If you've been around the tech space for a while, you'll most likely be familiar with the Apple Maps disaster and the embarrassment that succeeded the release of what was supposed to be Apple's equivalent of Google Maps.
Like every other Apple product, the app came with a stunning design and user-friendly interface. However, its functionality and performance left a lot to be desired post-launch. Among other problems, the app directed users seeking train stations to the middle of the ocean and couldn't correctly interpret the paths on elevated highways.
The first version brought so much backlash that the company had to issue an uncharacteristic public apology. In retrospect, the disaster could have been mitigated with more rigorous testing. Thankfully, it served as a learning opportunity for everyone involved, and subsequent versions were significantly improved and extensively tested before release. This story and many others in history highlight the importance of quality assurance to the success of any software development project.
What is a QA process?
Quality assurance in software testing is the process of ensuring products meet the preset specifications concerning design, functionality, durability, reliability, and price. The term is sometimes used interchangeably with Quality Control (QC), although QA in its pure sense is a preventive technique while QC is more of a corrective technique.
The phases of software testing
The software testing life cycle (STLC) refers to a sequence of activities testers follow to ensure a product meets the desired specifications. Each stage must have defined entry and exit criteria, that is, items that must be completed before the test can begin or end. Below are the different phases of STLC
During this phase, the QA team studies the purpose of the software to identify the requirements from a testing point of view. It's also the phase where you set and document the Entry and Exit Criteria for the other stages of the testing life cycle. Furthermore, they'll decide the types of testing to conduct and whether you'll be using manual or automated testing.
The test planning phase is where you formulate the test strategy alongside the cost estimates and project timeline. Other important testing details such as the resources, environment, and limitations are also determined at this stage. Typically, a senior QA manager should be in charge of the planning phase because they'll have to finalize the test plan and designate tasks to other team members.
Test design or development involves creating and verifying test cases and scripts based on the preset requirements. After verification, you may have to rework some test cases depending on the QA team's brainstorming session outcome. The goal is to have test cases covering all software functionality and other vital test parameters.
Aside from test cases, the test environment is also set up during the design phase. The software, hardware, and network configurations in the testing environment should mirror the anticipated use cases. Furthermore, other characteristics such as system settings and databases should also mimick the production environment.
Test execution and defect reporting
Test execution typically starts with unit testing by the development team. Once the individual components of the software pass the unit test, the testing team can proceed to API and UI testing. In cases where manual testing is adopted, the testers execute the test cases and report the defects on the tracking system. In other instances where automation is favored, the selected framework (e.g., Appium, Preflight, or Selenium) will automatically generate the test reports.
Retesting and regression testing
After the reported bugs might have been fixed, there's a need to conduct a retest to ensure the fixes were successful. Furthermore, the team will execute regression testing to ascertain that the bug fixes have not affected existing functionality. It's always advisable to automate regression testing because manual testing can be highly time-consuming and monotonous.
This is done just before release to identify and retest the functionalities that may have been affected by changes introduced by the development team. The testing team also performs smoke testing to ascertain the build’s stability and issue a report as necessary.
The issues plaguing QA testing
QA testing is hardly ever a smooth process, especially for teams that just started working together. Below are some of the most common issues that come up when establishing the QA process.
How to store test documentation
QA engineers typically work on multiple projects at the same time. This makes it necessary to segment and store test data securely. For starters, adopting a cloud storage platform like Google Drive may be effective. However, once you start dealing with more projects and the team expands, it'll be better to transfer the information to a structured test management tool.
Unclear expectations around testing
Software testing is, by nature, an exhaustive process. Frankly, there's hardly any team that has the time to test functionality, usability, performance, business logic, UI standards, etc. Additionally, you'll still have to test different operating systems and versions of the same operating system, other browsers, and different devices with different screen sizes.
More often than not, the testing team has to end up with a compromise. That's why it's essential to set clear and realistic expectations around testing before the process even begins.
Manual testing is time-consuming
Everyone knows that manual testing is time-consuming and resource-intensive. If you want to test everything manually, you'll need a large team and an ample amount of time. Worse still, there's no guarantee you'll get accurate results. The solution is to automate your tests wherever and whenever you can. With the proper testing tool, you can significantly reduce your need for manual testing, deploy our tests faster, and get more reliable results.
