QA Best Practices to Improve Software Testing

QA Best Practices to Improve Software Testing

Software testing is crucial for ensuring high-quality software releases. However, one often overlooked aspect is the quality of the Quality Assurance (QA) process within your team. A well-streamlined QA process not only identifies more bugs but also aids in creating superior software that aligns with user expectations.

QA fundamentals: Getting the basics right

Before discussing the most essential tests, let’s look at two primary testing approaches:

Black box testing

A method of software testing in which the tester explores the software without knowing about its internal structure or design. This approach applies to all forms of software testing—unit, integration, system, and acceptance.

White box testing

A software testing approach in which the internal structure of the software under test is known to the tester. It is most relevant for manual, integration, and system testing for several reasons:

  • Test case design: White-box testing allows testers to design comprehensive test cases targeting different code paths and components
  • Identification of weaknesses: Testers can uncover logical errors, boundary conditions, and unexpected behavior, improving software robustness
  • Integration testing: Effective in verifying interactions between modules or components within the system
  • System testing: Ensures the entire system functions as intended by examining internal structures
  • Code review and debugging: Facilitates code review processes and aids in pinpointing and fixing issues efficiently

Now, onto the most common forms of testing, ones that appear in almost every testing pipeline in modern development ecosystems. 

Testing against requirements

Testing against requirements is a critical aspect of software testing. It ensures that the software being developed meets the specified requirements and functions as intended. This process includes:

  1. Requirements analysis: Understanding and clarifying the software requirements documented in the specifications.
  2. Requirements traceability: Establishing a clear link between the implemented features and the specified requirements to ensure nothing is overlooked.
  3. Verification testing: Checking that each requirement is implemented correctly and functions as intended.
  4. Validation testing: Ensuring that the implemented features meet the user’s needs and expectations as per the defined requirements.

Testing against requirements involves various testing methodologies (like functional, acceptance, and usability testing) to validate that the software aligns with the specified criteria. Ensuring that the end product meets the intended goals and satisfies user needs is essential.

Unit testing

Once developers finish a unit of code, they run unit tests on it. These tests check a single code fragment defining a single function.

Unit tests are run every time a new piece of code is generated. Code is tested in isolation and then integrated into the application codebase. That means that all code goes through a preliminary layer of testing before merging. Unit tests are a programmatic way to test code and not something generally done manually—typically, they are automated within agile and DevOps funnels.

System testing and system integration testing

All individual software components are combined and tested as a complete unit. While the functionality of each unit can be validated through unit testing, how they work together is another matter. This is why integration testing exists.

Integration tests can be manual or automated, though CI/CD pipelines automate them for ease and speed.

System testing and system integration testing encompass various subcategories that focus on specific aspects of the testing process. Some of the common subcategories include:

Regression testing

Regression testing maintains the system’s integrity by checking for unintended consequences of changes and ensuring that previously validated functionalities remain unaffected.

These changes could be bug fixes, enhancements, or infrastructural updates. Whatever they may be, regression tests ensure that changes have not disrupted existing functions.

Regression tests are almost always automated, as performing them manually consumes enormous amounts of resources.

Smoke testing

At any stage of the development and testing pipeline, smoke tests are run to verify that the software is stable and ready for further testing.

This involves basic checks to ensure that critical components work as expected, serving as a rapid indicator of the build’s readiness for more in-depth testing. 

If the software passes the smoke test, it indicates initial stability; if it fails, significant issues warranting immediate attention are identified.

System testing

As the name suggests, system tests scan through the entire system with the intent to judge the efficacy of the software system relative to previously determined requirements.

The questions answered by this testing phase can include: 

  • Does the system work equally well on different operating systems?
  • Is it fully secure?
  • Can it handle increased traffic on certain occasions?
  • Does every page and UI element have an ideal page load time?

User acceptance testing (UAT)

This is the final phase of testing, where end-users evaluate the software to confirm if it meets their requirements and works as intended in a real-world scenario. These tests validate the software’s adherence to business needs, user expectations, and its suitability for deployment. 

UAT ensures that the software is ready for acceptance and use in the actual environment by those who will ultimately utilize it, providing a final confirmation before

QA best practices

QA best practices include:

Balance out manual and automated testing

Effective testing pipelines require a mix of manual and automated testing. Testers need to allocate manual or automated effort based on the specific feature, function, or phase within the software development lifecycle (SDLC).

Manual testing ensures human evaluation and oversight, which is essential for any software’s real-world success. Automated testing is fast and free of human error, so it is best suited for tests requiring repetitive user actions.

