In a fast-paced digital world, the focus is shifting towards test driven development, but not everyone is getting it right.
Here’s a problem many developers may relate to. They create their code and find themselves thinking ‘this code needs to be cleaned.’ This process can be time-consuming and slow the entire project down to a crawl. Instead, they want to develop a series of tests to ensure that code is clean, reduce bugs and solve them much earlier.
The problem with code that needs to be cleaned is that it can start to rot. It creates various bugs which slow the entire team down and can be difficult to solve. It increases the cost and time spent getting innovations to market. In the fast-paced world of modern business, these delays can be a big problem. The pressure is on to get innovations from the drawing board to market as quickly as possible, and if things go wrong the fallout can be enormous. To meet these challenges, all testing must move to achieve two goals: high speed and outstanding quality. This pushes the process towards test driven development.
What is Test Driven Development?
The idea behind test driven development is to achieve software development in a way which is geared towards reducing errors and improving flexibility when designing software. It reduces the risks and consequences of things going wrong and increases the speed to market. It is perfect for the successful implementation of fearless software development. Its main aim is to build smaller testing cycles into the process and bring more agility to their processes. However, there is some confusion about how this works and how to get the most out of it.
First of all, you need to write your tests first rather than doing so after the event. By writing a failing, or ‘red’ test first, you identify all the problems relating to your code. This will give you a set of tests which you can trust with your life. If you’re looking at the code and wondering if you’ve tested everything, you’ve already failed. Once you develop a roadmap of tests you can work out what needs to happen for the code to pass that test.
You must not write code until after the test unless it is to make a failing test pass. You should only write enough production code to pass the test and no more. This will tighten the feedback loop between production code and test code. The final step is to refunction (refractor) the code to deliver just enough code to pass all the tests. By doing this, what emerges on the other side should be ‘clean code’ which is trusted and verified.
This is an ideal solution for the agile and flexible development environment of substantial software projects. This can improve the efficiency of the development process, eliminating many glitches and deliver a host of benefits including:
- Better acceptance: It helps developers see processes from the viewpoint of the customer. It improves your chances of delivering the kind of product the customer will want.
- Fewer bugs: Although this requires more tests and a longer testing run you save time down the line because you have fewer glitches. The end product is more reliable when it reaches implementation.
- Better returns: Bugs result in delays and in today’s fast-moving world even a small delay can be costly. TDD ensures more reliable operations and, eventually, higher revenues.
- Identifying voids: TDD allows you to automatically test every line of coding within minutes. It issues timely alerts allowing you to get things changed and save time and money.
- Time to market: Although slower in the early stages, TDD will be quicker overall. This will help you get new developments to market much more quickly.
- Cleaner and tidier code: The code which comes out the other side will be much cleaner, tidier and better organized.
The clean code architecture
Test driven development is also crucial in the development of what’s known as a ‘clean code architecture’. The clean code architecture has become increasingly popular in response to the continual updating of frameworks. Its aim is to create an architecture which is independent of any third party – whether that’s a framework, web platform or database. It can help you defer technical decisions to a later date and means you’re less dependent on what’s on offer from external providers.
For example, if the developer of your favorite framework decides to stop developing the code and offering support, this leaves you with a tricky problem. Do you rely on the community version without support, or migrate to another framework? Implementing a clean code architecture gives you control of your overall logic. For this to work, you need clear test-driven development to ensure the code you create is as clean and as reliable as possible.
Risks of TDD
In a fast-moving, agile environment, then, TDD can be vital, but that doesn’t mean it comes without drawbacks. First, it can be frustrating. Writing all those tests in the early stages, can slow down the process. In complex cases, it can be difficult to effectively define and test everything you will need to. It also does not guarantee the quality of unit tests. Instead, all the focus goes into defining metrics.
Even so, in a world in which the clock is ticking and demands are rising, TDD is becoming increasingly vital for all sorts of organizations. In the same way that you wouldn’t want to drive a car unless it had been through all relevant quality assurance checks, you won’t want to use a new software development which hasn’t been cleared of all bugs. TDD allows you to perform these tests as quickly and efficiently as possible and help you get those developments to market ahead of the competition.
Market Research Team, RapidValue