Testing Your Application: What to Look For

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When testing your software application, four aspects are crucial for a successful test: accuracy, entirety, value and security. A thorough test of those will expose useful information about the application based on its proposed function. Complete correctness of a software application never can be reached by testing, or anything else really, but a solid test is a good comparison between the applications you’re using versus the application you’d like to use.

Even if developers follow certain routines or procedures, much of testing is the improvised inspection and inquiry of the application based on their individualized needs. This means not every test is administered to find errors (although that is part of it). Rather, it is to gather the wanted information of the application.

The four levels of testing software never change, however, mainly because they build on one another, and a level can’t be completed until the previous one is. The first level is unit testing, which checks the individual units of source code to make sure each is working properly.

Integration testing is the second level, in which the units from Level 1 are combined and tested together. This determines whether chief design items are functional within the application, and it finds irregularities between the integrated software units.

The third level is a system test, which verifies that an integrated system meets its specific requirements, including the design, behavior and the expectations of the customer.

The final test level is the two-part acceptance test, which includes both alpha and beta testing. Generally, the acceptance test allows customers to give their feedback and decide whether it’s an application they would use and like. Alpha testing refers to internal customer testing, which is by beta testing, the acceptance testing outsourced.

As standard as these levels remain, how to approach them has been debated and changed repeatedly for more than 30 years. Initially, most things written about how to test software applications were written under the assumption that the tester has total source code access.

This is usually the case for government and military applications, so they have continued to use a more traditional testing method based on their access and consistency. The commercial arena has had to adapt a much more flexible approach and has favored automated testing as a result, even though it’s more expensive — it’s too time-consuming to try a traditional approach in an environment of constant change.

Another key element to look for in outsourcing testing of an application is the certification of the person performing it. Because no certification requires the applicant to physically test anything because are all exam-based, a testing certification isn’t required but will certainly go along way in quality assurance.

Organizations such as the International Institute for Software Testing and the International Software Testing Qualifications Board both offer certifications and are working to make testing certifications as universal as possible.

It is still too early in the stages, however, to expect widespread adoption of any testing certification to be mainstream because people have been software testing using their own methods since the early 1970s.

Finally, if outsourcing isn’t in the budget, software application testers can choose a wide variety of free open-source tools to help them in certain areas of testing. As long as advanced scripting for complex applications aren’t needed, Web sites such as opensourcetesting.org offer hundreds of free tools to help in all but the most complex areas of testing.

Technical experience, however, is still a must when implementing any sort of testing application. Again, accuracy, entirety, value and security are the things to look for when testing a software application and different ways to go about testing each one. The key is to know what the needs for the test are and then choose the best plan based on those needs.

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