The discipline of testing, which involves designing and executing test cases, is not an independent task. It’s one of the main duties of quality assurance (QA) during the development process. In the following article, I’ll explain some of the reasons as to why test cases are essential.
First of all… What is a test case?
A test case is a set of actions that the user should follow to verify a functionality of a system. These actions are defined as steps and have their respective expected result – that is, how the system should behave after each step is executed. In case the current result is different from what is expected, then it represents an issue, that in testing discipline is called a “bug”.
What is needed to design a test case?
It’s very important to take into account what is needed before starting to design a test case. The team should have clear and defined documentation and user stories with the completed acceptance criteria and designs.
How can we think over a test case? Which techniques can we use?
There are many different ways to start thinking about the tests we are going to design, but some of the most common techniques are:
- Boundary value analysis
- Equivalence partitioning
- Decision table
- State transition diagrams
What information should we add to a test case?
When designing a test case, we need to follow a structure, and it can change depending on the project or company. Generally, the most common information we should add is:
- ID: Unique identification, in general provided by the management tool
- Name: Short title that describes the functionality we want to test
- Description: A detailed description of the test we want to perform
- References: Links to the related user information: user stories, designs, etc.
- Pre-Condition: Previous condition that should be executed before running the test
- Steps: Actions that the user should follow to complete the test
- Expected Result: Describes how the system should respond to each step
- Priority: Order in which the test cases should be executed
How can we consider if a test case is effective?
There are some points that allows the team to understand if a test case is effective:
- The test case is easy to maintain
- The test case ensures good coverage
- The test case is reusable
- The test case helps to improve software quality
Why are test cases important?
There are many reasons why designing test cases is very important. Not only does it benefit the QAs, but it helps the entire team. Here are some of the reasons why test cases are an essential part of the software development cycle:
- Reusability.Test cases can be reused during several stages of the project, for example, when the team needs to run a smoke or a regression test before a release. Also, the same test case can be executed in several environments. So, although the team needs considerable time to create the test cases, they end up being a good investment.
- Code quality. Additionally, test cases can help the team measure how good the coding is. Test cases can help see whether there are several bugs for the same features, and also when a bug goes to development and back to test more than twice (testing cycle affected, re-testing). Overall, test cases are a good measurement of how well developers are coding (in terms of the metrics to improve the software lifecycle).
- Knowledge transfer. The documented test cases can also be used to help transfer knowledge between various participants of the project, and can even provide important information to new members that join the project in the future.
- Coverage measurement. Knowing the coverage of the test cases allows the team to know the scope of the tests, and based on that obtain different statistics. Then, the team can take decisions like strengthen the tests for some functionalities, add new testing types or update testing times.
- Automation basis. Test cases are also the basis to start automation. They allow the team to understand if the test can be automated or not based on the technical complexity, the importance of the test, and the repeatability of it.
- Software development life cycle improvement. Test cases can improve the software development life cycle (SDLC) by enriching the whole team, from product owners, to business analysts, technical leads, and quality control to focus on different viewpoints, through the lens of quality assurance.
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