Think of it like this: unless a test cannot be automated, it should be automated. Manual testers should only focus on tests that explicitly require human judgment, such as tests to validate if the UX “feels” seamless.

Exploratory, usability, and ad hoc tests are commonly conducted manually. Regression tests, load tests, and other performance tests are automated.

The best practice across industries is to automate as much of the pipeline as possible, leaving only the essential verifications for manual QA testers. 

Choose agile testing methodologies

Agile development and testing (which is really one interconnected process) has proved to be the optimal methodology for modern software production.

Agile breaks down coding and testing into a number of brief cycles called sprints. This is useful for capturing bugs early and releasing software within narrow timelines. 

Agile pipelines are also particularly effective for building mobile apps. Agile pipelines prove highly effective for mobile app development by facilitating rapid iterations, user-centric development, and flexible adaptation to changes. The methodology’s emphasis on cross-functional collaboration ensures that mobile apps address various aspects such as UI/UX design, device compatibility, and performance optimization. 

Not only do agile methodologies help cut down the time to market, they also ensure high functionality, high quality, and timely updates.

Agile testing integrates QA activities seamlessly into design and development. This is in direct contrast to the waterfall method, where testing comes at the end of all development. Agile uses quality as the fundamental benchmark, and testing comes at the end of each sprint.

Agile encourages collaboration between development, QA, and product owners and stakeholders. This ensures that everyone on a project is always aligned on goals and processes, yielding better results.

In Agile, automation is crucial for swift delivery. While automated tests play a key role, they should complement manual tests. This approach minimizes manual effort, ensuring a balance between automated efficiency and human judgment in critical areas.

Diversify your tests

By diversifying test types, teams can cover a broader range of scenarios and functionalities. This comprehensive approach increases the likelihood of detecting issues that might otherwise go unnoticed. 

Each test type targets different aspects of the software, revealing bugs in different contexts and scenarios. Ultimately, this thorough examination helps identify and address a wider array of potential issues, enhancing the overall quality of the systems being tested.

Several common practices can help in expanding the types of tests conducted to find more bugs across systems:

  • Writing more automated unit tests
  • Following up unit tests with smoke tests before integration
  • Encouraging devs and QA to view the software from the user’s POV to help think of more feature tests
  • Being meticulous about regression testing after every single change
  • Including end users and developers in acceptance tests

Use the right QA metrics

If you do not set the right metrics or KPIs, you cannot accurately measure the success and failure rates of the QA process. This means measuring not just the obvious metrics but ones that apply to your QA workflows and industry. 

QA metrics give you the data and insights you need to track and improve your testing procedures and find tangible answers to questions like:

  • What have we tested?
  • How long might testing take?
  • Can tests be completed within the given timeline?
  • How long did it take us to release?
  • How severe are the defects we have discovered?
  • How many severe bugs has the team found in the last two months?
  • What is the biggest bottleneck in our testing process?
  • How many features are the team adding to existing products?
  • What are the costs of testing?”

Examples of essential QA metrics include:

  • Test coverage
  • Defects per requirement
  • Defect injection rate
  • Number of defects reported and rejected
  • Number of test cases executed by each team member
  • Test design efficiency
  • Number of bugs per test
  • Average time to test a bug fix
  • Defect distribution

Check out more QA metrics in software testing and learn how to choose the right QA metrics that help your team evaluate the quality of new product releases, the health of your application, and everything in between. 

Focus on writing good test cases

Having in-house developers help testers write test cases comes with its advantages and drawbacks.

On the positive side, when developers engage in writing test cases, it enhances their involvement in the testing process. This fosters collaboration between teams and allows developers to better comprehend the Quality Assurance (QA) perspective. 

However, there are downsides to this approach. Developers might inadvertently introduce biases into their test cases, potentially leading to tests that don’t meet overall quality standards.

So, consider the following practices when putting together test cases:

  • Each test case should be focused on a single feature. Multiple test cases should be cohesively slotted into a test suite.
    • The decision to have multiple test cases in the same suite addressing the same feature depends on the testing strategy, the application’s nature, and the testing process’s goals.
    • The key is to strike a balance between cohesiveness for efficient testing and isolation for clarity and maintainability. 
  • Separate the testing environment from the development environment. A pristine test environment helps to detect accurate results.
  • Break down each test into brief, understandable steps. List each user action and clearly define what counts as “success.”
  • If tests are manual, ensure that instructions for their execution are crystal clear. If testers are new (to the team or the project), try to include tutorials and instructions on what not to do. 

