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4 December 2023

11 Min. Read

Software testing

What is Software Testing A Complete Guide

What is Software Testing A Complete Guide

Key Highlights

In this blog, we cover following key highlights

  1. Learn about the crucial role of software testing in delivering a better and highly reliant software to the end-users.

  2. Know the different types of software testing.

  3. Get to know about a real case scenario where poor software testing led to failure.

  4. Learn about various tools to cover your software testing journey from start to end.

Our whitepaper transforms the complexity in microservice testing into a manageable task, ensuring thorough testing that leaves no room for undetected bugs.

From every food order that you place to all the alarms that you snooze every morning, it’s all software. Today’s world is driven by software and the APIs that are making all the connectivity possible between humans and the software.


In a world increasingly reliant on technology, the importance of robust and effective software testing cannot be overstated. Whether it's a mobile app, a web platform, or an enterprise system, software testing helps identify and fix bugs, improves performance, and ensures that the software meets the intended requirements and user expectations.


What is Software Testing?

Software testing is a critical process in the development of software applications. Its primary goal is to ensure that the software meets its specified requirements and to identify any defects or issues before the software is released to users.


  • It is the process of evaluating and verifying that a software application or system meets specified requirements and works as expected.


  • It involves executing software components using manual or automated tools to detect errors, bugs, or any other issues.


  • This is not just about finding faults in the software but also about enhancing its quality and usability.


Why Software Testing is important?

Software testing is an integral part of software development, playing a key role in delivering a high-quality, reliable, and secure product. It not only benefits the users but also the developers and the company as a whole, making it an indispensable process in the software development lifecycle.


👉Ensuring Quality and Reliability

The primary goal of software testing is to ensure that the application works as intended. By identifying bugs and issues before the software reaches the end user, testers can prevent potential failures that could be costly or damaging. This process helps in maintaining a high standard of quality, ensuring that the software performs reliably under various conditions.


👉User Satisfaction and Trust

Software that has undergone thorough testing provides a better UX. Users are less likely to encounter bugs or crashes, leading to higher satisfaction and trust in the product. This, in turn, can lead to increased user retention, positive reviews, and recommendations, which are vital for the success of any software.


👉Cost-Effective Development

Detecting issues early in the development process can significantly reduce the cost of fixing them. If bugs are found after the software has been released, the cost of rectification can be much higher, both in terms of financial resources and time spent. Effective testing during the development stages helps in reducing these post-release costs.


👉Security

With the increasing threat of cyber-attacks, security has become a paramount concern in software development. Testing helps to identify vulnerabilities and security flaws that could be exploited by attackers, thereby protecting sensitive data and maintaining the integrity of the software.

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Need of Software Testing

Let's delve into a recent software failure that gained prominence, causing significant financial losses and tarnishing the reputation of this well-established airlines.


Case Study: Southwest Airlines Software Failure


Introduction

The Southwest Airlines software failure is a prime example of how inadequate technological infrastructure and lack of timely investment in software updates can lead to catastrophic operational disruptions.


Background

Southwest Airlines, renowned for its extensive domestic network, faced an unprecedented operational crisis during a busy holiday travel season. This period coincided with challenging weather conditions across the United States.


The Incident

As severe weather hit, most airlines navigated through the complications, but Southwest Airlines experienced a near-total operational shutdown. The crux of the problem was not flight cancellations due to weather alone, but primarily a failure in the airline’s software system, which was responsible for managing flight operations, including crew scheduling.


Analysis of Causes

  1. Outdated Software System: The software used by Southwest was reportedly outdated and not adequately equipped to handle the high volume of operational changes required during the severe weather conditions.

  2. Lack of Investment: Prior to the incident, there had been a lack of investment in updating the software system. This inaction led to accumulated 'technical debt', where temporary solutions and postponements in essential upgrades compounded the system's inefficiencies.

  3. Operational Overload: The combination of high travel demand, severe weather, and an inflexible software system led to a cascade of scheduling conflicts and operational disruptions.


