Testing

Testing Your Web Application – A Quick Step Guide

Make sure to establish your testing objectives up front and make sure they are measurable. It will make your life a lot easier by having written objectives that your whole team can understand and rally around. In addition to documenting your objectives, make sure your objectives are prioritized. Ask yourself questions like “What is most important: minimal defects or time-to-market?”

Here are two examples of how to determine priorities:

If you are building a medical web application that will assist in diagnosing illnesses, and someone could potentially die based on how correctly the application functions, you may want to make testing the correctness of the business functionality a higher priority than testing for navigational consistency throughout the application.

If you are testing an application that will be used to solicit external funding, you may want to put testing the aspects of the application that impact the visual appeal as the highest testing priority.

Your web application doesn’t have to be perfect; it just needs to meet your intended customer’s requirements and expectations.

Step 2 – Process and Reporting

Make sure that everyone on your testing team knows his or her role. Who should report what to whom and when? In other words, define your testing process. Use the following questions to help you get started:

·How will issues be reported?
·Who can assign issues?
·How will issues be categorized?
·Who needs what report and when do they need it?
·Are team meetings scheduled in advance or scheduled as needed?

You may define your testing process and reporting requirements formally or informally, depending on your particular needs. The main point to keep in mind is to organize your team in a way that supports your testing objectives and takes into account the individual personalities on your team. One size never fits all when dealing with people.

Step 3 – Tracking Results

Once you start executing your test plans, you will probably generate a large number of bugs, issues, defects, etc. You will want a way to easily store, organize, and distribute this information to the appropriate technical team members. You will also need a way to keep management informed on the status of your testing efforts. If your company already has a system in place to track this type of information, don’t try to reinvent the wheel. Take advantage of what’s already in place.

If your company doesn’t already have something in place, spend a little time investigating some of the easy-to-setup online systems such as the one found at http://www.adminitrack.com. By using an online system, you can make it much easier on yourself by eliminating the need to install and maintain an off-the-shelf package.

Step 4 – Test Environment

Set up a test environment that is separate from your development and production environment. This includes a separate web server, database server, and application server if applicable. You may or may not be able to utilize existing computers to setup a separate test environment.

Create an explicitly defined procedure for moving code to and from your test environment and make sure the procedure is followed. Also, work with your development team to make sure each new version of source code to be tested is uniquely identified.

Step 5 – Unit Testing

Unit testing is focused on verifying small portions of functionality. For example, an individual unit test case might focus on verifying that the correct data has been saved to the database when the Submit button on a particular page is clicked.

An important subset of unit testing that is often overlooked is range checking. That is, making sure all the fields that collect information from the user, can gracefully handle any value that is entered. Most people think of range checking as making sure that a numeric field only accepts numbers. In addition to traditional range checking make sure you also check for less common, but just as problematic exceptions. For example, what happens when a user enters his or her last name and the last name contains an apostrophe, such as O’Brien? Different combinations of databases and database drivers handle the apostrophe differently, sometimes with unexpected results. Proper unit testing will help rid your web application of obvious errors that your users should never have to encounter.

Step 6 – Verifying the HTML

Hyper Text Markup Language (HTML) is the computer language sent from your web server to the web browser on your users’ computer to display the pages that make up your web application. The World Wide Web Consortium (www.w3.org) manages the HTML specification. One major objective of HTML is to provide the ability for anyone from anywhere to access information on the World Wide Web. This concept generally holds true if you conform strictly to the relevant version of the HTML specification that you will support. Unfortunately, in the real world, it is possible for a developer to inadvertently use a proprietary HTML tag that may not work for all of your intended users.

Verifying HTML is simple in concept but can be very time consuming in practice. A good place to start is with the World Wide Web Consortium’s free HTML Validation Service (http://validator.w3.org). There are also other online and downloadable applications to help in this area such as Website Garage (http://websitegarage.netscape.com). There are two main aspects of verifying the validity of your HTML. First, you want to make sure that your syntax is correct, such as verifying that all opening and closing tags match, etc. Secondly, you want to verify how your pages look in different browsers, at different screen resolutions, and on different operating systems. Create a profile of your target audience and make some decisions on what browsers you will support, on which operating systems, and at what screen resolutions.

In general, the later versions of Microsoft Internet Explorer are very forgiving. If your development team has only been using Internet Explorer 5.5 on high-resolution monitors, you may be unpleasantly surprised when you see your web application on a typical user’s computer. The sooner you start verifying your HTML, the better off your web application will be.

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