software quality and stability.

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How to perform a Smoke Test?

Smoke testing is a straightforward but essential process in the software development cycle. It's like a quick health check for your application. Here's a general breakdown on how you can effectively conduct smoke testing:


  • Choose Your Testing Approach: Initially, you might opt for manual testing, especially when your application is in its early stages. As it grows and becomes more complex, automating your smoke tests can save time and effort. For instance, you can use tools like Selenium for web applications to automate repetitive tasks.


  • Develop Test Scenarios: Identify the key functionalities of your software that are critical for its operation. For example, if you're testing a web application, your scenarios might include launching the application, logging in, creating a new account, and performing a basic search. Define clear pass/fail criteria for each test case, aligned with your software's requirements and organizational standards.


  • Craft the Smoke Tests: Depending on your approach (manual or automated), write the test cases. For automated tests, you'll write scripts that perform the required actions and check for expected outcomes. For instance, in a Python-based testing framework, you might have a script that navigates to a login page, enters user credentials, and verifies that login is successful.


# Example Python script for a simple login smoke test
from selenium import webdriver

driver = webdriver.Chrome()
driver.get("<https://example.com/login>")
driver.find_element_by_id("username").send_keys("testuser")
driver.find_element_by_id("password").send_keys("password")
driver.find_element_by_id("login-button").click()
assert "Dashboard" in driver.title
driver.quit()
  • Execute and Document the Tests: Run the smoke tests and record the outcomes. This can be done manually by testers or automatically by the test scripts. Ensure you have a system in place for logging test results, which could be as simple as a spreadsheet or as complex as an integrated part of your CI/CD pipeline.


  • Evaluate the Results: Analyze the outcomes of the smoke tests. If there are failures, the software needs to go back to the development team for fixes. A pass in smoke testing doesn't mean the software is perfect, but it's ready for more detailed functional and performance testing.


Types of Smoke Testing

Smoke Testing can be categorized into several types, each serving a specific purpose in the software development lifecycle.


  1. Manual Smoke Testing:

    • Who Performs It: QA Testers or Developers.

    • Use Case: Ideal for initial development stages or smaller projects.

    • Process: Execute a series of basic tests manually on key functionalities.

    • Pros: Flexible, requires no additional setup.

    • Cons: Time-consuming, prone to human error.


  2. Automated Smoke Testing:

    • Who Performs It: Automation Engineers.

    • Use Case: Best for large, complex, or frequently updated projects.

    • Process: Automated scripts run predefined tests on software builds.

    • Pros: Fast, consistent, ideal for continuous integration.

    • Cons: Requires initial setup and maintenance of test scripts.


  3. Hybrid Smoke Testing:

    • Who Performs It: A combination of QA Testers, Developers, and Automation Engineers.

    • Use Case: Useful for projects that need both the thoroughness of manual testing and the efficiency of automation.

    • Process: Mix of manual and automated testing approaches.

    • Pros: Balances flexibility and speed.

    • Cons: Requires coordination between manual and automated processes.


  4. Cloud-based Smoke Testing:

    • Who Performs It: QA Testers with cloud proficiency.

    • Use Case: For applications deployed in cloud environments.

    • Process: Smoke tests are executed in the cloud, leveraging cloud resources.

    • Pros: Scalable, accessible from anywhere.

    • Cons: Depends on cloud infrastructure and connectivity.


  5. Build Verification Test (BVT):

    • Who Performs It: Typically Automated, by CI/CD tools.

    • Use Case: Integral in CI/CD pipelines to verify each new build.

    • Process: A subset of tests that run automatically after every build to verify its integrity.

    • Pros: Quick identification of build issues.

    • Cons: Limited to basic functionalities, not in-depth.


Each type of smoke testing has its unique advantages and fits different scenarios in software development. The choice depends on project size, complexity, development methodology, and available resources. The common goal, however, remains the same across all types: to quickly identify major issues early in the development process.


Advantages of Smoke Testing

  1. Quickly uncovers major defects at the outset, preventing them from escalating into more complex problems.

  2. Reduces time and effort spent on fixing bugs in later stages of development.

  3. Acts as a first check to ensure that the basic build of the software is stable and functional.

  4. Allows for rapid validation of builds in CI/CD practices, ensuring continuous updates do not break core functionalities.

  5. Gives a preliminary assurance that the software is ready for more detailed testing and eventual deployment.

  6. Helps in prioritizing testing efforts by identifying areas that need immediate attention, making the overall testing process more efficient.


What’s the cycle of Smoke Tests?

The cycle of smoke testing in software development can be visualized as a continuous loop, integral to the iterative process of software creation and improvement. Here's a breakdown of its stages:


  1. Preparation: This is where the groundwork is laid. It involves identifying the key functionalities of the software that are critical to its operation. These are the features that will be tested in the smoke test.


  2. Build Deployment: Once a new build of the software is ready - be it a minor update or a major release - it's deployed in a testing environment. This is where the smoke test will be conducted.


  3. Execution of Smoke Tests: The identified functionalities are then tested. This could be through manual testing, automated scripts, or a combination of both, depending on the project's needs.


  4. Analysis of Results: The outcomes of the smoke tests are analyzed. If issues are found, they're flagged for attention. The goal here is to determine if the build is stable enough for further testing or if it needs immediate fixes.


  5. Feedback Loop: The results of the smoke test are communicated back to the development team. If the build passes the smoke test, it moves on to more comprehensive testing phases. If it fails, it goes back to the developers for bug fixes.


  6. Iteration: After the necessary fixes are made, a new build is created, and the cycle repeats. This continuous loop ensures that each iteration of the software is as error-free as possible before it moves into more detailed testing or release.


The cycle of smoke testing is a critical component of a robust software development process. It acts as an early checkpoint, ensuring that the most fundamental aspects of the software are working correctly before more resources are invested in in-depth testing or release.


Disadvantages of Smoke Testing

While smoke testing is valuable, it does have certain limitations:


  1. Smoke testing focuses only on core functionalities, potentially overlooking issues in less critical areas of the software.

  2. It's not designed to catch every bug, meaning some problems might only surface in later stages of development.

  3. For larger projects, conducting smoke tests manually can be a slow process.

  4. It's a preliminary check and cannot replace detailed functional or performance testing.

  5. When automated, there's a risk of missing new or unexpected issues not covered by the test scripts.

  6. Setting up and maintaining smoke tests, especially automated ones, requires additional resources and effort.


Conclusion

Integrating smoke testing into your development cycle is a strategic move. It's like having a first line of defense, ensuring that your software's vital operations are sound before moving on to more comprehensive and rigorous testing phases.


This not only conserves valuable resources but also upholds a standard of excellence in software quality, contributing significantly to end-user satisfaction.


Remember, the essence of smoke testing isn't about exhaustive coverage but about verifying the operational integrity of key functionalities. It's this focus that makes it a wise investment in your software development toolkit, steering your project towards success with efficiency and reliability.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1. What is called smoke testing?

Smoke testing is a preliminary software testing technique where a minimal set of tests are executed to ensure that basic functionality works without critical errors, allowing more comprehensive testing to proceed if the software passes this initial check.

2. How does a smoke test work?

A smoke test works by running a minimal set of essential tests on software to quickly check if it can perform basic functions without major errors, providing an initial indication of its stability.

3. What are the disadvantages of smoke testing?

The disadvantages of smoke testing include limited coverage as it only tests basic functionality, false confidence can arise as passing smoke tests doesn't guarantee overall software quality, and it requires time-consuming setup and ongoing maintenance, potentially missing edge cases and rare issues.
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