Consider using a test case management tool like TestRail to capture everything about your test cases, including preconditions, test instructions, expected results, actual results, and more.

Execute regular self-assessments

Engaging external reviewers for this task is recommended—however, if an external review isn’t feasible, conducting an internal review is still beneficial compared to no review at all. 

Stakeholders in key roles—like project managers, product owners, squad leaders, or COOs—might consider involving professional review teams. These teams can assess adherence to standards, overall code quality, and the effectiveness of the QA pipeline, providing valuable insights and recommendations.

These reviews assess the condition of these essential elements:

  • Tech stack quality
  • Code structure and duplication rates
  • Documentation quality
  • Technical dependencies
  • Process speed
  • Frequency of bug detection
  • Percentage of bug resolution

These reviews generate new ideas to optimize and improve, all aiming for high quality. This benefits both developers and testers.

Document everything

Bug reports should contain clear steps to reproduce the bugs, highlight the actual versus expected results, and include test environment details on top of ensuring clarity on test data and dependencies.

Monitor and chronicle every bug. Take note of its nature, the features it disrupts, the user action that triggers it, and so forth. It isn’t uncommon for the same bug to appear in different projects or levels in the same project. By documenting bugs, developers can check if they have occurred before and follow previously established steps to resolution.

The easiest way to track bugs is to use a test case management tool that integrates with a tracking system like Jira.

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Image: Integrate TestRail with Jira to increase visibility between QA and Development and ensure that everything that should be tested gets tested every time.

Try crowd testing

Crowd testing involves distributing tests to a global community of testers, a notably innovative and effective method that leverages diverse perspectives to evaluate test scripts.

Crowd testing proves effective due to several reasons:

  • Global reach: Testers worldwide run code on various devices, making it a global exercise
  • Diverse perspectives: It gathers opinions from people across different geographies and cultures, which is ideal for UX testing
  • Cost-efficiency: It offers a cost-effective solution for managing non-automatable tests
  • Enhanced scalability: It scales up your testing process rapidly by tapping into a large pool of testers
  • Access to diverse environments: Provides access to different browsers, devices, and operating systems globally

Maintain a cohesive, cooperative team

Agile development and testing rely on seamless collaboration among teams. Functional relationships between testers and developers are vital. Biases and grudges not only disrupt work dynamics but also lower product quality.

Successful projects involve multiple testers, developers, and managers in design, construction, testing, and management. Therefore, alignment on goals, techniques, and the definition of success is crucial for everyone involved.

A great way to ensure this is to use retrospectives. Put together weekly or monthly retrospectives where folks can review recent work, discuss learnings and opportunities, and voice their concerns. By addressing issues as soon as they occur, managers can prevent them from affecting software quality.

Choose a test management tool to optimize your QA processes

As software becomes more complex, software must match an increasing number of functionality benchmarks in different environments and configurations.

QA processes to test software are also becoming more complex. More tests have to be run, more features have to be examined, and more data has to be recorded all while QA pipelines have to be more controlled, refined, measurable, and replicable.

A test management tool like TestRail addresses this by providing many features that target the structure of your QA process. TestRail includes QA management tools and features such as:

  • Centralized test repository: Organize, manage, and track your automated and manual test cases in hierarchical folders in one collaborative platform.
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Image: Centralize your testing activities to make it easier to access and manage test assets, reduce duplication, and ensure consistency across the testing process.

  • Test case templates: Use out-of-the-box test case templates for scripted, steps-based, or exploratory tests or define your own templates to ensure consistency and efficiency.
  • Coverage reports: Link tests to issues, create coverage reports to find requirement gaps, reduce defect leakage, and ensure tests cover your application’s features.
  • Defect and requirement integrations: Integrate with external requirements managers, bug-trackers, and issue management tools like Jira and Azure DevOps to link requirements, automatically create new defects, and view defect status.
  • Test automation integrations: Integrate with popular test automation frameworks like Selenium, JUnit, or your own in-house tooling to visualize results, track coverage, and link to defects.
  • Maintain security and compliance: Centralize admin visibility and control to support compliance and governance so that your data stays secure–whether your team is in one location or globally distributed.
  • Test metrics: Generate comprehensive project reports, track test coverage, and build traceability between requirements, tests, and defects.
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Image: Make data-driven decisions faster with test analytics and reports that give you the full picture of your quality operations.

If you’re eager for a deep dive, explore TestRail’s features in detail or get started with TestRail’s 14-day free trial today!

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