Software QA Testing Process: Overview, Types, and Process Stages

Dennis Hawkins by Dennis Hawkins on 10/6/2021

Software QA Testing Process: Overview, Types, and Process Stages

Proofreading an email or content piece before sending it into the world saves you from embarrassing errors. Well, testing a software product for bugs, defects, and overall effectiveness saves you a lot of cash and damage to your reputation. How can you assure your product is good, and what does the QA testing process involve? 

Let’s look at the steps in the software testing process and the different types and approaches QA specialists use, starting with a brief overview of what software testing is.

Software Testing: Brief Overview

Before we dive into the types of software testing, let’s get a quick overview of what it is and why it’s crucial to modern IT development.

What Is Software Testing?

Software testing refers to the process of evaluating a product to ensure it meets the requirements and to identify errors, missing specifications, and gaps between current and stipulated conditions.

Software testing often involves executing software manually or with automated tools to make sure it functions properly and provides a good user experience.

Quality Assurance (QA) vs. Quality Control (QC)

Quality assurance and quality control are two essential aspects of the software development life cycle that ensure the product satisfies the requirements. However, they differ in their approach to verifying the quality. 

QA is process-oriented and aims to confirm that the development processes are efficient. QA procedures often help prevent defects and come in handy when a project is in trouble and needs reworking. 

On the other hand, QC focuses more on ensuring that the software product complies with the requirements at a given moment. Unlike QA, QC is generally reactive and detects issues that already exist in the product.

In this article, we’ll focus more on the QA aspect of software testing.

Benefits of Software Testing

So, what are the benefits of quality assurance? There are many, but let’s single out just a few of the key points:

  • Cost savings. QA makes the development process more cost-effective. By testing software before deploying it, you can avoid the higher repair costs that will emerge when issues are detected later.  
  • Improved software quality. It can help you to deliver high-quality software to your clients consistently. High-quality software plays a key role in building a positive brand image and attracting more customers.
  • Enhanced productivity. Test-driven development often results in better understanding and familiarity with product requirements, leading to enhanced productivity with the development teams.

With strong arguments in mind, let’s discuss the different types of tests involved in the QA process. They will help you understand how these tests are completed and which part of your project they support.

What Are the Different Types of Software Testing?

Software testing can be categorized in many different ways according to several criteria, such as the approach, method used, or level of tests performed. 

When software testing is categorized by approach, the focus is on whether it is carried out with the knowledge of a system’s inner workings. When categorized by method, the focus is on how the testing is actually performed. 

In this section, we’ll take a closer look at the different types of software testing by category, methodology, and approach. First, let’s outline the main categories.

Main Categories of Tests

There are two main categories of tests depending on who or what performs the actual tests.

Manual Testing

This refers to verifying that existing features meet requirements by working through test cases manually, without the aid of automated tools.

While manual testing can become expensive in the long run, it’s usually cheaper at the outset since you can avoid the costs of automation tools. It’s often used for examining the user interface and other tests that require human intervention.

Automation Testing

Automation testing involves the use of tools or scripts to verify software quality. It is ideal for regression testing, which involves repeatedly checking the software after modification to identify newly introduced defects. It’s also better suited for load and performance testing.

Automation is often used in conjunction with manual testing. While the initial investment is higher with automated tools, it will be less expensive and more efficient than manual in the long run.  

Types of Software Testing by Method

By method, there are two types. The major difference between them is whether or not the software is running during the test.

Static Testing

Static testing, or verification, is a method that involves checking files and documents to verify requirements are being met without executing the software. It involves activities such as code inspections, technical reviews, and walk-throughs.  

This type is often used in the early stages of the development process to identify and rectify bugs quickly. It can be carried out manually or with the aid of automation.

Dynamic Testing

Dynamic testing, or validation, is a technique that involves executing a product to evaluate its behavior with dynamic variables. It ensures the software works consistently without any major defects. 

Dynamic testing often discovers defects that cannot be found through static. It’s also essential for detecting and fixing critical issues, such as security loopholes.

Types of Software Testing by Approach

By approach, there are three types of tests based on a QA expert’s involvement in the code and knowledge of a system’s internals.

White Box Testing

White box testing, also known as glass box, clear box, and code-based testing, is an approach in the QA testing process that involves examining a product based on the knowledge of a system’s inner workings. 

White box testing involves verifying the flow of specific inputs through the program to ensure the software works properly. It requires an understanding of the source code and programming skills.

Though white box testing can be complex and time-consuming, it often results in highly optimized code with minimal errors. The white box can also be performed during early development before user interfaces are developed.

Black Box Testing

Black box testing, also known as behavioral or specification-based testing, involves checking software without knowing the internal design and structure of the code. 

Black box testing is based on specifications and requirements and verifies that the software produces the expected outputs from different cases. Unlike white box testing, this approach does not require the QA specialist to have programming skills. 

