Software QA and Testing Frequently Asked Questions -- Contributed by Jimmy
29. What if there isn't enough time for thorough testing?
Use risk analysis to determine where testing should be focused. Since it's rarely possible to test every possible aspect of an application, every possible combination of events, every dependency, or everything that could go wrong, risk analysis is appropriate to most software development projects. This requires judgment skills, common sense, and experience. (If warranted, formal methods are also available.) Considerations can include:
Which functionality is most important to the project's intended purpose?
Which functionality is most visible to the user?
Which functionality has the largest safety impact?
Which functionality has the largest financial impact on users?
Which aspects of the application are most important to the customer?
Which aspects of the application can be tested early in the development cycle?
Which parts of the code are most complex, and thus most subject to errors?
Which parts of the application were developed in rush or panic mode?
Which aspects of similar/related previous projects caused problems?
Which aspects of similar/related previous projects had large maintenance expenses?
Which parts of the requirements and design are unclear or poorly thought out?
What do the developers think are the highest-risk aspects of the application?
What kinds of problems would cause the worst publicity?
What kinds of problems would cause the most customer service complaints?
What kinds of tests could easily cover multiple functionalities?
Which tests will have the best high-risk-coverage to time- required ratio?
What if the project isn't big enough to justify extensive testing?
Consider the impact of project errors, not the size of the project. However, if extensive testing is still not justified, risk analysis is again needed and the same considerations as described previously in 'What if there isn't enough time for thorough testing?' apply.
The tester might then do ad hoc testing, or write up a limited test plan based on the risk analysis.
30. What can be done if requirements are changing continuously?
A common problem and a major headache.
Work with the project's stakeholders early on to understand how requirements might change so that alternate test plans and strategies can be worked out in advance, if possible.
It's helpful if the application's initial design allows for some adaptability so that later changes do not require redoing the application from scratch.
If the code is well-commented and well-documented this makes changes easier for the developers.
Use rapid prototyping whenever possible to help customers feel sure of their requirements and minimize changes.
The project's initial schedule should allow for some extra time commensurate with the possibility of changes.
Try to move new requirements to a 'Phase 2' version of an application, while using the original requirements for the 'Phase 1' version.
Negotiate to allow only easily-implemented new requirements into the project, while moving more difficult new requirements into future versions of the application.
Be sure that customers and management understand the scheduling impacts, inherent risks, and costs of significant requirements changes. Then let management or the customers (not the developers or testers) decide if the changes are warranted - after all, that's their job.
Balance the effort put into setting up automated testing with the expected effort required to re-do them to deal with changes.
Try to design some flexibility into automated test scripts.
Focus initial automated testing on application aspects that are most likely to remain unchanged.
Devote appropriate effort to risk analysis of changes to minimize regression testing needs.
Design some flexibility into test cases (this is not easily done; the best bet might be to minimize the detail in the test cases, or set up only higher-level generic-type test plans)
Focus less on detailed test plans and test cases and more on ad hoc testing (with an understanding of the added risk that this entails).
31. What if the application has functionality that wasn't in the
It may take serious effort to determine if an application has significant unexpected or hidden functionality, and it would
indicate deeper problems in the software development process. If the functionality isn't necessary to the purpose of the application, it should be removed, as it may have unknown impacts or dependencies that were not taken into account by the designer or the customer. If not removed, design information will be needed to determine added testing needs or regression testing needs. Management should be made aware of any significant added risks as a result of the unexpected functionality. If the functionality only effects areas such as minor improvements in the user interface,
for example, it may not be a significant risk.
32. How can Software QA processes be implemented without stifling
By implementing QA processes slowly over time, using consensus to reach agreement on processes, and adjusting and experimenting as an organization grows and matures, productivity will be improved instead of stifled. Problem prevention will lessen the need for problem detection, panics and burn-out will decrease, and there will be improved focus and less wasted effort. At the same time, attempts should be made to keep processes simple and efficient, minimize paperwork, promote computer-based processes and automated tracking and reporting, minimize time required in meetings, and promote training as part of the QA process. However, no one - especially talented technical types - likes rules or bureaucracy, and in the short run things may slow down a bit. A typical scenario would be that
more days of planning and development will be needed, but less time will be required for late- night bug-fixing and calming of irate customers. (See the Bookstore section's 'Software QA', 'Software Engineering',
And 'Project Management' categories for useful books with more information.)
