Why, When and How to Conduct Software Product Testing

We hate to be the bearers of bad news, but most software products fail. You may have an awesome idea for a new software product, but that’s not enough. It needs to do what it’s meant to do. Your customers need to be able to use it easily, and want to use it. One way to increase your digital product’s chances of success is to gather feedback regularly, and to act upon it.

In this article, we’ll share some of the learnings we’ve made through our 25+ years of product development experience - why, when and how best to conduct software product testing.

What is software product testing?

The fundamental question behind software product testing is “does it do what it’s meant to do?”

The testing process involves evaluating and verifying the software product’s performance. It analyzes a product concept, feature or functionality to identify bugs, issues and its overall viability. Testing will determine whether the expectations for the software product meet the reality of it.

Methods of software product testing

There are various types of software testing to use at different stages of development. Here we outline six key testing methods.

Concept testing

This happens relatively early in the software development process. Concept testing looks into the feasibility of the product. It involves co-creation sessions with potential customers, prototype testing, and potentially early testing of the technical framework of the software product. This testing process will determine whether the project should continue further.

At Highland, we conduct concept testing after opportunity exploration, when we’ve already gathered data on the potential opportunity and done market research. During concept testing, we bring the product into clearer focus. We start prototyping and testing, as well as creating roadmaps, business plans and go-to-market plans [insert link to blog].

QA testing

Quality assurance (QA) testing intends to iron out any issues and fix bugs before the new product or new feature goes public. Often conducted by internal testing teams in a test environment, quality assurance testing focuses on how well the features and functionality of the product work.

Testers perform a series of checks, often imitating what real customers would do. They’ll evaluate the product in various different ways, such as on a range of operating systems, browsers and devices, to check compatibility and that the product works as it should consistently. This end-to-end testing process ensures a high quality end product.

QA testing can streamlined by using test-driven development, where software developers write tests as they write code. When done well, this suite of automated tests greatly improve quality and reduce bugs.

Similar types of testing include acceptance testing where you check it meets specific requirements, business needs and specifications, and integration testing to test it works seamlessly with other systems. Automation can also be used to great effect for this kind of testing as well.

A/B testing

This testing strategy asks the testers (usually customers) if they prefer version A or version B. Two versions of a product feature are presented for exploration and feedback. The difference may in the design or in function or both.

A/B testing provides useful customer insights and feedback that can inform product development.

Market testing

As the name suggests, this is more about testing the market rather than the product. This type of testing involves a secondary research, targeted surveys of a particular market segment, targeted promotion of the product to gauge response, or even limited release of the product to a particular demographic. It could be a specific geographic area, age range or type of customer for example. This is used for forecasting uptake, and planning marketing campaigns and distribution strategies.

User testing

As the product team continually develops the new product, they should regularly ask real customers or users to test it. As customers interact with the product, the product team gathers valuable insights on usability, the customers’ experiences, possible frustrations, and potential opportunities. This information helps to plan out future iterations and software product development.

At Highland, we value user experience testing and conduct it regularly before the product release. We continually test features, concepts and ideas with future customers and end users prior to and during development.

Regression testing

Once a product is live and being used, the product team work on future iterations and the next stages of developments. Regression testing checks that the product functions as it should when new features and iterations are rolled out. It’s important to conduct performance testing like this when any changes are made.

As with QA testing, regression testing can be greatly diminished if not eliminated by a health practice of test-driven development and a suite of automated tests.

Importance of software product testing

We’re huge fans of software product testing. Knowledge is power, and understanding how users interact with your products improves your ability to create a high quality product. Key benefits include:

  • Avoid costly mistakes: product testing often, and using those learnings to create a better result, can save time and money. Identifying product issues early and fixing them, or discovering valuable customer feedback that improves your product, means your product is more likely to be a success.
  • Increase product quality: if customers have tested and provided feedback on your product throughout the development process, you’re more likely to have a high quality product that meets customer needs.
  • Competitive edge: if you’ve assessed the market prior to developing your product, you’ll know the strengths and weaknesses of your competition. You can ensure your product fills the gaps. Product testing against these requirements ensures it meets that brief.
  • Minimize risk: quality assurance testing prior to launch reduces the risk of issues being found post-launch. User testing with real customers reduces the risk of the product not being used, needed or liked once in market. Security testing can detect vulnerabilities before they’re exploited. Product testing and market research really do reduce risk.

Best practices for testing software products

There are many types of software product testing as we explored above. We can’t stress enough the importance of product testing. How you do it depends on the resources available and the type of product itself. A small product and team can rely on manual testing processes. But larger software development products can benefit from automated testing using testing tools to streamline the process.

These five practices can really improve the software testing process:

Continuous testing: this Agile methodology is one that we stand by. We regularly test ideas, concepts, features, designs, prototypes and working software. It’s so important for development teams to keep testing, learning and improving products. Automated testing will explore every piece of software to detect errors and validate code at every stage of the development process.

Bug/ defect tracking: finding bugs and defects is an important aspect of quality assurance. Again, automated processes can be better at finding them than manual testing.

Service visualization: this is particularly useful early in the software development process. It simulates services and systems that aren’t ready yet, so that testing can be done early.

Configuration management: storing test assets (like code, design documents, requirements and test cases) centrally means all testers and teams can access them. This allows efficient tracking and collaboration across departments.

Performance metrics: data analytics help team members to track test results, goals and overall performance. It helps to keep projects on track.

Advice for testing product software

It’s worth keeping these tips in mind during the software development process.

Make it part of the full product lifecycle: keep testing and learning about your product and your customers throughout its lifecycle. Find ways to improve and enhance it; to meet your customers’ needs better; and to keep ahead of the competition. By incorporating testing into your workflow, you can make continuous improvements.

Never assume: remember, it’s not about you or your stakeholders, it’s about your customer. Don’t make assumptions on what they need or how they’ll use your product. Conducting user and/or concept testing will provide real results from your customers, rather than guesses.

Use various types of testing: mix up your testing processes to gain key insights on different aspects of the product. For example, you may get design feedback from A/B testing and insights on functionality from usability testing. You'll also use a very different test plan for an entirely new product to an iteration of enhanced functionality.

Learn from successful products: product testing existing products can provide useful information and benchmarks for success of new products. Learn what works well and use that information for future iterations and developments.

Talk to the experts: How Highlight Solutions can help

If you take one thing from this article, it should be the importance of testing early and often. It’s a key principle to achieve the Devops goal of faster, more efficient software product delivery, and we believe in that wholeheartedly.

At Highland Solutions, we have extensive expertise in building and scaling digital products that work and truly meet customer needs. We’ve worked with hundreds of businesses of varying sizes and at different stages in their product development journey. We can help you to create better software products - let’s talk!

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