Think back to a time when you wrote a very important paper for a college class. You've put all the finishing touches on it, and read through it. Everything looks great! Just to be safe, you ask your roommate, Steve, to proofread your work. Lo and behold, Steve finds some big errors in your paper. Not only have you misspelled (multiple) words, you also put a citation in the wrong place, didn’t space correctly on a quoted paragraph, repeated yourself somewhere on page six, and changed the verb tense somewhere along the way. “Thank goodness for that second pair of eyes,” you think to yourself. Steve just brought your paper from a C+ to an A-.
When you work on something intently for a long span of time, it can be easy to miss things that would otherwise stand out. The same thing can happen during development. This is why it’s important to have a software quality assurance (QA) team to back your developers. Not only will quality assurance ensure that a website or application works, the QA team also finds new scenarios where the application could be improved.
The Nature of QA
The true nature of software quality assurance is to investigate a product and always be asking “Why?” A good QA is inquisitive and thinks outside the box, no matter if they are a manual tester or one who prefers the emerging world of automated testing. A common misconception that many in the tech industry believe is that QA exists just to break an application, which is not entirely so. Where a developer or programmer’s role is to create, a QA tester’s job is to break down, analyze, find the broken pieces, and provide feedback so the project can be created (or improved).
Quality Assurance Responsibilities
- Ensure all business and technical requirements have been met at the end of the sprint and/or software development life cycle.
- Create test plans that document all the ways an application is intended to work and the paths to get there.
- Find defects, bugs, and errors in an application and report the findings to leadership and developers.
- Ask questions and make suggestions to UX teams and clients in order to make a product more user friendly and intuitive.
- Test and retest the implementation of new features into old code.
- Find ways to stress a system to find an application’s weak spots.
- Give the green light when a product is ready to be released.
You may think all you need is a project manager and a good programmer to make everything run perfectly. Don’t discount the benefits QA can provide to your project! Your QA team can function as translators, proofreaders, editors, hackers, demolition crew, and a variety of other roles in a project. They can act as a safety net so all those little things won’t fall through the cracks on the business or technical side of a project.
Types of Tests
Software quality assurance utilizes many types of testing (stress testing, functional testing, user acceptance testing, unit testing, etc.) to evaluate a product. A good QA team knows to start by asking this question: “Which school of QA would better fit the needs of the project- manual or automated?” Although each tool is different, incorporating both is often beneficial to reaching the goal- to make an application as bug-free and stable as possible. While neither is better or worse than the other, they each have strengths and weaknesses.
Manual vs Automated
Manual testing may be more beneficial in exploratory and usability testing whereas automated testing truly excels at regression and load testing. Manual testing is cheaper in the short term, results in more real world user related bugs found, and is much more flexible. However, it can become dull and is can be difficult to quantify.
Automated testing is more effective at the creation of reusable tests and can be easily quantifiable, but at the expense of the limitations of automated testing tools and the time, money, and work it takes to implement them.
Ideally a QA team would have both automated and manual capabilities at their disposal to ensure a well rounded, cost effective approach to testing is executed.
Choose Your Software Development Team Wisely
If you want your product to be the best, employing a team of software quality assurance testers will help you get there. Their support adds an additional layer of confidence around your product. You can relax knowing you will have a superior result when you employ an expert team of developers and quality assurance testers.