In the context of software development, automated testing is a thorough proving and verification process performed by coded scripts. It’s commonly used for troubleshooting newly developed apps or programs.
This type of test process involves running scripts that have been coded specifically to simulate potential user behaviours across a range of predefined scenarios. Using automated test scripts enables higher volumes of simulated user behaviours to be input much more quickly and intensively than manual testing methods allow.
Automated testing is sometimes seen as an optional or complementary process to manual testing, and sometimes as a necessary standalone method. The most appropriate type of testing for a given app or program will usually depend on the type and complexity of the project.
In this brief guide, we’ll look at three key advantages to using these sorts of auto-test scripts as part of a comprehensive coding and debugging strategy. In particular, we’ll focus on how they help streamline the process of outsourced app development for business.
How can automated testing help in software development?
Manual testing can demand a significant investment in terms of developer time and attention. More complex apps, with a wide and varied range of behaviours to account for, usually take longer to test. By contrast, an automated testing service uses a specially developed script or programme to generate high volumes of simulated user inputs in a shorter time.
Most such scripts will also automatically log relevant data, making it easy to identify outlying results for further analysis and troubleshooting. Left to run over an extended period, this allows developers to gather much more comprehensive data on how well their software is handling various routines and inquiries.
Note that auto-tests aren’t always seen as a replacement for hands-on developer inspection and assessment. Some projects may benefit from a combined approach to the QA process, involving elements of both manual and automated testing services. Again, this will normally depend on the type and complexity of the app in question.
Either way, the key to getting the most from an automated testing process is knowing precisely when to deploy it, and why. If used at just the right stage in a well-managed software development cycle, automated testing can yield a number of powerful and cost-effective benefits.
As we’ve already touched on, automated testing can really help maximise workflow across a development cycle. This is especially true for more complex apps being worked on by larger teams, or across multiple departments. Regardless of the project specifics, improved efficiency is always the core aim of a well-implemented auto-test process.
As well as delivering wide-scale, highly accurate testing and data logging, most automated processes can run simultaneous checks against multiple hardware/software configurations. This is known as portability testing, and is important when coding for a range of different platforms – for example in >automated mobile app testing. Manual portability testing can be another time-consuming part of the overall development process.
Another important consideration is that test scripts can be set to run outside of peak times and typical working hours. This can help make more efficient use of non-office hours without an increase in staffing costs. It can also help optimise server loads, by spreading demand away from the busiest hours during a typical working day.
Optimal streamlining of any outsourced software project is key to the developer delivering a timely and cost-effective service. A well-implemented automated testing phase can have a significant streamlining effect on the delivery of a project as a whole.
Not only are time and money saved during the QA and debugging phase itself, but knock-on benefits can be felt all the way down the line to the eventual delivery point. An obvious example is the way automated testing also handles a good deal of preparatory work, such as data preparation and installation of environments.
It also ensures that continuous integration, deployment and delivery practices are made possible, rather than relying on a single dedicated testing phase. This is of huge value on a more complex or code-heavy project, because it allows for testing to take place continuously as changes are made. Auto-test scripts can repeatedly run basic smoke, sanity and regression tests throughout the ongoing development cycle, helping ensure nothing gets broken during tweaks or updates. Instead, any issues are likely to be flagged at the point they’re introduced, which can help avoid the need for time-consuming roll-backs further down the line.
We’ve blogged before about the potential for automated testing to boost ROI, especially for complex projects. These might include apps with extensive user roles, multiple developer teams, or briefs that are subject to frequent change.
It should be noted that automated testing isn’t always going to be the right approach in every single case. For one thing, creating the scripts themselves is an investment. Depending on the app in question, a test script may require varying degrees of bespoke coding in order to perform effectively.
Auto-testing may therefore be of limited benefit on certain smaller projects, or where a QA team is insufficiently experienced with automation programming and processes. Clients should always be made aware that the initial cost of developing and implementing quality test scripts will result in a more expensive short-term buy-in. In particular, it’s important to note that ROI benefits are seen in the medium- and long-term, rather than the short.
Building in a window for automated testing and analysis often demands some workflow realignment in other project areas. Depending on the specifics of the app, developer team and delivery schedule, this may not be seen as efficient. Again, very small projects tend to see comparatively limited benefits. However, automated testing on larger and more complex development cycles can indeed lead to a significant boost in ROI.
Feel free to use our handy ROI calculator for a rough initial check using your own figures. For more general discussion around what sorts of programs, apps and development cycles can benefit from the use of auto-test scripts, check out these recent posts: