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What Is Software Testing?: Our Quick, Comprehensive Guide

With modern software projects, virtually every team understands the importance of software testing, but how many actually understand exactly what software testing is? While it may seem obvious, people rarely actually talk about what software testing is and what it should look like in practice, and indeed it can vary to some extent based on the specifics of the software project. 

That said, it’s still essential for every software team to understand what software testing is exactly and what the goals are – to make sure everyone is on the same page. Since we’ve seen a wide range of teams and testing processes in our experience in the software testing space, our experts at testRigor have put together this quick guide to help you ensure all of your team members are up to speed.

A high-level definition of software testing

Software testing is the process of finding problems in the software project as it is developed and maintained over time. Usually, software testing focuses on expected outcomes and deviations from these outcomes. 

Sometimes, these outcome deviations are a result of bugs or errors, but they can also arise from other sources like failure to meet the requirements or aims of the development work. 

Software testing should also include a concept of measuring or understanding how severe deviations from expected outcomes are in terms of actual impact on the software users and customers.

The process of testing software is not limited to just the codebase, but the entirety of the user experience with the software and related systems that run and support the software. 

Software testing is often seen as the final line of quality control before releasing software changes to end-users to ensure the end product accomplishes what customers need and is of high quality. 

There is both manual and automated testing within the practice of software testing. Software teams often employ an extensive range of tools for software testing, like the AI-powered tools provided by testRigor, which can help streamline both manual and automated testing to reduce cost and improve the scalability of the software project overall.

Why is software testing so important? What are the benefits?

As alluded to above, software testing has some important benefits for any software team. 

First and foremost, ensuring the quality of the end product is usually the top priority for the software testing process. Usually, this means identifying any software defects that prevent it from delivering the needed results or value to customers and helping to document where and when the problem occurs – to facilitate the process of fixing the problem. Another major benefit of the software testing process is understanding and measuring the problem to know how important it is to fix and where it fits in the overall team priorities. On the other hand, a lack of quality within the software can reflect poorly on the organization, and problems within the software can disrupt customers’ ability to accomplish important tasks, which they may rely on for their viability as an organization or private entity.

Security is another vital part of software testing. When appropriately designed, software testing can help check for gaps in security that can be introduced by changes within the software project. Detecting and addressing severe security issues is an integral part of protecting the end-users and software customers, as well as the development team. In an era of the increasing prevalence of cyber attacks and theft, security is becoming a critically important priority for software teams in all industries and markets. 

Usability across various user scenarios is another example of the importance of the software testing process. Software users typically come in all kinds, which means they use all sorts of devices, ways to access the software, and have their own needs when interacting with the software. Often, this means making sure the software functions correctly across various devices – from laptops to tablets and mobile phones, as well as different operating systems, browsers, etc. However, other aspects of how users access the software may need to be considered, like users who rely on screen readers to render text audible, or users who need to use voice commands to navigate their interactions with the software. 

What types of software testing are out there?

Within the discipline of software testing, there are a number of different types of testing that are put into practice. Below, we’ll detail some of the most fundamental types of software testing. 

Functional testing

Functional testing within a software project is used to verify that each function within the software meets the requirements that the development process aims to satisfy. In this case, testing the software behavior is the primary goal, rather than analyzing code or systems.

There are also different types of testing within the larger concept of functional testing. 

Unit testing inspects individual components of the software to determine whether or not they behave according to the requirements within the context of just that component. 

Integration testing is the process of testing the individual components when working together as a group, since they may affect one another to introduce additional dimensions into what could influence the behavior of the software.

System testing covers the entire, fully-integrated software system as a set. 

Sanity testing refers to checking the logical reasoning behind the software functions. 

Smoke testing is used to verify core/fundamental functionalities, like user authentication, to access the product. 

Interface testing refers to testing the communication between two systems to ensure they work together as expected per requirements.

Regression testing is used to verify that all of the existing functionality still performs as expected after any changes were introduced – regardless of whether or not those changes were intended to relate to that existing functionality. 

Beta and acceptance testing are a way for an early group of users who act as representatives for the broader user base to test out any changes in the software compared to the current version already released to the general user base.

Non-functional testing

Non-functional testing in a software project refers to the end software product’s usability, reliability, and performance. Within non-functional testing, several types of different tests help check these areas of the product.

Performance testing helps assess the speed of the software when it is being used under the utilization workload required of it.

Volume testing checks system performance by increasing the amount of data loaded into the database to test how the software performs with the added data. 

Stress testing can help to determine how the software system will perform under unfavorable conditions, such as much higher utilization than normal. 

Load testing is used to test how the software performs under a high workload, like checking to see if functionality and responsiveness are still maintained when a high volume of users are using the system concurrently.

Usability testing is an important form of non-functional testing that focuses on the user experience, and how easy or difficult it is for the user to interact with the software to achieve the results they need.

Other types of non-functional testing include localization testing, compliance testing, security testing, install testing, recovery testing, reliability testing, compatibility testing across environments like devices and browsers, and other types of testing.

Black box, white box, and gray box testing

You may have heard of the terms “black box”, “white box”, and “gray box” testing. These terms describe testing scenarios where you may or may not have varying levels of information about the software’s code, logic, or structure. 

With black-box testing, you have no such specific “insider” information about the software’s code, logic, or structure when performing tests, just as you would expect a regular user wouldn’t. 

On the other hand, white box testing means you’re testing with the full knowledge of the system’s inner workings, usually for the sake of improving the system. For example, white box testing might be useful for finding inefficiencies in your system. 

As you might expect, gray box testing is in between, assuming you have partial information about the inner workings of the software.

Software testing automation

These days, one of the most important aspects of modern software projects is automating as much testing as possible, regardless of the test types. We’ve covered this subject in more detail in other posts, where we welcome you to continue learning about software test automation. Please feel free to also reach out to our team if you have lingering questions or requests that you need help with.