Software cannot be something new for you! You may even work with several software products just within a day. However, have you ever thought of how these software products are developed? The process of developing software is not as easy as you think. According to the System Development Life Cycle (SDLC), it starts with requirement analysis, and then goes ahead with the feasibility study, designing, developing, and then testing before the deployment. Actually, it is this testing phase that we mainly focus on in this article, since it is the phase that involves quality assurance in the process of software development.
Importance of Software Quality Assurance
After developing software, the quality of the software needs to be assessed prior to releasing it to the client. This process is not as simple as one thinks, since there are various aspects that need to be tested with regard to software.
In fact, the functionality of the system is the most important thing that a client looks for. So, testing a system’s functional requirements is one of the vital factors in satisfying a client, and delivering a quality product. Apart from that, the system should fulfil the usability requirements, as well as the non-functional requirements of the system such as ease of use, attractiveness, security, etc. Hence, it is important that the Quality Assurance team looks for these aspects during the testing phase of the SDLC, to ensure a high user experience for the client. Besides, the code of the system should be free of bugs, and in accordance with standards and software practices. That indeed impacts the quality of the software. So, owing to all these reasons, quality assurance happens to be an essential part of software development, as well as a highly important field in the IT sector.
Owing to this importance, each and every IT company takes Quality Assurance very seriously. Hence, they manage a separate Quality Assurance team and take every possible measure to test the quality of their software. Even Lakmobile Technologies, an organization that provides services in the Sri Lankan software industry, will prove to you the degree of importance that they have given to software testing and validation, as they come up with a product.
Software Quality Characteristics
By now, you already know a few characteristics that measure software quality, since we discussed the importance of quality assurance addressing them. However, we dedicate this section to providing you with an enhanced idea of software quality characteristics.
You can find below the most prominent software quality characteristics.
This suggests how far the system performs the required functions. However, this can be further discussed using several factors such as follows.
- Suitability: The software should be capable of fulfilling all the required tasks.
- Accuracy: The software should have the ability to give out acceptable outcomes.
- Interoperability: The software should be capable of interacting with other relevant systems.
- Security: The software should have the ability to prevent unauthorized access, and any kind of deliberate attacks on the system.
This suggests how far the users can trust the software. This characteristic can be further discussed with the following features.
- Maturity: The ability that the software has to correct certain failures that take place.
- Fault Tolerance: The capability of the software to maintain a certain performance level even during software faults.
- Recoverability: The ability that the users have to recover the system and the data which they were using at the time of the software failure.
This suggests how easy the product is to use. The following features also help to understand this characteristic better.
- Understandability: How easy it is for the users to understand the functionalities of the software, and how to use them.
- Learnability: How easy it is for the users to learn to use the software.
- Operability: How easy it is for the users to operate and control the software.
- Attractiveness: How pleasing the software is for the users.
This suggests how well the software utilizes available resources to fulfill its tasks. The following features further explain this characteristic.
- Time Behavior: How far the software is capable of managing the processing time, the output of the relevant results, and the throughput rates when performing its functions under predefined conditions.
- Resource Utilization: How far the software is capable of using the appropriate resources at the appropriate timings, under predefined conditions.
This suggests the degree of space the software has for modifications, and to correct faults. The following features would further clarify this characteristic.
- Analyzability: The ability that the software has in identifying the failures, causes for those failures, and the components that need to be modified.
- Changeability: How far the software supports modifications.
- Stability: The capability of the software to remain stable and work fine following the modifications.
- Testability: How far the software supports validations, following the modifications.
This suggests how far the software can manage to work appropriately across different platforms, and devices. The following features prove these characteristics.
- Adaptability: How easy it is to modify the software to suit specific environments.
- Installability: How easy it is to install the software in a specified environment.
- Coexistence: The ability of the software to work fine with other independent software in a common environment sharing common resources.
- Replaceability: How capable the software is to be used instead of another software in the environment of the software.
Types of Tests used in Software Quality Assurance
Simply, there is a huge variety of tests, or rather validation techniques used in the Software Quality Assurance field. Some of them are manual tests, while some are automated. It is not that IT companies use all these tests in software development. They choose what suits them the most, considering the types of software that they develop, and go ahead with them.
1. Unit Testing
This is one of the most basic validation techniques in software quality assurance. The main focus here is to test each unit or function of the software individually. This helps the team to get a proper idea about the performance of that software unit while identifying its faults in it. In fact, this method provides ample space for the team to easily understand the root causes of the faults, and find solutions.
2. Component Testing
Here, the team gets the chance to test a few units or functions under a single code. In fact, no integration among components has happened at this level. Instead, the components under a single code are independently tested, to measure their performance, and identify errors. Most of the time, the teams use real data for the validations that take place using the Component Test.
