Software development is more than creating solutions that run needed functions. For business, a new software product is a way to change the operational status quo or make a leap in processes optimization in order to ensure better business results. It requires writing high-quality code and delivering a reliable solution that operates seamlessly and doesn’t have flaws.
Therefore, Quality Assurance (aka QA) is more than finding bugs in a “the-more-the-better” mode. The QA team’s mission is to help web developers deliver the product of their work within the estimated timeline, detecting any issues that might block successful operation of the software or even affect the user experience.
Initially, QA helps design and control the development process in a way that prevents serious issues during the project. To make this happen, QA engineers work on the project together with other team members (product owner, project manager, business analyst, and dev lead) throughout the complete software development cycle. The number and the order of QA activities may vary from project to project, depending heavily on the scope of the work and the project aims.
- Analysis of requirements
- Verification or testing
- Review of requirements
- Test planning / writing test cases
- Unit testing
- Integration testing
- System testing
- Performance testing
- Security testing
- Cross-browser testing / cross-platform testing
- Updating test cases
- Regression testing
Let’s have a deeper look at QA processes and how they are connected with the development steps.
QA engineers start their work on the project in parallel with documentation generation. They review the requirements and documentation for:
The aim is to analyze system architecture and technologies for discrepancies.
Key benefits for the development process:
- Errors cost less when detected at an early stage
- Improved documentation means a higher quality project for lower labor input and more accurate estimates.
For this step, think about using specialized software for documentation review, like Confluence. You can gather all related documentation which is used throughout the whole project, and maintain an internal knowledge base. Every team member can see any changes as soon as any requirements or documents are changed, added, updated, or deleted.
When the requirements have been established, it is time to start planning test cases, i.e. - describe the actions QA engineers perform to make sure the piece of software functions as planned. In case the volume of such cases turns to be really significant, you can also use special tools like TestRail or Zephyr for writing test cases. Both pieces of software allow creation and modification of tests, and track results using metrics.
When the development stage is finished, the QA team starts running the test cases. The main goal of this stage is to check whether the solution is developed properly from the technical perspective and meets the initial product owner’s requirements.
Below are the main QA activities and their aims:
- Smoke testing comes first. QA engineers lightly check that the software, or its module, functions as planned. When passed, further investigation begins.
- Integration testing – verify that different components work as a single system.
- Performance testing that includes:
Load testing – check system behavior for normal and expected peak load
Stress testing – determine critical load after which the system breaks down
- Security testing – ensure the solution has a sufficient protection level.
- Cross-browser testing/cross-platform testing – check that the software works smoothly on different browsers (Chrome, Mozilla, Safari) or platforms (Android, iOS, Windows Phone). This is especially important for web and hybrid apps.
- Regression testing – detect bugs in the code that was tested previously. Usually needed when adding new features or making any updates to an existing system.
Again, you can choose to automate the testing (e.g., unit testing, regression testing). The general rule: the longer a project lasts, the more it needs automated tests.
When a QA engineer discovers a bug, he/she records it in a bug tracking system which is also a project management system. For this purpose, you may use Jira or Redmine, both being highly configurable software. They enable easy tracking of issues of any level, from a broken login form to security problems, and all team members can see real-time task updates. This simplifies communication inside the team and helps keep a clear overview of the improvement process.
Each issue gets a priority level from urgent to low, which the development team then resolves based on time and people available.
When a developer fixes an issue he/she informs the responsible QA engineers, who verify it. The ticket in the bug tracking system is closed when no issue is detected. This rule applies: no bug can be marked as fixed until it is verified.
All above-mentioned testing steps usually apply to Waterfall development methodology. Such steps as Review of Requirements or Test planning/writing test cases are mostly used in complex, long-term projects and/or sensitive industries like healthcare or logistics, where an error costs too much compared to the time spent on documentation generation. However, very often delivery time is crucial (e.g., when you are a startup). For projects limited by time and budget, it is better to spend time on stabilizing and polishing the software product in favor of preparing the entire documentation and scrupulous test planning.
When using an Agile approach (like in most of our cases), for the short-term web development projects you can skip steps Review of requirements and Test planning; as on-time delivery of valuable solutions is more important than perfect documentation. Consequently, QA engineers can start testing immediately from step three using very simple tools like Google spreadsheet.
Also, some stages of the Development and QA processes can be performed simultaneously to save time, for example: Analysis and Review of requirements, Implementation & Test planning, or even Running different types of tests during development. In these parallel stages the testing activities help measure the success of the corresponding development tasks.