What is software testing? Types, benefits and principles

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 26 April 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Software testing is a vast field that can help companies preserve software products if testers conduct it well. Software testing detects bugs and errors in a software system, giving users better performance, protecting costs and securing software products. Software testing's basic processes also define the test environment, analyse test results, develop test cases, write scripts and submit defect reports. In this article, we learn what software testing is, how it works and its benefits, types and principles.

What is software testing?

If you're beginning a career in technology, you may benefit from understanding the answer to 'What is software testing?'. A software test verifies a software product to confirm whether it meets its manufacturer's expectations and standards. Software testing means executing different system components using computerised tools to examine properties of interest. Software engineers use the process to check that a product is error-free. Testing is the final step that software engineers take before launching new software products to the market. Expert software testers utilise manual and automated testing to deliver quality products to users.

Related: Computer skills: definitions and examples

How does software testing work?

Software testing involves two basic steps: verification and validation. Verification helps a software application carry out a particular task. Validation ensures that the developed software matches the user's requirements. Testers employ test cases, test plans and scenarios to accomplish comprehensive testing. Engineers test software either manually or through automation.

Manual testing doesn't use scripts or automated tools and engineers typically use it for small builds. Automated testing is fast and testers often use it to rerun previously completed manual tests. Software engineers use automated testing in larger systems, as it's quicker than manual testing. It also helps testers try out test differentiators. Black box and white box testing are the two fundamental software testing techniques.

Software testing life cycle

The primary life cycle of a software test follows:

  • Planning: This is the preliminary stage where testers gather all the necessary product details, decide on a list of tasks for completion and arrange them in order of importance.

  • Preparation: In the preparation process, testers collect test cases and research them together, using testing tools and techniques to build a foundation for testing.

  • Execution: This is when testers conduct test cases and collect results. At this stage, they compare the test's outcome with the expected result to confirm the test's validity.

  • Reporting: Testers gather and submit their findings to the relevant company personnel or user in this final stage. It's important to explain in detail how the test progressed with screenshots and the steps taken, especially if the test was complex.

Types of software testing

There are three types of software testing: functional, non-functional and maintenance testing:

Beta testing

Here, an end-user conducts a software test at a customer's site. By beta testing, you ensure that the end users are satisfied with the software product. Beta testing is helpful in real-time environments with a limited number of users, such as software testing performed for a small group of people, team or department.

Stress testing

Stress testing tests unfavourable conditions in systems. Examples include:

  • tests that may cause thrashing in a virtual operating system

  • excessive disc requirement test cases

  • maximum memory requirement test cases

Objective-oriented testing

Engineers use a mixture of testing methods for verification and validation in objective-oriented testing. Conducting this testing process includes:

  • requirement testing

  • test design and analysis

  • code testing

  • integration testing

  • system testing

  • user testing

Backend testing

Backend testing involves front-end data inputs stored in databases, such as the MySQL and Oracle SQL servers. Software engineers aim to give testers good access to database connections during backend testing. Backend testing sometimes encounters challenges, such as data loss, deadlock and data corruption.

Related: 6 Essential Backend Developer Skills

Black box testing

Black box testing usually depends on functionality and user requirements. Another name for this testing type is the opaque box or eye-to-eye testing. When conducting this software testing, the tester analyses different software functions with no knowledge of the internal design and structure of the product under test.

Graphical user interface (GUI) testing

In software testing, GUI testing works with the input fields, button sizes, text and tables available on a screen. The test usually appears as detailed design documents and GUI mock-up screens. Interface testing helps validate application menus and page alignment.

Related: Software engineering vs computer science: the differences you need to know

Principles of software testing

Here are the seven principles of software testing:

1. Testing is context-dependent

The type of testing that testers conduct is highly dependent on the software's context. The software product's uniqueness can also affect the tester's approach. For example, once an e-commerce website is ready to test, the testers may have different approaches in obtaining database reporting.

2. Early testing saves time and money

Early testing is an agile principle that sees testing as an activity rather than a phase. It involves testing requirements before the coding stage. Testers run early tests to help them save time and money and prevent errors when the product's life cycle is complete.

3. Testing shows the presence of defects rather than their absence

Testing helps reduce the rate of defects in software, although it is not absolute proof that your software is error-free. When testing confirms the software's viability, it gives the user a level of confidence. As a result, the company can deploy it into a live environment with the knowledge that they have verified it to provide good service.

4. Exhaustive testing is impossible

The number of software products a company or individual can or might prefer testing is often limited due to funding and time. Although, testing as many applications as possible is the best practice. Simultaneously testing multiple software applications requires skills in assessing the risks and planning the tests.

5. Defects cluster together

Clusters are most common in complex systems. Testers apply the Pareto principle (80–20) rule in cases like this. This principle defines that 80% of defects are due to 20% of codes. Large systems or third-party dependencies are usually more likely to contain errors. Defect clustering happens when developing new features in changing systems.

6. Absence of error is a fallacy

This software testing principle is important. The principle does not suggest that users are responsible for errors, but that error-free systems are only useful if their usability matches users' requirements. Learn to test your software with your users and run tests that correspond to the users' requirements.

7. Beware of the pesticide paradox

This principle comes from the world of plants, insects and pesticides. Frequent pesticide use results in the pests building immunity against the pesticide instead of dying. The same principle applies to software testing. If testers repeatedly test software, they may not find new issues or errors when they arise. Therefore, they use different testing methods to prevent this situation.

Benefits of software testing

Software testing offers its users a variety of benefits. Such benefits include:

  • Strong security: Software testing can save companies huge sums of money. For example, some top companies pay large sums to secure their sites and databases.

  • Increased productivity: Companies and users increase productivity when they test their software. Testing software takes considerable time, but it's worth it, as testing saves users many hours correcting errors.

  • Cost efficiency: Quality software testing is expensive in the early stages, but later, when companies use the tested product, they discover it helps save them more time and money. Tested products rarely develop unexpected faults.

  • Customer satisfaction: The primary goal of software engineers or companies is that customers use their products. Therefore, the best software has no faults or bugs and customers remain satisfied with the product.

  • Determining compatibility: Engineers use software testing to help them detect compatibility between different devices and platforms. For example, an organisation with a new website might want to check whether the website runs freely on other devices and browsers

Related: How to become a software development engineer in test: a guide

Testing strategies in software engineering

The four different strategies and levels of software engineering include:

  • Unit testing: This strategy helps developers understand whether singular code units are working properly. It's a basic approach that programmers use to test the software program's units.

  • Integration testing: Integration testing involves constructing and designing software and ensuring that integrated units are without error.

  • System testing: In system testing, engineers compile and test software completely. Testers check the software's portability, security and functionality.

  • Program testing: Testers conduct this software testing strategy to help find errors and test the software program's behaviour. Testers usually execute this test using case data to help analyse the program's behaviour.

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