Black box testing can be subdivided into:

  • Functional – focuses on ensuring that the software’s functionality matches the specified requirements.
  • Non-functional – focuses on requirements such as usability, scalability, and performance of the software.

Gray Box Testing

Gray box testing is a combination of the white box and black box approaches. In this approach, QA specialists are partially aware of the inner workings of the software and have access to documentation of the algorithms and data structures implemented.

Gray box testing often improves the overall quality of the software product, as it leverages the input of both developers and QAs and allows the latter to create more intelligent test cases. 

Types of Software Testing by Level

By level of product development, you can categorize QA into four types:

Unit Testing

Unit testing is the lowest level and involves verifying individual units of software. A unit is the smallest component of software that can be tested independently; this verifies that each individual unit is functioning properly.  

Unit testing is usually performed by the developers using automated tools. Writing unit tests makes it easier to find and fix fundamental issues quickly, thus improving the overall quality of the codebase.

Integration Testing

Integration testing is the next level. It involves checking the flow of data between the different modules or groups of components in the application. It helps ensure that the interactions between the integrated units are error-free.

Integrated testing can be performed by developers or QA specialists and often involves automated and manual tests. They help secure interface defects, so they don’t escape to higher testing levels.

System Testing

System testing involves evaluating the fully integrated system to verify that it satisfies the set requirements. It is usually performed by a separate team of testers who test the product from end to end before it is pushed into production. 

Some of the different types of tests performed on this level include usability, load, regression, performance, and security testing. System testing also detects any bugs missed on earlier testing levels. 

Acceptance Testing

Acceptance testing is the last level of software testing and involves assessing whether your product is ready for delivery to the end user. This level of testing is often performed in collaboration with end users to ensure the product not only complies with the business criteria but also meets consumers’ needs.

Acceptance testing enables the development team to get actual feedback from potential users to iron out any usability concerns. It also further reduces the risk of major bugs slipping through into production.

Types of Manual & Automated Tests
Photo by TestFort

As you can see, any part or aspect of your product can be verified by various tests, but how exactly do QA testing processes happen? Before we look at the different stages in software QA processes, let’s take a closer look at two preliminary steps: identifying deliverables and choosing a testing process model.

Identifying Deliverables

The first step in the software testing process is identifying what deliverables must be provided. Some deliverables have to be provided before testing commences, while others will be provided at different stages during the process or after its completion. Some examples include:

Test Strategy

Test strategy is an essential management document that provides an overview of the testing approach. This deliverable is prepared by the test manager and is derived from the business requirement specification (BRS). The document often contains the test objectives, approach, scope, types, levels, and entry and exit criteria. 

Test Plan and Estimation

The test plan is a document that contains a detailed description of each step of testing. The estimation deliverable provides an estimation of how long each step will take, how much effort will be required, and the overall cost of the process. 

The test plan is derived from the software requirements specification (SRS), product description, or use case documents. It serves as a road map for the entire project and is normally prepared by the test manager or test lead.

Test Scenario

The test scenario document contains a high-level overview of all the functionality that needs to be tested. Test scenarios are derived from use cases and help the tester determine what to focus on during testing.   

Test Cases

Test cases are the steps a QA specialist must go through to verify the software meets the requirements. They often include clearly defined steps, pre-conditions, test data, expected results, and post-conditions.

Test Data

Test data refers to the information used to run test cases. It needs to be comprehensive and accurate to ensure that defects are properly detected.   

Requirement Traceability Matrix

The requirement traceability matrix is a document that helps the testing team determine if all the requirements are covered by test cases. It contains a map of requirements to appropriate test cases. It also provides clients with an easy way to check on the QA processes and track the test execution status. 

Test Summary Report

The test summary report document contains the key points of all the test activities carried out and the results obtained. This document often includes the objectives, scope, approach, results, and the members involved in the testing process.

Test Closure Report

The test closure report is prepared by the test manager when the testing process is about to end, and defects have been resolved. It contains a detailed analysis of the testing process as well as whatever bugs were found and fixed.

Incident Report

The test incident report document is prepared when defects are encountered during the test execution process. It contains information such as the status, severity, cause, and description of the incident.

Choosing the Testing Process Models

The next step is to choose what model will be used for the QA processes. The four major types of testing process models are waterfall, agile, V, and spiral.

Traditional Waterfall Development Model

Waterfall is one of the oldest models of software development and testing. Here, the development progresses sequentially through the different stages of the software development life cycle. 

All the project requirements are defined during the requirements phase, and the testing team only proceeds once each stage is completed. The testing is carried out by an independent group of testers. 

While the waterfall development model works well for simple projects where requirements are clearly defined, it’s not ideal for complex projects where requirements change frequently. 

Agile Model

The agile model is a more modern method of software development that focuses on breaking down the development process into small, incremental cycles. This model swiftly responds to changing requirements and prioritizes regular interaction between the client and the development team over long-term planning.

