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Saturday, June 13, 2020

Why We Test

Most software testers, when asked why they enjoy testing, will say things like:
  • I like to think about all the ways I can test new features
  • It's fun to come up with ways to break the software
  • I like the challenge of learning how the different parts of an application work
I certainly agree with all of those statements!  Testing software is fun, creative, and challenging. 

But this is not WHY we are testing.  We test to find out things about an application in order to ensure that our end users have a good experience with it.  Software is built in order to be used for something; if it doesn't work well or correctly, it is not accomplishing its purpose.  


For example:
  • If a mobile app won't load quickly, users will stop using it or delete the app from their phone
  • If a financial app has a security breach, they'll lose customers and may even be sued for damages
  • If an online store has a bug that keeps shoppers from completing their purchases, the company will lose out on sales
There are even documented cases of people losing their lives because of problems with software!  

So while it's fun to find bugs, it's also critically important.  And it's even more important to remember that the true test of software is how it behaves in production with real users.  Often testers keep their focus on their test environment, because that's where they have the most control over the software under test, but it's crucial to test in production as well.  

I have seen situations where testers only tested a new feature in their test environment, and then were totally surprised when users reported that the feature didn't work at all in production!  This was because there were environment variables that were hard-coded to match the test environment.  The feature was released to production, and the testers didn't bother to check it.

Having things "work" in production is only one facet of quality, however.  We also need to make sure that pages load within a reasonable amount of time, that data is saved correctly, and that the system behaves well under times of high use.

Take a moment to think about the application you test.  In production:
  • Is it usable?
  • Is it reliable?
  • Is the user's data secure?
  • Do the pages load quickly?
  • Are API response times quick?
  • Do you monitor production use, and are you alerted automatically if there's a problem?
  • Can you search your application's logs for errors?

Saying "But it worked in the test environment" is the tester's equivalent of the developer saying "But it worked on my machine".  It's fun to test and find bugs.  It's fun to check items off in test plans.  It's fun to see test automation run and pass. But none of those things matter if your end user has a poor experience with your application.  

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