Software testing is an important area of the systems development life cycle. It has its own phase during this process and has its own specialised IT professionals. How come it's so important? What would happen if we didn’t do software testing? Read on to find out more.

What Is The Importance Of Software Testing?

There's an entire stage in the SDLC devoted to software testing. Traditionally, it’s carried out after the developers have finished making the software - it’s handed over to the testing group to carry out tests on it. This is, in my view, the most significant part of the SDLC process.

The reason why it’s so important is that it is the key aspect in getting top quality software. Developing software that works and works well would be the ultimate goal of a project, and the testing stage is where this is done.

The software testing phase can be split up into smaller stages, each of which have their own relevance:

Unit Testing - testing each piece of the software individually, to confirm that it works properly in isolation.

System Testing - testing the complete system as a whole, making certain all the elements work as expected.

Regression Testing - testing the whole system against a pre-defined set of tests, to guarantee the new changes don’t impact existing functionality. This is important for upgrades and updates to software.

These are the main types of software testing and each of them are significant. I believe there are three significant reasons that we carry out software testing.

Software Testing Results In Less Maintenance

The objective of software testing is to ensure good quality software. Good quality software indicates it has less defects or issues, it works well, and does what it should do. Whenever you do software testing within a development project, you are aiming to pick up and discover all of the issues in the system before it's released to the customers.

In a perfect world, the coders will be producing software that works first go, and doesn't have any issues. However, this is not often the case - bugs can be found in the system and the software testing phase is there to pick it up. If it’s discovered before the release, that’s good. If it’s found following the release, it will mean that time will have to be spent finding a fix and executing more testing on it - all whilst the end users are using the software.

The time taken to fix problems after the software is launched is a lot more than while in the testing phase. This is because the fixes need further testing, and need to align to any maintenance releases or other schedules that the organisation has set up. Getting it right the first time when you release it is for the most part the preferred approach.

Good Software Testing Results In Increased User Morale

As pointed out above, repairing the bugs in the system before the release is desired. Another benefit of using this method is that the user morale and confidence in the software is increased. Why is this?

Well, let’s say Project A has finished but software testing was not done very well. The software works, but not very well, but is still launched to the users. They start using it, and even though it does some things well, there are still outstanding concerns so some parts don’t work as expected. This leads to the users getting aggravated with the tool - which isn't healthy for the organisation or the project team. The faults may eventually get repaired, but the decreased morale from the end users will take time to heal.

In contrast, Project B has finished. They have spent some more time on software testing and when it is released, it has a great deal less defects. It has taken longer to produce, as a result of increased focus on testing, but once the users have it, it's going to work correctly and they will be pleased with the software.

The testing effort and decision may be influenced by the organisation you work for, and other factors, but the benefits to user morale are substantial.

Software Testing Matches The Product To The Requirements

The last reason software testing is valuable is that it is used to match the software to the requirements.

Software is created around the user requirements compiled during the analysis phase of the project. The analysis phase identifies what the software is supposed to do. The developers look to build from these requirements, but it’s the testing phase that checks that these requirements have been met.

The testing is executed against functional requirements - such as expected behaviour and what needs to be done. It assures that the software does what it meant to do, and that nothing has been done improperly or left out. It also checks non-functional requirements - things such as load time and other performance measures.

What If We Didn’t Do Software Testing?

One question people might consider, is what if we didn’t complete software testing? What happens if the programmers just made the software and released it? That is one alternative - but I don’t think it’s a very good one.

It would depend on the developer actually creating low-defect software - which isn’t very likely. All coders (myself included) think that their applications are bug-free, but in fact, issues are always found.

Delivering the software without testing would mean there is a high risk of problems being located, and the software not actually working. It would waste a lot of user time and energy when making use of it. It may actually cause more serious issues, including security breaches, data loss and corruption.

To conclude, the importance of software testing can be attributed to three areas - a reduced amount of maintenance, greater user morale, and corresponding to requirements. It leads to high quality software - which should be something all of us are aiming for.

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