Continuous delivery has truly revolutionized the software development industry. Nowadays, most organizations leverage continuous integration (CI) and continuous delivery (CD) to build applications faster. However, the testing practices in many organizations have been slow to catch up. They still rely on traditional practices of having a build phase and then a test phase.
This article will look at why you need to have an efficient and automated testing process and how you can achieve it at your organization. We will also look at some key types of tests that form part of continuous delivery.
An Efficient Testing Process Is Critical for Continuous Delivery
Testing is critical for any software development, CI/CD, or not. It helps to verify if the code is correct, the features behave as expected, and the performance meets the targets. Having the traditional testing “QA phase” at the end of the development cycle creates multiple problems. Most importantly, you discover issues very late. This makes it hard to identify an issue and then debug it. Moreover, if the issue is really severe, you may have to start the development all over again. In organizations trying to implement continuous delivery, this wastes precious time and derails the continuous delivery process. You can’t release features super fast through continuous delivery if you can’t test everything at the same speed. Thus, organizations no longer have the necessary time to have a testing phase after building new features. It defeats the purpose of adopting continuous delivery in the first place.
Thus, you either need to invest more heavily in your testing team to employ many more testers to perform a lot more tests. Or take a gamble that the compromise on quality won’t deal a fatal blow to your product. Neither of these options is ideal. You have to make your testing process more efficient. A perfect testing process can thoroughly check every single aspect of a build as fast as possible with as small a testing team as possible at the lowest cost. Testing happens at different stages in the development cycle instead of acting as a separate step at the end. Moreover, most tests are automated to ensure higher quality at lower development costs.
Levels of Testing for Continuous Delivery
There are different levels of testing depending on the scope of the component being tested. You usually start by examining the smallest and simplest components and then progressively test how the whole product feature performs. These tests form an important part of continuous delivery.
Let’s look at the levels of functional testing.
A unit test performs checks on small and distinct parts of code. Typically, unit tests target a single business logic, method, function, or procedure. If a unit test fails, then the bug is in one of these basic components, such as the logic. The idea is to perform a ton of frequent unit tests to detect bugs as early as possible. As the test is performed on a small component, it’s easier for the developers to identify what’s wrong and then debug it immediately. Most organizations perform a unit test practically every time they change a piece of code or trigger a build. In fact, many argue that unit tests are the most important aspect of continuous delivery.
Because you need to perform so many unit tests daily, they should be easy to write. You need to be able to execute these tests fast and get quick results. If your developer has to wait for hours for their unit test results, then that’s really inefficient for the continuous delivery process. They should get almost real-time results so they can commit the code as soon as they finish development. Unit tests should also work independently of each other so that you can test each small component individually. Performing so many unit tests manually can be a nightmare. Thus, automating these unit tests is critical for a continuous delivery process.
Once the individual components pass their unit tests, we test a bigger scope of how all of them perform together.
Integration tests are much more complex than unit tests. They target a bigger scope than unit tests and validate how the smaller units work together as a group. Even if the units perform perfectly independently, they may break if they aren’t integrated properly. As integration tests have more things to verify, they’re harder to write and set up. Their execution also takes much longer to get the results. They’re also harder to debug. If an integration fails but the unit tests passed, then the problem may be in the environment, integration of functions, software module, hardware, etc. Identifying which of these has the issue and fixing it are much more complicated than debugging a unit test with an issue in logic. Thus, integration tests are typically not triggered in every build cycle. A successful integration test validates that your architecture was correctly designed and the integrated modules work properly.
Deciding between unit tests and integration tests can be difficult. But organizations should have a clear idea about their expectations from the unit tests and the integration tests. As mentioned, unit tests should be fast and validate smaller components. Integration tests are more complex and will take longer to run and debug.
End-To-End (E2E) Testing
As the name probably suggests, end-to-end testing checks the application use journey from start to finish. The application is tested on how it works with its external dependent systems. For example, the test validates if the data flows seamlessly between the back end and front end. You can perform this high-level test to see if the various systems work together as expected. Read this guide to learn more about E2E testing.
How To Prepare Your Testing Process for Continuous Delivery
In a continuous delivery process with efficient testing, the testers work closely with the developers. In fact, the distinction between testers and developers is fast disappearing. The KPIs and targets for testing and quality now belong to the whole development team, rather than just the testing or QA team. Various types of testing happen simultaneously with development. This allows doing quick tests on every little build in production.
You need to prepare your organization for this change. Let’s be honest, testing isn’t the most interesting thing for developers to work on. Many of them are likely to take it lightly. Some may not think it’s “their job.” But for successful continuous delivery, your development team has to feel responsible for ensuring high code quality. Testing should be an integrated part of every developer’s tasks and targets. It’s no longer a headache just for the QA team. This change in mentality has to be drilled in by the leadership. The development and testing teams should collaborate seamlessly throughout the development cycle.
Manual testing is slow and expensive. The traditional manual testing phase is almost impossible for continuous delivery. As explained earlier, an efficient testing process is crucial for faster time to delivery. Automated testing ensures you save precious time and identify bugs as soon as possible. Thus, leveraging automated testing tools such as Testim is a no-brainer. These tools help you easily perform multiple tests. They provide a lot of flexibility to ensure you can perform all your required tests.
The first step in automating your tests at all levels is to choose a testing framework. This will help standardize and streamline your testing process. The framework integrates your test data and various libraries such as unit testing libraries and E2E testing libraries. There are multiple testing framework types available such as the linear automation framework, data-driven framework, hybrid testing framework, etc. You can choose the framework that fits best with your requirements, expertise, and budget. Most of these frameworks come with libraries full of API commands that you can use to quickly write multiple tests. You can code these tests in your preferred IDE or use a visual editor. Modern test automation tools even offer AI-based testing to create tests faster. You can then integrate these tests into your CI flow or with your version control system to trigger test runs on different milestones like code commit, pull request, or schedule.
If your organization wants to enhance the impact of continuous delivery, fast and scalable automated testing is really one of the best strategic decisions you can take. Testim is one of the most popular tools to create resilient end-to-end tests. To learn more and schedule a demo, check out Testim’s Automate tool here.