Testing shows the presence, not the absence of bugs. Edsger W. Dijkstra
Two common types of testing are black-box and white-box testing. Both can drive or be driven by development.
Black-box testing (also known as functional testing) treats software under test as a black-box without knowing its internals. Tests are using software interfaces and trying to ensure that they work as expected. As long as functionality of interfaces remains unchanged, tests should pass even if internals are changed. Tester is aware of what the program should do but does not have the knowledge of how it does it. Black-box testing is most commonly used type of testing in traditional organizations that have testers as a separate department, especially when they are not proficient in coding and have difficulties to understand the code. It provides external perspective of the software under test.
Some of the advantages of black-box testing are:
- Efficient for large segments of code
- Code access is not required
- Separation between user’s and developer’s perspectives
Some of the disadvantages of black-box testing are:
- Limited coverage since only a fraction of test scenarios is performed
- Inefficient testing due to tester’s luck of knowledge about software internals
- Blind coverage since tester has limited knowledge about the application
If tests are driving the development, they are often done in the form of acceptance criteria that is later used as definition of what should be developed. In that case black-box testing relies on some form of automation like Behavior Driven Development.
White-box testing (also known as clear box testing, glass box testing, transparent box testing, and structural testing) looks inside the software that is being tested and uses that knowledge as part of the testing process. If, for example, exception is thrown under certain conditions, test might want to reproduce those conditions. White-box testing requires internal knowledge of the system and programming skills. It provides internal perspective of the software under test.
Some of the advantages of white-box testing are:
- Efficient in finding errors and problems
- Required knowledge of internals of the software under test is beneficial for thorough testing
- Allows finding hidden errors
- Programmers introspection
- Helps optimizing the code
- Due to required internal knowledge of the software, maximum coverage is obtained
Some of the disadvantages of white-box testing are:
- Might not find unimplemented or missing features
- Requires high level knowledge of internals of the software under test
- Requires code access
White-box testing is almost always automated and in most cases has the form of unit tests. If done before the development, it takes the form of Test Driven Development (TDD).
Quality Checking (QC) vs Quality Assurance (QA)
While Quality Checking is focused on defects identification, Quality Assurance tries to prevent them. QC is product oriented and intends to make sure that results are as expected. On the other hand, QA is more focused on processes that assure that quality is built in. It tries to make sure that correct things are done in the correct way. While QC had the more important role in the past, with the emergence of Test Driven Development (TDD), Acceptance Test Driven Development (ATDD) and, later on, Behavior Driven Development (BDD) focus has been shifting towards QA.
Both white and black-box testing are necessary for the successful software delivery. In many cases black-box testing is done by dedicated testers while white-box testing is performed by developers. Emergence of TDD, ATDD and BDD processes and supporting tools allows early defects detection and shifts the focus from QC towards QA.
- Quality Assurance vs Quality Checking
- Behavior Driven Development (BDD): Value Through Collaboration (Part 1: Introduction)
- Behavior Driven Development (BDD): Value Through Collaboration (Part 2: Narrative)
- Behavior Driven Development (BDD): Value Through Collaboration (Part 3: Scenarios)
- Behavior Driven Development (BDD): Value Through Collaboration (Part 4: Automation)