Impact

  1. Financial Losses: Southwest Airlines faced an estimated loss of around $1 billion due to this operational paralysis.


  2. Reputation Damage: The incident severely impacted the airline's reputation, especially regarding reliability and operational efficiency.


  3. Customer Dissatisfaction: Thousands of passengers were stranded or faced significant delays, leading to widespread customer dissatisfaction and eroding a previously loyal customer base.


Now let’s understand how adequate software testing practices could have mitigated this failure:

In this case, the lack of adequate software testing played a pivotal role in the failure. Software testing is essential for identifying potential weaknesses and issues in a system before they become critical problems.


In Southwest's situation, thorough testing could have revealed the software's inability to handle high-stress scenarios, like those presented by severe weather conditions combined with high travel demand.


Adequate software testing practices involve several key components:


  1. Regular and Comprehensive Testing: Continuous testing of software systems, especially before peak operational periods, is crucial. This would have allowed Southwest to identify and address any limitations in their system's capacity to handle sudden changes in flight schedules and crew assignments.


  2. Stress Testing: This involves testing the software under extreme conditions to ensure it can handle unexpected surges in demand or other challenging scenarios. Had Southwest conducted rigorous stress testing, the software's inadequacies in handling the holiday rush and weather disruptions might have been identified and mitigated in advance.


  3. Investment in Testing Resources: Allocating sufficient resources, both in terms of budget and expert personnel, for software testing is vital. It appears that Southwest may have overlooked this aspect, leading to an outdated and untested system.


  4. Feedback Loops and Continuous Improvement: Effective software testing is not a one-time event but a continuous process. Feedback from each testing phase should be used to improve and update the software regularly.


Had Southwest Airlines implemented robust software testing practices, the likelihood of such a failure could have been significantly reduced. Regular updates and improvements, guided by comprehensive testing results, would have ensured that the software remained capable of handling the dynamic and demanding nature of airline operations.

Approaches to Perform Software Testing


1. Black Box Testing: The Mystery Box Approach

Imagine a mystery box where you can't see what's inside. Black Box testing is like this; testers evaluate the software based only on its outputs, without knowing the internal code structure.

Key Characteristics:

  • Focus: It focuses on the functionality of the software.

  • Method: Test cases are designed based on specifications and requirements, not code.

  • Who Performs It: Typically done by testers who don’t have knowledge of the underlying code.


    Example: Testing a calculator application by checking if the addition function returns the correct result for given inputs, without knowing how the function is implemented in code.


2. White Box Testing: The Transparent Machine

White Box testing is like looking inside a transparent machine. Testers can see the inner workings and understand how it operates.

Key Characteristics:


  • Focus: It involves looking at the structure and logic of the code.

  • Method: Testers write test cases that cover code paths, branches, loops, and statements.

  • Who Performs It: Usually performed by developers who have an understanding of the code.


  • Example: Testing a function in a software by writing test cases that cover all the possible paths in the code, including all the conditions and loops.


3. Grey Box Testing: The Semi-Transparent Approach

Grey Box testing is akin to looking at a machine with some transparent parts and some opaque. It’s a blend of both Black Box and White Box testing methods.

Key Characteristics:

  • Focus: Testers have partial knowledge of the internal workings of the application.

  • Method: Combines the high-level perspective of Black Box testing with some level of internal code awareness.

  • Who Performs It: Often done by testers who have a good understanding of both the domain and the technical aspects.


Example: Testing a web application by considering both the user interface and underlying code, such as checking whether user inputs are properly validated before being processed by the system.


Each of these testing approaches provides a different lens through which to examine software, offering a comprehensive understanding of its quality, performance, and security. In practice, a balanced combination of these methods is often the most effective strategy in software testing.


Types of Software Testing

The following are the major types of software testing methodologies:


  • Unit testing: The most basic of them all, they’re the first tests to be performed. Mostly written by devs, they test a particular unit or block of code before it gets tested in integration. Tools like JUnit, NUnit are used to perform unit testing.


