What is testing & its benefits
I sometimes hear from team leads and CEOs, "oh, yeah, we have heard about automated test suites, but I am not sure if it's right for us or what it is actually". That is one of the excuses I keep hearing when I propose to add tests to their code base. So, let's have a look at what testing is and what is the purpose of it.
What is testing anyway?
Here we are not talking about Quality Assurance (QA), and it's an important notion to consider. In many ways, QA and tests written with libraries such as RSpec complement one another.
RSpec testing is an automated testing library designed to test the behavior of individual units or components within a software system. In contrast, QA (quality assurance) testing is a broader process intended to ensure the overall quality and reliability of a software application or system.
RSpec testing is typically used to test the functionality of individual units or components, such as methods, functions, or classes. It focuses on ensuring that each unit or component is working as intended and can help to identify bugs, defects, or other issues early in the development process.
QA testing, on the other hand, is a more comprehensive process that is intended to ensure the overall quality and reliability of a software application or system. It typically involves a range of different types of testing, including functional testing, performance testing, usability testing, and security testing, among others. QA testing is designed to identify issues or defects that could impact the functionality, performance, or usability of the software and to ensure that the software meets the requirements and expectations of its users.
Benefits of testing code
By having tests, the team ensures to have a safety net able to catch divergences and bugs before the code reach production. Thus, there is an improved code quality with tests.
Good tests reflect the intent of the product design and architecture of the code. Thus, over time, writing tests foster better architecture in the code and greater communication between product and engineering team members.
As tests help software engineers pinpoint faster where a bug is happening, they allow for faster development and debugging.
As a result, while there is an improvement in code quality when tests are being written alongside it, there is also a general improvement in quality in interactions and work within the team.
Tests as a design tool
Traditionally, writing tests was seen as a secondary task, something to be done after the code had been written. This approach often resulted in tests being incomplete or missing altogether, leading to bugs and issues that could have been caught earlier in the process.
In practice, this is shown by software engineers saying things like "I have finished feature X, I am only left with writing the tests". Tests written in such cases are often written in a way that merely confirms the code already existing works. Tests are crafted to be passing.
By contrast, writing tests first - also known as Test-Driven Development (TDD) - involves writing tests before the code. This approach is based on the idea that tests should be considered an integral part of the design process rather than an afterthought. By writing tests first, developers can more clearly define the behavior and expectations of the code they are writing, which can help to guide the development process and ensure that the code meets those expectations.
With such an approach tests express the intent of the software engineer regarding what is to be achieved. The code written afterwards is written to make the test pass thus achieving the intent.
The move to writing tests first represents a change in paradigm for software engineers, as it requires a different way of thinking about the development process. Instead of writing code and testing it, engineers start by defining the tests and then writing code to meet those tests. This approach can help to catch issues earlier in the development process, leading to faster, more efficient development and higher quality code overall.
Overall, the move to writing tests first represents a significant change in how software engineers approach the development process. By incorporating tests into the design process, developers can improve the quality and reliability of their code while also speeding up development and reducing the risk of bugs and issues.
Having to think of the intent and express it through a test ensures the Software Engineer takes the proper steps to follow good practices in architecting and designing code.
Wrapping up: why any software engineering team needs tests
In conclusion, testing is an essential part of the software development process. It involves running code through a series of tests to ensure it meets the desired behavior criteria. Through testing, developers can catch bugs and issues before they make it into production, improving the overall quality and reliability of the software.
Furthermore, the benefits of testing extend beyond simply catching bugs. Testing can also help to improve the overall design and architecture of the software, leading to more modular, maintainable code. Using tests as a design tool, developers can more clearly define the behavior and expectations of the code they are writing, leading to faster, more efficient development and higher quality code overall.
Incorporating testing into the development process may require a shift in how software engineers think about the process. However, the benefits are clear: better quality code, faster development, and reduced risk of bugs and issues. By embracing testing and using it as a design tool, developers can improve their code and create more reliable, effective software.
Let's test !?
We are running group workshops and one-to-one mentoring sessions with Ruby developers of all levels to discuss their approach to testing code and help them grow a completely Test Driven Development culture.
If you want to organize such a session for yourself or your team, schedule a call as early as today!