Importance, benefits and success of the automation of software testing
Definition of software testing
The software testing consists of executing a software component to evaluate one or more properties of interest. In general, these properties indicate whether the component under examination:
- meets the requirements decided in the design and development phase;
- responds correctly to all types of input;
- performs its function in a reasonable amount of time;
- it is sufficiently easy to use;
- it can be installed and used in the environment for which it was developed
- satisfies the results requested by stakeholders
Given that the number of possible tests, even for very simple software components, is practically infinite, all the testing processes use strategies to select tests appropriate to the resources and time available. This means that the testing can be used to check for errors in the code but not to guarantee its total absence. In other words: testing cannot prove that a product works under any condition, it can only prove that it does not work as it should under specific conditions.
It is for this reason that very often, in the area of software quality, we talk about code coverage of the tests, or the relationship between the code covered and the code not covered by tests. The goal of the test developer must therefore be to achieve adequate code coverage using as few tests as possible.
Testing is in any case to be considered not as a single activity but as a process that is articulated throughout the software life cycle; it is an iterative process: the resolution of a bug could reveal others, even more hidden, or even create new ones.
Importance of tests in software development
The software development process is one of the most complex and vast aspects of IT disciplines; incorporates economic and social elements, requires the collaboration of a team, often heterogeneous, and is one of the most important elements for the success of a software.
Developing a software in a structured way means increasing its solidity and ease of maintenance; means having reliable documentation and solid architectures on which to build complex functions; without these bases it is difficult for the product to be palatable and, in any case, it would be complicated to maintain. Testing is one of the most important aspects within the software life cycle: it allows to identify errors during the development phase, increases the quality of the software and therefore the safety and trust on the part of customers and stakeholders towards the company is necessary for high quality applications that want to maintain a low maintenance cost and it is essential to keep on the market.
The difficulty of finding and the cost of resolving a bug increase considerably as the software’s life cycle progresses. For this reason, testing should be carried out starting from the early stages of code production. It is generally the software development method chosen for the project to determine when and how testing is conducted. For example, in cascading methods, much testing is done after defining system requirements. In contrast, in agile approaches, requirements analysis, programming and testing are often done in parallel.
Benefits of automating testing
In automated testing we use software tools to write and run automated tests, able to quickly test various aspects and requirements of an application, before it is released into production.
In the described scenarios, as we have seen, the types of tests to be performed on the code are numerous and complex: even if for certain types of testing it is preferable, or necessary, the intervention of a tester equipped with certain product competences, testing of the software executed manually, so without the aid of automation tools, it can be an activity characterized by often laborious, repetitive and boring operations that risk lowering the quality of the checks in progress. It may be necessary to reiterate the same functional test many times on a computer, to observe the behavior of the application, or repeat the test under other conditions, for example on multiple machines with different operating systems, or different hardware configurations. Using human operators, manual testing involves high times and costs, depending on the complexity of the code analysis and the amount of human resources used.
In automated testing, on the other hand, the software testing tools are able to independently perform various types of analysis and also conduct thousands of different test cases and operations. The automatic tests are advantageous above all in tests with repetitive operations, in which it is necessary to re-execute the same complex test cases many times in the face of different input data.
Speed and repeatability of tests with automation
During software development cycles, to ensure quality, whenever the code changes, the tests must be repeated both to ensure that the new features introduced can be integrated with each other both to verify that the features in place are not subject to regression (Regression Test). For example, every time a new version of a software is released, it is necessary to re-run the tests on all operating systems and supported hardware configurations: in these situations, have automated tests available which, once created, can be reused and repeated with speed as often as desired, without additional costs, is undoubtedly a significant advantage.
It must also be considered that automated testing eliminates the errors that even the most zealous tester, sooner or later, ends up committing, manually testing the application in monotonous routine operations. Not only that, but the same tester, freed from this kind of tasks, can devote himself to activities with higher added value, such as the creation of new automated software tests, or the testing and verification of non-functional requirements, such as the usability of the application.
Furthermore, the test automation technology allows testing of software applications that would otherwise be difficult, if not impossible, to test: it may be the case when it is necessary to test a web application with thousands of users. Here, automated testing is able to simulate hundreds or thousands of virtual users that interact with the application, in order to assess their degree of scalability.