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4 Tips for Ensuring Quality in Software Development

Believe it or not, it's near impossible to develop bug-free software. Even the world's most widely used applications have noticeable defects here and there, despite having large teams of Quality Assurance (QA) experts behind them.

It's a common misconception that QA teams should uncover every single bug through testing. In fact, their main objective is to keep the worst bugs out of production, while also ensuring that the software serves its functional purpose to meet business objectives. According to the World Quality Report 2018-19, end-user satisfaction is now the top priority goal for QA, indicating that the relationship between quality and business objectives is now closer than ever.

The process of maintaining quality should be baked into the entire software development lifecycle. QA teams must work hand in hand with developers, security teams, and operations engineers from the very start of the project, right up until production and beyond. Here are a few tips to get the most out of this essential practice.

Collaborate Early and Start Testing from Day One 

When it comes to product development, QA analysts should first collaborate with developers and business analysts to understand the main objectives of the software. From a functional quality standpoint, testing software from the beginning is really important, and also one of the core principles of Agile. After all, the earlier you find a problem the cheaper it is to solve it.

There are many ways to test your wireframes or mockups with users. You can even test your business ideas or features without developing them. This should be the earliest point of feedback for any particular project as it builds confidence in preparation for when the true coding begins.

It's equally important for QA to start defining and creating automated testing scripts alongside the developers while they code the product's core functionality. Communication is key here, especially for API testing or white box testing, since the developers' work on the code's structure influences how the tester approaches it. 

Incorporate Production-like Environments 

Thanks to the existence of containerization, neither testers nor developers can use the excuse that "it was running fine on my machine". Instead, through discipline and the use of the right tools, they can easily run acceptance tests in a production-like environment, ensuring that the platform will run everywhere.

Containerization tools like Docker bring a lot of portability and flexibility when deploying applications, as they enable DevOps engineers to replicate an application's production environment across different servers, including a development machine. This applies to all automated acceptance tests, performance tests, security tests, and all manual smoke tests.

Explore Extreme Programming Practices 

Quality is all about managing risk, reducing costs, and looking at a product through an end-user lens. Performance is a huge factor in the user's decision-making process and most will delete or avoid using applications after experiencing even the smallest of issues.

As a means to ensure quality on the development side, Agile's extreme programming practices can alleviate this problem by resulting in much higher quality software.

Test-driven development (TDD), for example, allows you to write modular and maintainable code, focusing only on the necessary acceptance criteria, while at the same time providing a comprehensive suite of unit tests that serves as documentation for the code. The TDD approach increases control over technical debt, making it much easier to evolve and refactor an application without risking drops in quality or performance.

Continuous integration (CI) is another useful practice, providing that CI servers are checking that quality attributes such as coding standards, code readability, and best practices are part of the code being committed to the repository. 

Leverage the Efficiency and Accuracy of Testing Automation  

Most software issues emanate from poor communication between engineers, misconfiguration, or an overdependency on third-party software. Testing automation tools can vastly reduce the risks of all these variables, but a successful approach requires a comprehensive strategy that incorporates multiple techniques.

Unit tests, integration tests, API testing, UI testing, component testing, and other techniques all come with their benefits and drawbacks, so it's important to analyze their alignment with the project and then figure out how to combine them to achieve the highest quality code possible. These tests provide immediate feedback, giving engineers the confidence to make significant, worthwhile changes instead of wasting their time on small fixes that do nothing to reach the overall business objective.

Overall, automated tests reduce the amount of manual testing, allowing companies to release products of features much faster. For companies that release code more than once every two weeks, automated tests and continuous integration are essential. If release cycles are getting longer and testing takes more time, this is a clear signal that the project will benefit from automated testing. 

Future-proof Quality Assurance Teams  

Technologies like artificial intelligence (AI) and automation are set to change the future of software testing optimization, so QA teams must acquire new high-level skills in mathematics, neurolinguistic programming, and machine learning algorithms.

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Wednesday, 15 July 2020

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