3. Integration Testing
Of course, as the name suggests, this validation method in software quality assurance takes place upon the integration of different components. Thus, the integration testing helps the team to understand whether the different components of the software work fine together. This is indeed important because different components of the same software can be developed by different teams or rather different individuals. In that case, it is indeed important in validating that those different components work collaboratively to fulfill the objectives of the software.
3. End-to-End Testing
This is one of the most important software quality assurance techniques that helps to test the software under practical circumstances. It enables the team to validate the software’s performance and functionality in a real-world scenario. In fact, the time that the software would take to respond, the outcomes that it provides, and the workflow of the software can be clearly observed with a test as such.
4. Performance Testing
Performance testing is a software quality assurance technique that gives an idea about the software’s stability, availability, and reliability under different loads. In fact, the team would test the performance of the system and check if the system fails at some point. This type of test is important for the team to get an understanding of the load that the software can tolerate.
5. Regression Testing
Software quality assurance teams use regression testing to validate a software’s performance following a modification. Under this validation method, both functional and non-functional characteristics of the software would be tested. In fact, they would check whether the software’s functionalities meet the users’ expectations even after the modifications.
7. Sanity Testing
This also belongs to the regression testing category, as it also validates software following certain modifications. Here, the software quality assurance team would mainly check whether the modified software is capable enough to undergo major testing phases after the code changes or the updates that took place. If the testing seems to be successful, the team would move ahead with the other major testing phases. By chance, if the software crashes, they would understand to stop the testing from that point, and take measures to fix the weak points of the modified software version.
8. System Testing
This is simply a software quality assurance technique that helps to validate a complete system. In fact, all the components of the software would be integrated by this stage. To be specific, the product would be at a level where it is ready to be released. So, in that case, the software should exhibit its exact performance, fulfilling the user requirements. In other words, it should be capable of accepting the user inputs, processing them, and giving out the expected outcomes without any delay or hassles.
9. Smoke Testing
This is basically one of the software quality assurance techniques that validate the main functionalities of a system. To be honest, there is no point in checking the non-functional requirements, or any other aspect of the software if it fails to perform its core functions. In the real world, the software would be directly rejected if it fails to perform the main functionalities that the users expect it to perform. Therefore, this smoke test is really important in the software quality assurance field. So, especially after adding a new feature, or conducting an advanced modification, a software quality assurance team chooses to perform a smoke test. If the smoke test is successful, the team decides that they can go ahead with other testing methods.
10. User Acceptance Testing
This is more like the final test that comes under the software quality assurance phase. Yet, the significance is that it is not done by the QA team. As the name suggests, it is their users’ test, and thus, the users or the client would take part in this testing. What happens here is that the client is given a chance to use the final version of the software. In fact, the user can input real data and check whether the software works fine.
At the same time, this gives a chance for the user to get an idea about the speed, accuracy, efficiency, user-friendliness, as well as the attractiveness of the software. Accordingly, if the client is satisfied with the product, he can accept the product. If not, he can request certain changes. So, accordingly, this would be the last test that decides whether the client is happy with the product.
Important QA Tools
Different IT companies use different QA tools to assist their software quality assurance tasks. Some of such software quality assurance tools that the QAs most probably use are as follows.
- Aqua ALM
- QA Wolf
- Telerik Test Studio
Apart from that, the following tools also assist QAs with their project management tasks.
- Word Processing Applications
- Automation Tools like Selenium, Cucumber, etc.
Challenges in Software Quality Assurance
In the present context, software quality assurance is simply a separate field in the IT industry. So, as with the other fields related to IT, this field also has a set of challenges related to its profession.
One of the biggest challenges that the software quality assurance teams or QAs face are tight deadlines. Most of the time, the development phase takes more time than estimated, and as a result, it is the QAs who lack time for their testing. Moreover, even last-minute testing requests come up in the IT fields. Such instances are indeed challenging for the QAs, and make them complete the tasks with less success.
Besides, the coordination between the developing team and the software quality assurance team is very less in certain IT companies. Still, the collaboration of both these parties is indeed essential for the testing and debugging process. Thus, having no proper coordination between the developing team and the QA team brings challenges most of the time.
Further, some IT companies face issues because of the tools that they use. A company may have the license to use only a specific set of tools. In that case, there would be no other option than to use those tools from the company’s point of view. Still, having access to some other tools might have helped the team to complete the software quality assurance task in a better and more efficient way. So, being forced to use certain tools is also a common challenge within the software quality assurance field.
The Bottom Line
After all, even the software quality assurance field has so many challenges. Still, they perform a crucial part in a software development project. Besides, technology evolves so fast, and the IT industry keeps moving forward at a rapid speed. So, the software quality assurance field that we see tomorrow, might not be the same as today. Therefore, let us look forward to the changes that take place in this field, and at the same time appreciate the contributions of the QAs in the software industry!