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Unit Testing: What is it and why do you need it?

Unit testing is one of the types of software testing that requires an initial phase of testing. Find out the benefits and why its important for developers.

A lot has been written and talked about Unit Testing in the IT industry for the last couple of years. I have heard and discussed the same over the previous 2.5 decades of my IT career.

Even though a lot is talked about and is done in this field but still today, every company is struggling with this. But before we proceed with the above situation, let us first understand its importance.

A strong foundation is the basis of a strong building in the same way a proper unit testing is the foundation of high-quality software.

Unit Testing, if done correctly, ensures that each of the building blocks of the software product is robust and will make high-quality software when put together.

Unit testing is an essential tool in any serious software developer's toolbox. However, writing a good unit test for a specific piece of code can often be very hard.

Developers frequently believe that their struggles are triggered by a lack of essential testing expertise or hidden unit testing techniques after experiencing trouble testing their own or someone else's code.

What is Unit Testing?

Testing of the unit requires testing individual components of the programme or application software. The primary objective behind this is to verify that all the individual components function as expected.

As the smallest possible part of the software that can be evaluated, a unit is known. It usually has a couple of inputs and a single output.

Both testers and developers can isolate each module, detect and repair device defects at a very early stage of the life cycle of software development with this testing method (SDLC).

Why Unit Testing is essential?

By considering stubs, mock artifacts, drivers, and unit testing frameworks, this methodology effectively helps validate the consistency of a section of code.

Because it is practiced at the initial testing level, this testing methodology ensures that the vulnerabilities are detected and corrected at the early stage of SDLC, even before they become costly for businesses to repair when they are later identified.

The developers and testers can help save time with a suitable unit testing practice as bugs can be found early in the process as it is the initial testing step. Skipping or restricting the unit testing practice will adversely increase the defects, and repairing them later becomes difficult.

Therefore before preparing for the integration testing, it is essential to practice unit testing at the initial stage of the software testing process.

Why is it difficult to run a smooth unit testing procedure?

Well, it is not that a developer loves to find bugs in his/her coded code. Still, when it comes to unit testing, they at times(most of the time) see it has an additional overhead on them, especially when one has to follow and stick to a lot of protocols, frameworks, and documentation, etc.

Also, it is commonly misunderstood that finding issues is the QC team's problem. We have to code. In my view, it is incorrect thinking as Quality Software is standard or combines commitment from a company and it's the team.

What are the benefits of Unit Testing?

Here are a few benefits of unit testing:

1. Agile process

The most significant advantage of unit testing is this. You would need to make improvements to the old design and code when you add more functionality to any programme, which can be costly and risky. If you use the technique of unit testing, this will save a lot of time and can make the whole process much quicker and simpler.

2. Enhance the Code Quality

Unit testing increases code consistency dramatically. It allows designers to recognize the smallest faults present in the units before they go for integration testing.

3. Fix Software Bugs

At a very early point, unit testing helps detect all sorts of problems with the programme. Until going any further, software developers should then focus on those problems first.

This is the primary benefit of this because no other program component is compromised as the issues are fixed at an early stage. This results in improved performance, decreased downtime, and lower costs that would otherwise occur due to the entire design process's stalling.

4. Facilitates Change

When you test each part of the program individually, refactoring the code or upgrading the device library becomes much simpler. If there are any issues, they are found early on, and it thus becomes much easier to make improvements to the system.

Before it goes on to the next level, the accuracy of each unit is checked. This implies that until it's incorporated with other companies, the device is proven to be in good working order.

5. Provides Documentation

Unit verification considers the whole system's documentation. By reading each module's documentation, developers who want to learn about the features of a specific programme or framework will quickly learn about the device.

It makes it possible for them to have a detailed understanding of the system and what each part does.

6. Seamless Debugging

To a great degree, unit testing will simplify the debugging process. If a particular test fails, it is essential to debug only the most recent improvements made to the code.

7. Reduce Costs

In the early stages, any problems or glitches in the system are detected by unit testing, and the cost of bug fixes is significantly reduced because of this. If these vulnerabilities are found later, so repairing them would be even more costly.

How to do Unit Testing?

It is important for the unit testers to get a step-by-step instructional document in order to practice unit testing with the manual testing process.

However, automated unit testing is often chosen by most companies, taking into account the efforts necessary for manual testing.

  1. Is my written code fulfilling the business requirement for which I have written the code?
  2. How many other application areas is my code impacting? Are the values passed from the new block causing an impact on existing areas? Here I would like to state that one has to focus more on the behavior of the existing code with new values. The earlier we do it in the coding cycle the better it is in terms of rework at the developer's end.
  3. If you can follow a specific framework like Junit or Nunit etc, for conducting the unit testing is fine, but if not, you are not able to do that it does not matter as I can always pass a set of values(both positive or negative) to my written code.
  4. If there is no Test case management tool for trapping the unit test values, do not worry; just make a .txt file, put the values, and outcomes in that and you can see the same on a shared drive.
  5. Can I write a few automated scripts to execute the repetitive code to save time?
  6. Can I show my code to my next neighboring coder to have a quick look into the same?
  7. If my code involves a UI can I have a quick run-through by a BA or PM or Tester from a usability point of view?

In the end, remember that I am the first and the most basic foundation in a big building of Quality and have to always keep the same in mind whenever I code since no one is interested in buying a well-packaged product if its ingredients are not of high quality.

By doing the above I am not only contributing to high-quality software but I can devote later high bug-fixing time to things like improving the performance/security of my code and avoiding going back to the drawing board for issues related to performance or security etc.

Always remember in the software development unit testing serves as "A stitch in time saves nine".

Sudhanshu Pandey

Written by Sudhanshu Pandey

A seasoned IT professional with over 2.5 decades of IT experience in Coding, Design, Networking, Database Administration, Customer Support, Training, QA and consulting.

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