We’ll define and explain what automated regression testing means. What a regression is, how costly they are for software teams, and why you should employ regression testing to avoid them. Since manual regression testing would be both time-consuming and error-prone, we’ll then proceed to cover the need for automation, offering advice and tips on how to actually implement the technique for your teams.
Regression testing is a specific form of testing that verifies whether a given piece of software suffered regressions after undergoing changes. “Regression” here means “going back to a previous undesired state.” So automated regression testing is nothing more than the process of automatically verifying that the application has not regressed to a previous undesired state.Ideally, regression testing—whether automated or not—should be performed every time a software application is changed in some way, whether by receiving a new feature, an improvement, or a bug fix.
In today’s post, we’ll define and explain what automated regression testing means. We’ll start by explaining what a regression is, how costly they are for software teams, and why you should employ regression testing to avoid them. Since manual regression testing would be both time-consuming and error-prone, we’ll then proceed to cover the need for automation, offering advice and tips on how to actually implement the technique for your teams.
Let’s get started!
Before we dive into the “how” of automated regression testing, we need to clarify its “what” and “why.” What is it, after all? What does automated regression testing mean, and why should we use it?
This section will answer the questions above and more.
The first step in order to understand “automated regression testing” is to get rid of the “automated” part, at least for now. First, we need to understand what “X” means, then “Automated X” will be self-evident. Or, at the very worst, easier to grok.
If we want to understand what “regression testing” means, the first step is to define “regression.” In this context, is “regression” good or bad? Should we welcome it or fear it? The answer to the questions above is straightforward. Here, regression means essentially the same thing it means in everyday conversation—to go back to a previous state. So, in the context of software development, we say we’ve got a regression when our application unintentionally reverted to a previous state.
As we’ve just defined in the previous section, “regression” means an unintentional reversion to a previous state. However, something really important was left implicit in the definition: software regression, more often than not, means the application went back to a bad previous state.
Have you ever had the experience of making some existing feature stop working after implementing a new one? What about that nasty bug returning months after you thought you had completely eliminated it? These are examples of regression. The application has regressed to a previous inferior state.
The field of software development is disproportionately prone to regression problems. Each addition or change made by any developer has the potential to cause unexpected problems in areas (supposedly) unrelated to the spot where it was performed. Any non-trivial software project, maintained by a team with more than, say, five people, has an incredibly high number of potential regressions during each release.
Developers should always keep in mind that all the changes they make, no matter how small, simple, or insignificant they seem, have the potential to cause surprising side effects. They can break functionalities that don’t have anything to do with the changes being made. By performing regression tests, the developer checks that not only does their change behave as it’s supposed to, but also that it plays well with all of the code that was written up until that point.
That’s where regression testing comes in handy. Regression testing is nothing more than the execution (partial or total) of a test suite in order to verify that a given application hasn’t returned to a previous undesired state. If manually done, though, regression testing can be extremely time-consuming and error-prone, which leads us to our next point.
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