The famous English writer John Ruskin said that quality never occurs by accident. High quality is instead a product of deliberate and intelligent efforts in the right direction. Although his thoughts date back to the 19th century, the core idea of quality can easily be transferred onto modern software development practices. Quality assurance and testing is the strategic and operational review, identification and solution of software errors with the goal of providing a working solution.
From my experience working in a bespoke software development company, I know that in our technology-driven age, quality software is an essential component of how businesses operate on a daily basis. Software flaws and even minor bugs may sometimes cost millions of dollars in damage and shut down whole enterprises. That’s why testing and quality assurance (QA) is such a vital step of the whole software development process. Read further to explore the QA essentials!
Quality Assurance vs. Software Testing
Although these fields certainly overlap to some extent, there are also some differences between software testing and quality assurance. Quality assurance is a much broader term and it encompasses practices that aim to prevent mistakes from happening. Any potential software issues, worst-case scenarios like system outages or breakdowns are key priorities when it comes to quality assurance.
On the other hand, when we talk about software testing, we mean a more technical side of quality assurance such as finding and reporting possible defects and bugs. After developers write code, software testers need to perform various tests to ensure that each software functionality is working properly and if it complies with the customer’s needs and requirements.
The Key Responsibilities of a QA Engineer
It may come as a surprise, but QA specialists play an active part in business decision making and don’t simply run some tests to optimise software products. Aside from the obvious things like running functional tests, pinpointing problems, and retesting improvements, there are a few other things that go hand in hand. One is participation in the product development phase in a company. This gives QA engineers a deep and thorough understanding of the product right from the start and can contribute to quality expectations and challenges.
As soon as the product priorities have been determined, the QA engineer develops a test approach or a test strategy based on the business outlines and product parameters. This approach is coordinated with the customer and the software developers and regularly checked so that it is always ensured that it fits the current business environment. Depending on the product’s phase, the strategy then focuses on different aspects: With an MVP (Minimum Viable Product), the main focus is usually on the user experience, while with Product/Market fit security plays a greater role and when it comes to business scaling, performance has a top priority. The question then arises as to what these tests should look like and how they are written.
Common Approaches to Software Testing
Depending on the requirements of the product, the QA engineer can select suitable test approaches, including BDD (Behavior-Driven-Development), TDD (Test-Driven-Development) and ATDD (Acceptance-Test-Driven-Development) or combine the approaches. In short, both BDD and ATDD encourage team collaboration but they have slightly different perspectives on what they prioritise. The key difference is that BDD puts the behaviour of the software feature at the centre, whereas ATDD emphasises the accurate description of software requirements.
Another focus is business and technology-related tests, where the QA engineer works with the developers on integration and API tests to check the load thresholds or product behaviour in relation to various network problems or to test the resilience of the product to potential security problems. Moreover, there is additional space for functional and exploratory tests as well as participation in discussions about business processes, functionalities and user stories.
Quality Assurance Depends on Team Collaboration
By now you probably get that QA specialists have a lot of responsibilities but let’s find out what is their role as team members. If the company they work in follows agile development philosophy, Scrum defines software quality as a result of mutual team efforts, so software testers always work in a team. As a rule, however, a QA engineer works more closely with the product owner and the business analysts. Together it is important to determine the quality expectations and goals of the project as well as to brainstorm for potential user problems and priorities for test automation.
For instance, in case the end users are struggling with an app loading time, the QA testing concentrates on investigating possible influencing factors. When a payment module is implemented in the product, security checks are more in the foreground. QA engineers also work directly with software developers. The focus here is on code reviews, test methods and the exchange of technical improvements to create product optimisations.
Challenges Surrounding Software Testing
It is quite a challenge to develop stable tests for products that are dependent on other software products over which one has little or practically no control. This is because there is a risk of unstable tests and the risk of wasting a lot of time on ongoing maintenance and tests for stabilisation. Not necessarily a challenge, but another important aspect is to maintain good communication with all business partners and developers in order to pull together when it comes to product quality.
Another major challenge remains security. Since there is no such thing as 100% security all the time, experienced QA engineers have a more dynamic perception of security. It is therefore usual for them to receive support from pentesters, also known colloquially as “ethical hackers”, who perform penetration tests and thus help keep the security level of a product constantly high.
Top Qualities For Aspiring QA Engineers
If you’ve read that far, I hope you understand the abundance of software testing and quality assurance a little better. So what does it take to become a skilled QA expert? Even if there are no specifically defined skills and qualities for aspiring QA engineers, there are still a few things that you have in mind if you consider a career in quality assurance.
Curiosity about the product and willingness to understand business and in-depth user needs are among the top qualities you must have to be a successful QA engineer. Also, attention to detail and perseverance are more than welcome as you will have to work extremely precisely and in a solution-oriented manner. Last but not least, you have to be a team player as the whole process of quality assurance is a task for the entire software development team, so QA engineers and software testers should be able to collaborate with multiple stakeholders and technical experts.
Author Biography Aleksandrina Vasileva
Aleksandrina is a Content Creator at Dreamix, a custom software development company, and is keen оn innovative technological solutions with a positive impact on our world. Her teaching background, mixed with interests in psychology, drives her to share knowledge. She is an avid reader and an enthusiastic blogger, always looking for the next inspiration.