Needing to train new QA engineers
As the QA team expands, you'll have to train recruits and inform them about your processes and current projects. Meanwhile, you'll still have tight deadlines to deal with, which could make the tasks seem overwhelming or training unnecessary.
The best way to tackle this problem is by creating a detailed guideline that exposes newbies to how your QA team works and everything else they need to know. Once you recruit a new QA engineer, they can read up everything they need to know and catch up with the team as soon as possible. It would help if you remembered to update the guide as your processes evolve.
How to ensure everything is tested
As mentioned earlier, it's virtually impossible to test everything. Still, missing a crucial detail may be detrimental to the success of the project. That's why it's vital to follow the steps in the software testing life cycle when testing. You can also create a checklist that highlights everything you intend to test and tick off each item once you're done.
Flaky tests slow down the agile teams
The principle of determinism states that test results should be reproducible as long as the system under test does not change. A test that doesn't subscribe to this principle is known as a flaky test. Flakiness in testing can arise due to code issues, improperly defined test cases, or external factors such as compromised hardware or test environment.
To deal with this problem, you may have to rerun your test multiple times while changing the execution order and visualizing how they fail or succeed over time. After doing this, you then quarantine the flaky test into separate suites and address the root causes.
Tips for improving the QA process
QA teams need to constantly review their processes and should be agile enough to implement changes where necessary. Below are a few valuable tips for improving the QA testing process
Create a scalable process
Scalability is an important consideration when setting up your QA team. Since software quality assurance requirements during the early stages of the development cycle may be minimal, hiring an entire team may not be justifiable from a financial standpoint. The most common solution is employing crowdsourced testers when you need to scale testing. This allows you to meet your testing deadlines without breaking the bank.
Automation is your best friend
Automation significantly speeds up the testing process while also improving output quality. If you are using manual testing at all, it should be restricted to exploratory testing scenarios. Unfortunately, many teams do not reap the full benefits of automation because they work with tools that still require them to spend considerable time and effort designing and developing automation scripts and environments. The solution is to work with an agile tool compatible with most of your test scripts and requires little coding.
Build out integrations early
Teams that incorporate QA early in their software development cycle have a higher chance of releasing the product on time. Such teams build products that go through earlier testing and have enough time to fix bugs and retest. So, if you want the best outcome for your product, you should integrate quality management right from the start.
QA shouldn't be an afterthought
Software testing shouldn't start at the tail end of the software development life cycle. Instead, QA should be imbibed into the project right from the start. You can achieve this by involving the QA team in the iteration planning and performing tests throughout each sprint. That way, you'll be able to catch and fix the bugs early on the software development process will be smoother.
QA should have a dedicated owner
While it's tempting to leave your quality assurance process to the development team, it's always better if a qualified tester can be in charge of QA. Even if you plan to outsource most of the tests, there needs to be someone that'll head the team and ensure the preset requirements are strictly followed. The dedicated owner will manage test data, guide the team on the next tasks, and meet deadlines.
How PreFlight makes no-code QA easier
Preflight is an automated software testing platform that guarantees fast, comprehensive, and accurate software testing without writing a line of code. The platform handles various test cases, including regression testing, compatibility testing, responsiveness testing, etc. Below are some of the benefits of using Preflight for your web app testing:
No-code test automation
Preflight is easy to use for everyone, including people without a programming background. Since virtually any team member can handle software testing with Preflight, your engineers can spend more time fixing bugs and improving your core product.
Automation is fundamental to improving productivity during software testing. Preflight empowers you to automate the repetitive parts of your test while ensuring you don't spend all your resources building test scripts and constantly monitoring the tests. The platform's no-code nature allows any team member to define test scenarios as long as they're familiar with the correct acceptance criteria. Moreover, there's a built-in recorder that allows you to recreate various test environments and automatically monitor your tests.
Although Preflight isn't a browser-testing software, it still offers 95% coverage of the most popular desktop and mobile browsers. Preflight's cross-platform testing capabilities also extend to different operating systems, devices, and screen sizes. In essence, you can rest assured that Preflight will take care of most, if not all, your compatibility testing needs.
Quality assurance would always remain an indispensable part of the software development life cycle. If you're struggling to establish an agile quality management system in your team, you should know that throwing more resources at the problem isn't likely to work. The intelligent approach would be to take a step back and develop robust quality assurance strategies and refine your processes. Once you can do this, you should experience a significant boost in your QA team's effectiveness, and your product will be better for it.