Structured Test-Design with Specmate – Part 1: Requirements-based Testing

In this blog post  I am going to introduce Specmate, the result of a research project I have been involved into. It is an open-source tool to automate test-design, among others. This is the first post of a series in which I am going to show you some of the ideas behind Specmate.

What is test-design and why does it matter?

Test-Design is the activity to come up with the right test-cases for a piece of functionality. But what are the right test-cases? There are many criteria, depending on your focus. For me, there are two main points:

  • First, they should test the right content. That means, they relate to the requirements for this functionality and cover every aspect that the requirements talk about. They should hence be able to find faults: deviations of the implementation with respect to the specification.
  • Second, they should be feasible. That means, it should be possible to execute the test-cases without wasting resources.

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Quality Plug-In for Ranorex

There are many reasons to do automated testing on the GUI level. Automated tests are fast, repeatable, and (hopefully) provide reliable test results. On the long run, they might be even cheaper than manual testing (the only alternative for GUI testing). Done the right way, you can even integrate them in your build system giving you the final verdict that each build is as you expect it to be.

One Can’t Go Wrong With Test Automation, Right?

All that sounds very promising. However, it’s quite easy to waste all these beautiful advantages of test automation by having a test suite of poor quality:

  • If your automated test suite is fragile and breaks every second time it is executed, testing becomes annoying quickly. And what is the benefit of a test suite that is unreliable? Would you trust the outcome of such a test suite?
  • If your test cases are labor intensive to change, you will slow your development pace. Put in different way: The only way to keep your test suite updated with the same speed as you develop new/changed features is to spend more effort in changing your test suite. And soon, you will ask yourself “Why am I spending so much effort in test automation? What has my automated test suite ever done for me?
Example of a fragile test suite

Example of a fragile test suite: Absolute URLs will make your test suite fail as soon as you deploy your application on a different server.

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