Monday, May 25, 2015

Testing your software properly

Here's a general checklist of the type of tests that you can use to ensure that you're testing your software properly before you ship it. This isn't an exhaustive list but can be used as a starting point for you to write a more exhaustive list that's right for your software.

Compile before you commit

Good testing starts with making sure your code actually compiles. Yes, people actually check in code without compiling it first. This is just a dumb mistake and is 100% avoidable. 

Run a clean build before you commit

A somewhat non-obvious thing to make sure when compiling is that you're not using a cached compiled object that has changed. Often compilers will cache objects and attempt to track when the dependency changes and only recompile the dependent object when the compiler believes it has actually changed. Cached objects will then be linked against your code and make your software appear to work but those objects may have actually changed and broken functionality. Doing a clean build before you commit will ensure that an object you depend on hasn't changed in such a way as to break your code integration.

Happy Path Tests

Happy path tests should be your minimum bar when committing code. Happy path tests ensure that your code works as intended when used in the way it was designed. These tests can be thought of as functional tests. They test the functionality of the software and ensure that the software meets the business requirement.

Negative Path Tests

Negative path tests ensure that your software is resilient to change. Negative path testing includes using your code in ways for which it was not intended. Common tests include sending in null object parameters and testing upper and lower bounds of parameters. Negative path testing also includes testing that your software properly handles exceptions and throws the proper exceptions.

White Box Tests

White box tests ensure that your code works from the outside in. These are a set of tests that ensure your objects work from the consumers perspective. These tests include making sure the object can be created and initialized, that method calls work according to spec, and that the code does not misbehave from the callers perspective.

Black Box Tests

Black box tests ensure that your code works from the inside out. These tests require access to the internals of the object. Black box tests usually test the fitness of particular private methods and algorithms. 

Life-cycle Tests

You should test how your objects function in various aspects of the objects life-cycle. The key to life-cycle tests is to make sure that your objects mange state properly. Life cycle tests are also useful in making sure that you don't have any memory leaks in your code due to life-cycle changes.

Life-cycle testing includes testing the creation, destruction, concurrency and serialization of your objects. Two life-cycle areas that tend to cause bugs are not properly testing when the object state is saved or restored or when the object is used in a multi-threaded environment.

Integration Tests

Do you understand how your software works in the context of the larger system of components that use and are used by your software? Integration tests allow you to make sure that your software works end to end in the system as a whole. 

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