The Importance of End-to-End Testing in Software Development
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Multiple steps in the software development process ultimately drive the success of a product in development. While end-to-end (E2E) testing is one of the last steps in this process, it's also one of the most important steps toward a fully functional software product deploying to market. If you're interested in becoming a software developer, understanding the E2E testing processes and implementing them is fundamental.
In this article, we define what E2E testing is, detail why it's important, identify the E2E testing elements, consider the benefits, provide the best practices, and explain how best to implement this testing method.
What is end-to-end testing?
End-to-end testing evaluates software functions by reviewing the entire application workflow from start to finish. Testing the software from start to finish means that the development team can ensure it works as expected. The development team uses E2E testing and attempts to emulate the business environment in the real world.
E2E testing is the point in the development process when all the individual elements of the software come together. It's usually one of the last tasks before a product goes into production. During testing, developers define the product's dependencies and test the interactions. By verifying the system flow, detecting issues associated with the subsystem, and increasing the test coverage areas, you can avoid many potential system risks.
Why is E2E testing important?
E2E testing is the last check before the software goes into production, so it's essential that everything works and performs as predicted. The development team can use multiple scenarios to ensure the software performs as expected in each one. It's a robust process that highlights any issues, so revisions occur before the product debuts on the market.
This allows addressing issues during development when the cost of an upgrade is considerably less than after the product is on the market. It's also an opportunity to find areas where the software might perform better and make the necessary improvements.
E2E testing elements
There are multiple elements that the development team incorporates into the testing process, including:
E2E testing combines different user actions and behaviours with scenarios to test if the software performs appropriately in each scenario. The purpose of the testing is to consider every possible user action within the application and to determine how each function interacts with the others. If you're developing E2E testing, it's crucial to consider every possible combination of actions when forming the testing protocol.
There are various environments and conditions in which it's necessary to ensure that a particular software program performs. Hardware, operating systems, data integrity, browsers, timing, capacity, and software integrations can all impact how software behaves during E2E testing. If the development team evaluates the software during E2E testing properly, then it's best practice to use the different environments to form part of the testing.
The test cases are a list of steps necessary to complete software workflows. They incorporate every action necessary for a user to initiate to experience the software's full functionality. Testing might require the user to apply a single test case to multiple conditions or create unique test cases that change in response to the environment.
Related: Top Skills for Software Developer
Benefits of E2E testing
When developing software, it's essential that the testing is robust, as this gives the industry confidence in the product when it reaches the market. E2E testing is the industry standard for software products due in part to the benefits that it offers, which include:
Expanding test coverage
Verifying the application is correct
Decreasing the time to market
Measuring E2E testing
Here are some of the most popular measures used in E2E testing:
Test case preparation status: Researchers use this to determine the specific position of the test cases they develop. They become planned test cases once the development is complete.
Test progress tracking: Most organizations track test progress weekly. The organization tracks the details about the percentage of cases that conclude testing and their status each week, such as passed or failed, executed or unexecuted, and valid or invalid.
Defects status and details: The goal of testing is to ensure all aspects of the software are effective and perform well. The defect rate is the percentage of testing cases that reveal a defect.
Environmental availability: This refers to the number of hours per day that the testing environment is available to carry out testing.
Completion rates: This is the percentage of testing that reached completion. Researchers normally calculate completion rates on a weekly basis.
Test case creation: This is the ratio of completed test cases to the test cases in the preparation phase. This ratio is a good way to track the progress of the testing schedule.
Best practices for E2E testing
The following are some of the best practices to implement when undertaking E2E testing to ensure that you optimize the benefits the process offers:
Prioritize the end use: There are competing interests from a variety of stakeholders during the testing process. It's important to focus on the requirements of the end user, who is ultimately going to determine the market success of the software.
Avoid exception testing: The purpose of E2E testing is to test the common user scenarios in relation to the software, rather than carry out exception testing. If exception testing is necessary, integration testing or low-level unit testing are better choices.
Maintain order: Structure and order are key throughout the E2E testing process, given the complexities of testing all aspects of the software and the potential for confusion if the team doesn't maintain order. The development team might address first-level errors by conducting unit testing and integration testing to help simplify the E2E testing process.
Optimize setup and teardown mechanisms: To optimize the setup, keep the processes as simple as possible. When testing is complete, utilizing a simple teardown process means that the testing environment remains in optimal condition for the commencement of the next round of testing.
How to carry out E2E testing
Follow these steps to set up and run your own E2E testing:
1. Identify the ideal functions
One of the easiest ways to identify the ideal functions is to start with the overall software goals. What is the software meant to do? Once you have identified the broad scope of the project, start breaking it down further to detail how each feature functions and how they interact with each other. You might also consider your baseline expectations concerning the testing at this stage, which you can compare to the actual software performance during testing.
2. Gather the necessary resources
Once you have set out the foundations of the testing, the next step is to determine the hardware and software you require to complete the testing. It's important to create a controlled test environment to enable consistency and replicable results. This includes resourcing the environment, the operating system requirements, and ensuring the hardware needed to run the software properly is available.
3. Generate the test cases
The next step is developing test cases for each function you wish to assess. When developing these cases, describe the action that's to occur, and detail the specific action to occur. Consider the order of the functions and develop test cases that assist in defining if the behaviour of the users influences the way the software operates.
4. Select metrics for analytics
To determine the success of each feature and function, you can compare its performance against pre-defined metrics. The baseline metrics that you establish for the test mirror the goals established for the software to a degree. These pre-defined metrics help the development team identify potential issues and redefine the software processes.
5. Initiate and observe actions
Once you've finished setting the basics, initiate each test case, monitoring its performance throughout the testing. Keep the software monitored to ensure it's performing in the manner you envisioned. Also, keep a record of the successes and failures. Documenting the benefits and challenges helps identify the areas where changes are necessary.
6. Test multiple conditions
It may be necessary to complete several rounds of testing, changing the user environment each time, to ensure you consider all possible outcomes. It's not unusual for issues to present in only one scenario or setting. Testing the software in a range of different circumstances ensures you consider all possible outcomes.
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