The role of testing has never been greater than today. As we move towards the age of software-defined-everything, there is no longer any room for error-prone software. Testing teams are becoming more embedded in the development process. Test automation has been embraced with open arms and has emerged as the critical driver of superior testing and increased testing proficiency. Could we even imagine increasing test coverage to the last possible component had it been done only manually? Could the speed of testing ever match the speed of development had test automation not been there? Clearly, the need for automation stems from the need to test more, test often, test fast and to ensure maximum code coverage.
The Unit Testing Conundrum:
Unit tests may be considered the little brats of the testing world… many in number and often difficult to manage. However, ignore these and you know that your world will soon come crashing down. Unit testing involves the testing of the smallest testable parts of an application. These components or units have to be tested independently and individually to ensure that they are operating as planned. While unit testing can be done manually, it becomes time and resource intensive and because of their exhaustive nature, can be prone to errors when not automated. These tests flow as a part of the Test Driven Development methodology which needs the developers to write failing unit tests to take into account all possible errors, inputs, and outputs. The developers then write code to test the application till the tests pass.
The problem with Unit Testing
As we lean towards methodologies such as Agile, DevOps, and TDD it becomes abundantly clear that unit testing has the power to improve project outcomes. Bugs found early in the unit testing phase are much cheaper to fix than those found later. Making testing a part of the development process ensures the success of agile and DevOps and consequently ensure high-quality and bug-free software development. However, despite these obvious benefits, the struggle with unit testing continues. Some of the reasons for this are:
- Time-consuming and tedious test creation process – Creating a comprehensive test suite for unit tests is seen as the least attractive part of the testing process owing to the sheer number of tests that need to be written.
- Expensive test maintenance – Any changes to the code mean changes in the associated tests. This adds to the maintenance burden of the unit tests and leads to the idea of ‘double work’ .
- Difficulty in isolating tests – Isolating tests also means mocking all those independent dependencies. You get the drift of where we are heading here.
While test automation helps considerably in managing these issues associated with unit tests, it clearly has some issues that still need resolution. The solution to these issues may be found in Guided Test Creation, a unit testing approach that gives testers and developers the assistance they need for test creation and maintenance. All this while working within the developer’s IDE and while leveraging existing tests and mocking frameworks.
Guided Unit Test Creation – the finer details
Most of the developer IDEs do not provide the ‘content’ the developers need to complete the test creation process. The assertions needed to define a test have to be done manually. Mocking frameworks also requires manual coding and this becomes very resource intensive and time-consuming. Guided test creation simplifies this entire process and provides the real-time, context-aware assistance in the developer’s IDE. With the help of these guided unit tests, it becomes far simpler to add the missing content from the unit test skeleton. This helps in writing, conducting, and completing comprehensive unit tests faster.
The aim of the guided unit test can be summed up as follows:
- Create test frameworks, configure mock objects, and methods as well as instantiate objects.
- Highlight object values that changed during the testing process by performing runtime analysis of test automation execution.
- Identify method calls that need to be mocked to better isolate test code.
- Identify system resources that are created but not released after test completion that could create an unstable test environment.
- Detect dependencies and automatically fill the details needed to create a mock framework thereby reducing time and resources needed to create the same.
- Provide recommendations that detect the change in code and update the assertions to reflect the new business logic which makes test suite maintenance easier.
It’s apparent that with the help of Guided Unit Test Creation, developers can resolve many of the problems associated with those pesky unit tests. Several mundane aspects of unit tests are suitably resolved with guided unit test creation. They eliminate the roadblocks that stem from the effort needed to create and maintain these unit tests too. A word of caution, however, while using a guided unit test creation tool, close attention must be paid to ensure that these tools integrate seamlessly with the existing unit testing tools and frameworks. Not doing so would eliminate the time and cost benefit. That addressed, Guided Unit Test creation could be what unit testing has been missing all along.