33. What if an organization is growing so fast that fixed QA processes are
This is a common problem in the software industry, especially in new technology areas. There is no easy solution in this situation, other than:
Hire good people
Management should 'ruthlessly prioritize' quality issues and maintain focus on the customer
Everyone in the organization should be clear on what 'quality' means to the customer
34. How does a client/server environment affect testing?
Client/server applications can be quite complex due to the multiple dependencies among clients, data communications, hardware, and servers. Thus testing requirements can be extensive. When time is limited (as it usually is) the focus should be on integration and system testing. Additionally, load/stress/performance testing may be useful in determining client/server application limitations and capabilities. There are commercial tools to assist with such testing. (See the 'Tools' section for web resources with listings that include these kinds of test tools.)
35. How can World Wide Web sites be tested?
What are the expected loads on the server (e.g., number of hits per unit time?), and what kind of performance is required under such loads (such as web server response time, database query response times). What kinds of tools will be needed for performance testing (such as web load testing tools, other tools already in house that can be adapted, web robot downloading tools, etc.)?
Who is the target audience? What kind of browsers will they be using?
What kind of connection speeds will they by using?
Are they intra- organization (thus with likely high connection speeds and similar browsers) or Internet-wide (thus with a wide variety of connection speeds and browser types)?
What kind of performance is expected on the client side (e.g., how fast should pages appear, how fast should animations, applets, etc. load and run)?
Will down time for server and content maintenance/upgrades be allowed? how much?
What kinds of security (firewalls, encryptions, passwords, etc.) will be required and what is it expected to do? How can it be tested?
How reliable are the site's Internet connections required to be?
And how does that affect backup system or redundant connection requirements and testing?
What processes will be required to manage updates to the web site's content, and what are the requirements for maintaining, tracking, and controlling page content, graphics, links, etc.?
Which HTML specification will be adhered to? How strictly?
What variations will be allowed for targeted browsers?
Will there be any standards or requirements for page appearance and/or graphics throughout a site or parts of a site?
How will internal and external links be validated and updated? how often?
Can testing be done on the production system, or will a separate test system be required? How are browser caching,
variations in browser option settings, dial-up connection variabilities, and real-world internet 'traffic congestion' problems to be accounted for in testing?
How extensive or customized are the server logging and reporting requirements; are they considered an integral part of the system and do they require testing?
Some sources of site security information include the Usenet Newsgroup 'comp.security.announce' and links concerning web site security in The 'Other Resources' section.
Some usability guidelines to consider - these are subjective and may or may not apply to a given situation (Note: more information on usability testing issues can be found in articles about web site usability in the 'Other Resources' section):
Pages should be 3-5 screens max unless content is tightly focused on a single topic. If larger, provide internal links within the page.
The page layouts and design elements should be consistent throughout a site, so that it's clear to the user that they're still within a site.
Pages should be as browser-independent as possible, or pages should be provided or generated based on the browser-type.
All pages should have links external to the page; there should be no dead-end pages.
The page owner, revision date, and a link to a contact person or organization should be included on each page.
36. How is testing affected by object-oriented designs?
Well-engineered object-oriented design can make it easier to trace from code to internal design to functional design to requirements.
While there will be little affect on black box testing (where an understanding of the internal design of the application is
unnecessary), white-box testing can be oriented to the application's objects. If the application was well-designed this can simplify test design.
What is Extreme Programming and what's it got to do with testing? Extreme Programming (XP) is a software development approach for small teams on risk-prone projects with unstable requirements.
It was created by Kent Beck who described the approach in his book 'Extreme Programming Explained' (See the Softwareqatest.com Books page.).
Testing ('extreme testing') is a core aspect of Extreme Programming.
Programmers are expected to write unit and functional test code first - before the application is developed. Test code is under source control along with the rest of the code. Customers are expected to be an integral part of the project team and to help develop scenarios for acceptance/black box testing. Acceptance tests are preferably automated, and are modified and rerun for each of the frequent development iterations. QA and test personnel are also required to be an integral part of the project team. Detailed requirements documentation is not used, and frequent re-scheduling,
re-estimating, and re-prioritizing is expected. For more info see the XP-related listings in the Softwareqatest.com 'Other Resources' section.