  • Integration testing: The second layer of testing, they tests different parts of an application together or when they’re integrated. This helps in reflecting out bugs that arise when different units interact. This is the most useful type of testing and tools like HyperTest, Citrus, etc can be used to effectively test your system interactions.


  • End-to-end test: These tests are performed to check the complete system at once, making them lengthy and time-consuming. Though they check the whole system, from the UI to the backend part, they often miss to locate the root cause of failure. Tools like Selenium, LambdaTest are used for this.


  • Functional Testing: This focuses on testing the software against its functional requirements. An example would be checking if a login feature works as intended, accepting valid credentials and rejecting invalid ones.


  • Non-Functional Testing: It tests aspects not related to specific behaviors or functions, such as performance, scalability, and usability. Testing how many users an application can handle simultaneously (load testing) falls under this category.


  • Regression Testing: This ensures that new code changes don’t adversely affect existing functionalities. An example is retesting a previously functioning feature after updates to ensure it still works correctly.


  • Acceptance Testing: This determines if the software is ready for release, typically done by the end-users. Mainly evaluating the complete system against the pre-requisite checklist. For instance, a beta test of a new video game by select users before public release.


  • Smoke Testing: Often known as "build verification testing," this is a preliminary test to check the basic functionality of the software.


The Software Testing Lifecycle

The Software Testing Lifecycle (STLC) involves a series of distinct activities executed during the testing phase, each with its own importance:


  1. Analyzing Requirements: This step involves understanding and specifying the aspects of the software that need to be tested.

  2. Planning for Testing: Here, the strategy for testing is developed, along with the determination of necessary resources.

  3. Developing Test Cases: This phase focuses on creating comprehensive test scenarios to cover all testing requirements.

  4. Setting Up the Test Environment: Preparing the appropriate environment for conducting the tests.

  5. Executing the Tests: In this stage, the prepared test cases are run and the outcomes are recorded.

  6. Logging Defects: Any faults or issues discovered during the testing are documented in this phase.

  7. Concluding the Tests: Finally, the testing process is summarized, reviewing the results and drawing conclusions about the software's quality.


Best Practices for Software Testing

Software testing should be performed diligently to keep the software updated, secure and to make sure it works as intended. Here are some key practices to follow to follow software testing:


  1. Understand Requirements Clearly: Before beginning testing, it's crucial to have a thorough understanding of the software requirements. This ensures that the tests cover all aspects of the specifications and the software is built as per user needs.


  2. Plan Testing Activities: Effective testing requires careful planning. This includes defining the scope of testing, selecting appropriate testing methods, allocating resources, and scheduling testing activities.


  3. Prioritize Test Cases: Not all test cases are equally important. Prioritize them based on the impact, frequency of use, and criticality of the software features. Focus on high-risk areas first.


  4. Automate Where Possible: Automate repetitive and regression tests to save time and resources. However, remember that not everything can be automated, and manual testing is still important for exploratory, usability, and ad-hoc testing scenarios.


  5. Adopt Different Testing Types: Employ various types of testing like unit testing, integration testing, system testing, and acceptance testing. Each of these tests offers unique value and helps in identifying different kinds of issues.


  6. Adopt a shift-left approach: Start testing as soon as possible in the software development lifecycle. Early testing helps in identifying and fixing defects early, which can save costs and time.


  7. Encourage Bug Reporting Culture: Foster an environment where finding and reporting bugs is encouraged. This helps in improving the quality of the software.


  8. Perform Regression Testing: After each change or fix, conduct regression testing to ensure that the new code changes have not adversely affected existing functionalities.


  9. Ensure Test Environment Mimics Production: The test environment should closely resemble the production environment. This helps in identifying environment-specific issues and reduces the risk of unexpected behaviors after deployment.


  10. Consider User Perspective: Always consider the end user's perspective while testing. This helps in ensuring the usability and user-friendliness of the software.