In the agile model, developers continuously write and run unit tests and fix defects as they are discovered. The agile model is better suited for complex projects where requirements change frequently.

V Model

The V model, or the verification and validation model, is a rigid model in which development and testing occur in parallel. This model is an extension of the waterfall model. For every phase in the development life cycle, there’s a corresponding testing phase. 

The V model usually divides the testing process into five phases: unit, integration, regression, system, and testing.

Like the waterfall model, the V is easy to apply and manage but performs poorly when used for complex dynamic projects.

Spiral Model

The spiral model is similar to agile but focuses more on risk evaluation and analysis. It has four major phases: planning, risk analysis, engineering, and evaluation.

While it’s ideal for large projects that need continuous risk evaluation, it can be costly and not very advantageous for smaller projects.

What Are the QA Process Stages?

Ideally, quality assurance should begin early in the development life cycle. QA procedure often comprises of the following stages:

Requirement Analysis

During this phase of the QA process, testers review the requirements to ensure that they’re complete, clear, consistent, verifiable, and testable. This helps to facilitate the planning and design phases and prevents defects caused by incomplete or unclear requirements.  

Test Planning

Once the requirements have been reviewed, testers can begin developing a strategy and plan deliverables. At this stage, they can define the scope of testing, what types and levels will be required, and what tools and approaches will be used during the process.

Test Design

With the planning phase complete, QA professionals can begin designing test cases, setting up automation scenarios, and preparing the environment for test execution. 

UI/UX Testing

User interface (UI) testing involves confirming that the various UI components, such as buttons and labels, work as specified in the requirements.

User experience (UX) testing aims to detect and fix usability issues and provide the end user with the best possible experience when using the software product. 

Exploratory Testing

Exploratory testing is a method where testers do not rely on predetermined test cases but instead develop ideas for testing and execute them right away. Unlike structured testing, exploratory testing requires thinking and cannot be automated. 

Regression Testing

Regression testing involves retesting already executed test cases after defects are resolved to ensure no new bugs are introduced into the system and that existing functionality still works as expected. 

Test Execution and Defect Reporting

Test execution begins at the unit testing level as developers write and execute unit tests. It later moves to the testing team, who perform integration and system testing. The team executes the cases and reports any discovered defects in a bug tracking system. Test automation tools are also used to execute tests and generate reports automatically. 

Release Testing

Once a new version of the software product is ready for release, the testing team carries out smoke testing to ensure the release candidate is stable and bug-free, executes test suites that cover the new functionality, and issues a test result report.

A list of software verification and validation methods including: requirement analysis, test design & planning, UI/UX Testing, Exploratory testing, bug fixes, and post-release software testing
Photo by TestFort

Verification and Validation

Verification and validation are two important parts of the QA test process. Verification refers to the process of ensuring the software product meets the specified requirements. This process often involves inspecting and reviewing files, code, and designs to verify software quality. 

Validation, on the other hand, involves ensuring the software functions as intended. Validation involves executing the program and working through test cases. It consists of activities such as unit testing, integration testing, system testing, and acceptance testing. 

While verification is performed by developers, validation is carried out by the testing team. Verification is also performed early in the testing process, while validation comes afterward and can detect bugs that the verification process misses. 

When to Start or Stop Testing?

As we’ve already mentioned, software testing should begin early in the software development life cycle. For example, testing can start from the requirements phase and continue until the software is deployed. 

However, when testing actually starts will depend on the development model in use. For example, if the waterfall model is used, formal testing will commence in the testing phase. 

Starting early reduces the cost of finding and fixing defects. Research shows that the cost of fixing bugs during testing can be up to 15 times more than the cost of identifying and fixing them during the requirements stage.

But when should the testing process stop? It can be difficult to determine when to stop testing as the software development process is often ongoing, and new features are continually being developed in most projects.  

As a result, there are several different factors that must be considered before determining whether to stop. These include project deadlines, testing deadlines, test coverage, how much of the testing budget is left, how many test cases have been completed, and whether all test deliverables have been delivered.

Conclusion

Hopefully, you’ve enjoyed this detailed guide on the software quality assurance process. Having learned what the software QA process involves, you should be in a better position to choose a software testing team that will suit your needs.

Software testing is certainly an invaluable part of the modern software development process. By selecting a competent software testing team such as TestFort that leverages the latest tools, models, and methods, you can ensure that only high-quality, efficient, and bug-free software gets delivered to your clients.

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Written by
Dennis Hawkins, QA Team Lead at TestFort.

Dennis is a result-oriented professional with 8 years of experience in quality assurance and a rich technical background in eCommerce, telecom, entertainment, and healthcare projects. He gets a kick out of optimizing QA processes and building test strategies. Our clients are always happy to see Dennis coming up with another way to cut costs and improve ROI on their projects.

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