Most development teams are hesitant to write tests early in development, but as the application matures, they become an invaluable tool. In particular, tests can help ensure that your applications perform as expected and make it a lot easier to add new features without worrying about breaking any existing code.
Let’s take a look at if you really need to write tests, how to use the testing pyramid and how to get started with testing in your projects.Software tests can help make an application less buggy, more maintainable and even lower cost over the long run, but it’s often hard to know where to get started. Click To Tweet
Do You Really Need to Write Tests?
Software testing has reached a cult status in some development circles. For example, some developers are taught to follow a test-driven development process that involves writing tests before any actual code to maximize test coverage. Other developers rely on ad-hoc testing before a major deployment or skip tests altogether because they lack time.
The need for software tests depends largely on your project’s status and goals. If you’re quickly prototyping to test out an idea, you may not want to spend a lot of valuable time writing tests. If you’re at the beginning of a long-term project, you may want to consider tests as a way to reduce your long-term costs as the application grows in complexity and scale.
There are several key benefits to writing tests:
- Reduce bugs hitting production. Tests help catch bugs before they reach production, where they can prove very costly. In addition to creating a poor user experience, production bugs force developers to drop everything to fix in the momentum.
- Prevent regressions in the code base. Regressions occur when a new piece of code breaks an older piece of code. With the right test coverage, regressions can be easily identified and fixed without silently entering production.
- Improves documentation. Well-written code is self-documenting to some extent, but tests help provide documentation for edge cases. In fact, many developers start by looking at tests before diving into the code base.
- Makes it easier to move quickly. Code becomes more difficult to change over time as it grows more complex. Tests make it easier to confidently make changes without worrying about breaking other pieces of the application.
Some organizations even make tests first-class citizens in software development. For instance, behavior-driven development involves writing high-level tests as part of user stories in order to ensure that the business case for an application is fully thought out before writing a single line of code, as well as to create a kind of living documentation.
How to Use the Testing Pyramid
There are many different types of software tests. Some tests focus on ensuring that a single function returns the right result whereas other tests spin up a browser instance and go through an entire user workflow. These tests can be manually executed or run as part of an automated test suite that’s executed with each merge or deployment.
There are three primary types of tests:
- Unit Tests: Tests of individual components or functions in isolation for the happy path (e.g., when it works) and the sad path (e.g., when there’s an error). These tests are typically run with each commit and must pass before a merge.
- Integration Tests: Tests that incorporate multiple components or functions to ensure that they work together to produce a desired result. These tests take longer to run and therefore are typically run on a less frequent basis.
- End-to-End Tests: Tests that focus on an entire user workflow from a high level. Since they take the longest to run, they may be run overnight or only before a major deployment to verify that everything works.
Like the food pyramid, the testing pyramid suggests that a test suite should consist primarily of unit tests with a medium number of integration tests and only a handful of end-to-end tests. The unit tests should cover the majority of the code base and run frequently while end-to-end tests should be relatively limited in scope and only test critical workflows.
How to Get Started with Tests
It’s relatively easy to introduce testing into new projects with team-wide support. For example, you may decide to implement test-driven development (TDD) across your team. Before committing code to a central repository, developers should ensure that their unit tests pass. After committing the code, they should ensure that integration tests still pass.
While many developers may be onboard with these processes, they may be under pressure from stakeholders to skip tests in order to quickly launch new features. Product managers may want to discuss the benefits of testing with stakeholders to get buy-in in these cases, which is often done by highlighting the cost of bugs and the cost of technical debt over time.
Another common challenge is introducing tests to an existing untested code base. In these cases, most developers start with end-to-end tests to ensure that everything is working at a high level. Developers should also start to write tests for any new code while piecemealing the remainder of the application with the help of a code coverage tool.
Need Help Writing Tests?
Business or development teams that don’t have time to write tests may want to consider hiring external help. In particular, external developers can be very helpful for increasing test coverage in existing code that’s lacking the right level of test coverage. External developers can also help with setting up a test suite from scratch and providing guidance on testing processes.
Sharkbyte’s team augmentation services enhance your existing development team with senior-level talent. With both technical and business expertise, these developers provide critical expertise and can help with everything from setting up a testing strategy to catching up your code base to reach an appropriate level of code coverage.
The Bottom Line
Software tests can help make an application less buggy, more maintainable and even lower cost over the long run. When implementing tests, most developers focus on unit tests, integration tests and end-to-end tests while roughly following the testing pyramid in terms of their areas of focus—with unit tests being the most important foundation.
If you’re looking for help with testing or application development, Sharkbyte provides a range of different services, ranging from team augmentation to add manpower to your team to full outsourced application development. Contact us today!