Challenges in Software Testing

  • Keeping up with rapidly changing technologies and methodologies.

  • Balancing between thorough testing and meeting tight deadlines.

  • Ensuring testing covers all possible scenarios, including edge cases.

  • Navigating complex integrations and compatibility issues.

  • Deciding which test cases to automate for efficiency.

  • Ensuring software security and performance in diverse scenarios.


Different Software Testing tools

Software testing tools play a crucial role in ensuring the quality and reliability of software products. We’ve created this brief overview of various types of software testing tools, focusing on their main functionalities and use cases:


  1. Automated Testing Tools: These tools help automate the testing process. Examples include Selenium, which is widely used for web application testing, and QTP (QuickTest Professional), popular for functional and regression testing. These tools can simulate user interactions and validate user interfaces against expected outcomes.


  2. Performance Testing Tools: These are used to test the speed, responsiveness, and stability of software under various conditions. LoadRunner and JMeter are prominent examples. They simulate a high number of users accessing the application to ensure it can handle stress and perform efficiently under load.


  3. Test Management Tools: Tools like TestRail and Zephyr offer a framework for managing all aspects of the software testing process. They allow teams to plan, execute, and track test cases, along with reporting on test progress and quality metrics.


  4. Defect Tracking Tools: These tools, such as JIRA and Bugzilla, help in tracking and managing defects found during testing. They facilitate collaboration among team members by providing features for reporting bugs, tracking their status, and documenting their resolution.


  5. API Testing Tools: Tools like HyperTest and Postman are designed for testing APIs. They help validate the functionality, reliability, performance, and security of APIs, ensuring seamless integration between different software systems.


  6. Security Testing Tools: These tools, including OWASP ZAP and Nessus, focus on identifying vulnerabilities in software that might lead to security breaches. They perform automated scans and provide reports on potential security threats.


  7. Mobile Testing Tools: With the rise of mobile applications, tools like Appium and Espresso are crucial for testing apps on various mobile devices. They help ensure that apps work seamlessly across different device types, operating systems, and screen sizes.


  8. Continuous Integration Tools: Tools like Jenkins and Travis CI are not testing tools per se, but they play a vital role in continuous testing as part of the CI/CD pipeline. They automate the process of code integration and can trigger automated tests upon each code commit.


Future of Software Testing with HyperTest

Software testing is a multifaceted process that requires meticulous planning, execution, and continuous improvement. As technology evolves, so do the tools and methodologies in software testing, making it a dynamic and challenging field.


HyperTest, is an API testing tool that will take away all your pain of testing your microservices and gives you a whole new hassle-free software testing experience.


  1. Testing in an Environment-Free Setup

  2. Seamless Collaboration on Slack for Error Resolution

  3. Integration Testing Without the Need for Data Preparation, Covering End-to-End Scenarios


Are these the features you've been searching for? Reserve your slot now, and let HyperTest handle all your testing concerns like it did for teams at Nykaa, PayU, Fyers, Yellow.ai etc, ensuring a bug-free production environment.


Here’s a quick best practices guide for you to follow in order to keep your software testing procedure up-to-date with the modern tools and techniques.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1. What are the major challenges with software testing?

Software testing faces challenges like inadequate test coverage, evolving requirements, tight schedules, and complex system interactions. Balancing these factors while ensuring thorough testing poses significant hurdles for testing teams.

2. What is the best software testing tool?

The best software testing tool is subjective, but HyperTest stands out as a top choice. As a no-code API testing tool, it prevents bug leaks in production. Its user-friendly interface and efficient testing capabilities make it an excellent choice for ensuring software reliability without the need for extensive coding expertise.

3. What is QA vs software testing?

QA (Quality Assurance) involves the entire software development process, ensuring quality at every stage. Software testing is a subset of QA, focusing specifically on identifying and fixing bugs. While QA is comprehensive, testing is more targeted, aiming to validate that the software meets specified requirements.
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