In the digital era, products no longer can win on capabilities alone. Speed to market and buyer experience now matter just as much to customers as the extent to which a product meets a pressing need or outperforms competitive offerings. Against this backdrop, software developers find themselves under increasing pressure, left with no choice but to develop apps that provide everything customers want, are delivered on time and are continuously updated, all while ensuring a user experience that’s never short of flawless. There’s simply no margin for error, and that’s why more developers than ever are turning to continuous testing.
Unlike the traditional approach of testing performed at the end of the development cycle, where it can potentially cause production delays should issues or bugs be uncovered, continuous testing involves running tests throughout the entire software development process. That enables developers to identify and resolve existing issues immediately—and, more importantly, deliver continuously updated and always flawless applications to their customers.
Fundamentally changing something you’ve always done a certain way is never easy, however, and continuous testing is no exception. There’s no single lever to pull, but rather a series of steps and best practices necessary to effectively implement it within your development team. Let’s walk through the four most critical of those best practices.
Make a Cultural Commitment to Collaboration and Quality
As with any transformational change, people come before processes and developing the right mindset comes before developing the right tactics. Effective continuous testing requires a teamwide, cultural commitment to collaboration and quality. The notion that developers own development and QA owns testing inevitably leads to the types of problems—namely, delayed releases and flawed user experiences—that businesses simply can’t afford in the digital era. Instead, developers and test engineers must have a mutual understanding of the baseline level of quality and efficiency they collectively intend to maintain throughout the development process and a shared understanding that testing is everyone’s responsibility.
Apply a Broad Range of Tests, Anchored by Automation
As mentioned earlier, continuous testing isn’t about pulling any single lever, but rather about applying a broad range of tests throughout the testing process, including unit testing, integration testing, automated end-to-end and regression testing and production testing. By continuously administering tests at various points throughout the delivery pipeline, you can identify and fix issues spanning functionality, performance and security, and do so before they morph into the kind of roadblocks that delay your release and cost your business money.
Though you should strive for variety when it comes to the types of tests you implement, you should strive for consistency when it comes to the concept of automation. If you’re serious about succeeding with continuous testing, automation is a necessity. Automated testing, which involves writing a test script (typically in Selenium or Appium) that interacts with the functional elements on a web page without requiring human intervention, not only helps you deliver better scalability and reliability than manual testing, but it also frees your manual testers to focus on more value-add activities such as exploratory testing.
Leverage Cloud for Breadth and Scalability
Just setting up and maintaining the infrastructure, physical or virtual, necessary to test across the ever-expanding universe of browsers, operating systems and mobile platforms is both costly and complex. And that’s before you consider the need to scale your test environment to run tests in parallel. It’s a daunting challenge for even the most mature enterprise development team.
Enter cloud. In many ways, continuous testing and the cloud were made for each other. By leveraging a cloud-based, cross-browser testing platform, development teams can offload all the infrastructure-related headaches they’d otherwise be forced to grapple with on a daily basis, test across virtually any browser/OS combination (leveraging both real devices and cloud-based simulators and emulators) and ensure they have the scale necessary to keep their test times to a minimum.
Develop a Strategic Approach to Analytics
Continuous testing, applied optimally, requires a strategic approach to analytics. Developers should actively look to integrate a layer of analytics within the testing process, such that insights can be applied across the product team. Smartly layered analytics can shed light on a number of functional issues, including which browsers and mobile platforms are most often experiencing failure and whether an application’s test results are consistent.
Beyond just functional testing, teams also can leverage analytics to assess user experience and performance, examining, for example, how the user experience is impacted by heavier traffic loads and how overall application performance is impacted by new updates to the code. Having this added layer of analytic insight enables developers to better understand the entire quality picture and deliver improvements that can be applied both in real-time and to future tests.
The Digital Age Demands Continuous Testing
In the digital age, your ability to attract and retain customers is directly tied to your ability to build the best products, deliver them faster than your competitors and keep them continuously updated with all the latest features and function—and do it all within the context of an impeccable digital experience. It’s a tall order, but it’s one made considerably less daunting by the effective application of continuous testing.