Software Testers can earn as much as $85,000 a year — in many cases without writing a single line of code. The driver behind the nice paycheck? Like all systems people and companies depend on, software needs to be tested both during development and after its release.
Keep reading to learn what's involved in software testing, why it's important, how it fits into the development process, and the languages you can learn to land the best software testing positions.
What is software testing?
Software testing refers to the process of verifying and evaluating the function of a software application or product. It's used to reduce or eliminate bugs and minimize the amount of money a company must invest in addressing issues and releasing updates.
In some cases, Software Testers are called in to improve a program's performance — even if it doesn't have any noticeable bugs. In short, Software Testers are crucial because they help optimize software, profit, and processes.
Why is software testing important?
Software testing is important because the impact of untested or underperforming software can have a trickle-down or domino effect on thousands of users and employees.
For example, if a web application that sells a product works too slowly, customers may get impatient and buy a similar product elsewhere. Or, if a database within an application outputs the wrong information for a search query, people may lose trust in the website or company in general.
Software Testers help prevent these kinds of corporate faux pas. Plus, software testing can help ensure the safety of users or those impacted by its use, particularly if an application is used to run a critical element of a town or city's infrastructure.
What role does software testing play in software engineering?
In the software engineering process, testing is a key element of the development lifecycle. In a waterfall development system, Software Testers may be called in after an application has been created to see if it has any bugs and how it performs. The Testers' feedback is critical to the process because it helps engineers fine-tune the end product.
In a DevOps environment, software testing is often done at various stages of development because the DevOps system relies on constant feedback. In this development framework, Testers may assess a certain aspect of the software's function according to the team's current phase of development.
For example, if a web app needs to integrate well with mobile devices, one group of Software Testers may focus on the app's performance on iOS and Android devices, while another group of Testers checks how it performs on macOS or Windows.
Similarly, granular elements of an application can be run through tests. This can include how well it processes information from interactive databases or the flow and feel of the user interface.
The input from Testers can make it easier and faster to fine-tune key elements of an application's performance, particularly from the perspective of an end-user.
What are the different types of software testing?
There are several types of software testing, each requiring varying degrees of specificity. Here's a list of some of the most common:
Usability testing involves figuring out how well the system works when a customer uses it for a specific task. A usability test can be performed on one or a combination of tasks to see how the programming functions in different scenarios.
Acceptance testing involves checking to make sure the system works as it's supposed to. While this may involve a general test of several functions, it can also focus on a specific set, especially if one type of user tends to use the software in a particular fashion.
For instance, imagine an app is used by several people working in a factory. It might include a feature that aligns existing inventory with customer orders, pointing out any discrepancies. It also might show an item's status in the manufacturing process, including its current station or even who's working on it. One acceptance test can be done for each of these functions.
Regression testing is meant to assess the impact of new features that get added to an application. At times, a new feature may interfere with one that's already proven effective.
This kind of feedback can help engineers adjust how each feature interacts with the program's dependencies — or decide which features to alter.
Integration testing aims to figure out how well different components of the app work with each other. Each element of an app requires different resources, and sometimes they can compete with each other in ways that hurt functionality. Integration testing can reveal these kinds of weaknesses.
A unit refers to the smallest component of an application that can be tested. Unit testing attempts to see how different components perform in isolation. This gives engineers a view into how well their code executes from a specific, granular perspective.
Functional testing brings real-world scenarios into the mix. Through functional testing, engineers can see how software accomplishes specific, intended purposes.
For instance, an app may be designed to integrate a customer relationship management (CRM) solution with an email system. In this case, functional testing may be used to see:
- If the email application is opened when an employee clicks on someone's email address in the CRM.
- Which app it defaults to.
- If the "To" field is automatically populated.
Stress testing is in some ways the opposite of functional testing. During a stress test, your only job is to figure out if and how the app breaks when put under stress. In most situations, a stress test will not imitate a real-world scenario, as is the case with functional testing.
Performance testing is similar to stress testing, but your objective is to see how much load the app can take in a real-world scenario. Like stress testing, if the app were to malfunction, this would provide valuable data to the dev team.
For example, a team may run performance testing on how well a shopping cart functions during a peak buying season, such as during the holidays. They could simulate many user requests for purchases simultaneously and observe how the app handles them.
What are some software testing strategies?
Regardless of the kind of testing performed, the development team will first establish a base set of requirements. Outlining the essential functions the application has to perform in any given situation — as well as the parameters that are considered "acceptable" — provides important benchmarks for evaluation. This is a key element to any testing strategy.
There are also two specific techniques used to assess the stability and performance of software: black-box and white-box testing. Each offers a different perspective into how well the coding holds up.
- Black-box testing: This involves testing software without looking at what's inside — the coding, systems, and dependencies.
- White-box testing: With white-box testing, the aim is to examine the structure within the application, looking at the inner workings of the app, as opposed to how it functions overall.
Which programming languages do you need to know to be a Software Tester?
Even if you don't write any code as a Software Tester, in many cases, you still have to be able to read it. As a Software Tester, your job involves more than clicking buttons and tabs. You have to be able to examine code and look for potential issues or see what may have caused an error or malfunction.
Here are some languages you should learn to maximize your job prospects as a Software Tester:
- Java. You can learn Java with our Learn Java course. You can also get into the nitty-gritty of Java development with our Build Basic Android Apps with Java Skill Path.
- C#. Using our Learn C# course, you can get familiar with the popular Microsoft language and how it's used to create sites, apps, and games.
- Python. Using our Learn Python 3 course, you can see how many of the world's most popular apps run, making it easier to bring value to the table as a Tester.
- Ruby. Ruby is a popular, user-friendly language. You can get comfortable with it using our Learn Ruby course. You can also dig into the Ruby on Rails framework with courses like Learn Ruby on Rails and Learn Authentication with Ruby on Rails.
Regardless of the kind of Software Tester you want to be, we can provide you with the foundational knowledge you'll need to help dev teams meet their goals. In this way, you'll play a crucial role in the development process, helping create useable, effective products for end-users.