What is TDD (Test Driven Development)?

What is TDD (Test Driven Development)?

Test-driven development (TDD) is an iterative methodology that entails the conversion of each component of the application into a test case before it is built and then testing and tracking the component repeatedly. This article explains the test-driven development process and discusses its benefits and limitations. 

What Is TDD (Test Driven Development)?

Test-driven development (TDD) is defined as an iterative methodology that prioritizes the creation of and checking against test cases at every stage of software development, by converting each component of the application into a test case before it is built and then testing and tracking the component repeatedly. 

It is a continuous process that includes refactoring, unit testing, and programming. Prior to writing any actual code, Test-driven development (TDD) emphasizes the creation of unit test cases. It requires developers to build a test first, then just enough production code to satisfy it and the ensuing reworking. The specs are used by developers, who then create tests that demonstrate how the code ought to function.

Testing, coding, and reworking are done in fast succession. The first step in test-driven development is to plan and create tests for each minor aspect of an application’s functionality. The test-driven development framework tells programmers to build new code only in the event that an automated test fails. This prevents code duplication. Simply put, test cases are generated and tested for each capability first, and if the test fails, new code is produced to pass the test and provide simple, bug-free code.

Kent Beck created it as a component of extreme programming in the late 1990s. A more comprehensive approach to software design known as Extreme Programming (XP), which is a component of the Agile software development methodology, introduced test-driven development. To find problems in the tested code, testing is done on a small sample of the code.

Before functional testing, the test is written to make sure the application is appropriate for testing. To find problems in the tested code, testing is done on a small sample of the code. The feature is then put into use. The feature is then put into use. Test-driven development makes use of repeated quick development cycles and it typically uses a cycle called “Red-Green-Refactor.”

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The quality of the software project does increase with time, even though this process first seems slow and frequently is in the near term. Enough test coverage serves as a precaution to prevent unintentionally changing the functionality. Finding an issue locally through one’s test suite is vastly preferable to having a client find it in production. Last but not least, test suites can capture the requirements of a software project so that its participants can comprehend it better. It integrates construction and testing.

In addition to ensuring that the code is valid, this method also assists in indirectly improving the project’s design and architecture, typically through unit, functional, and acceptance tests as part of the TDD process. Test-driven development encourages precise definition and confirmatory testing of the application code. The inputs for test-driven development are developer tests (unit tests) and acceptance tests (detailed requirements).

Test-driven development makes coding easier and more comprehensible. It enables the developer to keep less documentation updated. Teams wind up writing very different kinds of tests as a result, and because one is evaluating behaviors rather than individual lines of code, they tend to be more adaptable to future changes. Before the application is actually developed, automated tests are created and run as part of the test-driven development process. Consequently, test driven development is also known as test-first development.

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Test Driven Development Process

A Red/Green/Refactor cycle is a common way to explain the TDD process. Let us take a look at the topic at hand.

1. The Red phase

As part of the red phase, users must create a test for the behavior that is about to be implemented. Due to the developer’s need to construct a test against no code, this is the most challenging stage. Even if it seems challenging to think about what to test in the absence of code, all that needs to be done is change one’s thinking. A test must be created that employs a piece of code as though it has already been implemented.

The developer should focus on creating a user-friendly interface for the future in this phase. In essence, the test will not even compile if you write the first test without writing the code to declare the class and function. Having a test fail is similar to this situation once more. The next step is to run the test and fail it after fixing the compilation error.

The developer’s unit test framework will throw a red flag at this point. The test case is attempted to be run. One will get compile errors because there is no code. The test case failed at this point, which is why it is known as the red stage. Decisions regarding the usage of the code must be made during this stage. This is based on what one needs, not what one might think is required. 

2. The Green phase

Without worrying about how to implement it best, the objective is to discover a solution. Writing code is the next stage, but only the code is required to pass the first test. Because developers write code during this phase, it is typically the simplest. Compile the code, then launch the framework for unit testing. Another conceptual barrier that TDD newbie developers occasionally struggle with is the idea of producing “just enough” code to pass a test.

The developer starts creating the next test to fail once the first one passes, and keeps adding code to make it pass. In this stage, one must assume the role of a coder with just one straightforward task: Write a simple solution that will allow the test to succeed. It is not necessary to have well-written, efficient code. It only needs to pass. One is permitted to disregard industry standards and even use duplicate code during this stage.

The refactor phase will involve the elimination of code duplication. The hiring of a developer is split into two parts to help with comprehension, and testing of the newly written code is split into two parts to make sure that no older test case fails. Simply put, this is continuous regression. The developer is  deemed to be “in the green” after this stage. If something goes wrong, one can start considering improving the  codebase while running a descriptive test.

3. The Refactoring phase

Developers are allowed to improve the code during the refactoring step while keeping all tests passing. The objective of writing code up until this point was to make the unit tests pass. One can now improve over and above the previous solution because there is now a better understanding of the issue. To ensure that nothing is broken while refactoring, you also have a test.

Previously, the developer did not take into account other factors like design patterns, code maintainability, readability, and quality. Because one has addressed the business requirements through unit tests, this phase’s focus is on these. The developer is showcasing their abilities to the programmers who will read the  implementation during the refactoring step. As one repeats this process, the test suite is constantly updated to reflect the project’s progress and what the production code is about at any given time.

One need not worry about the functionality being lost while refactoring because test cases will automatically run to verify functionality every time there is a modification of the code and recompile it. It’s acceptable if one sees anything that seems off but is unsure of how to repair it. After repeating the cycle a few more times, it is necessary to take another look at it, take the time required to complete this stage, and run the tests to ensure they still pass after each small refactoring.

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Importance of Test-Driven Development

Test-driven development (TDD) is vital for eight key reasons. It allows DevOps teams to:

Importance of Test-Driven Development

1. Improve code quality

Programmers must first decide what they hope to accomplish with the piece of code before they can write tests for it. Then, the experience it will provide and how it will fit with other parts of the complete code is estimated by the developers. Code written using test-driven development is of higher quality and has fewer errors.

TDD promotes the creation of straightforward and extensible code. TDD’s strict guidelines would encourage developers to form routines that result in better code automatically. In addition, developers can reduce their effort by concentrating on shorter, easier-to-read sections of code, which makes it simpler to follow test requirements.

2. Boost system design 

Another benefit of building tests before production code is that developers can devote more time to the boundary cases one must address. TDD concentrates on one minor aspect at a time. When the test is written first, the code is simpler to check and has a more straightforward interface.

So, the developer may achieve a modular, simple-to-understand, maintain, expand, test, and refactor structure for the application by using a test-driven development method. Moreover, at the end of the development cycle, fewer errors and flaws result from more extensive testing.

3. Increase developer productivity 

TDD increases speed as less time is spent debugging by the developers. As a result, it could take longer to create tests and production code in the beginning stages. However, as the project develops, adding and testing new functionality will go faster and with less rework. Four development teams participated in a joint Microsoft and IBM study, which found that adopting TDD reduced defect density by 40–90%. The time it took to finish the projects also increased by 15 to 35 percent, although lower maintenance expenses reportedly offset this due to the quality improvement.

4. Reduce project costs over time

The price of project development will drastically drop with the use of TDD. Test-driven development can significantly decrease the project’s cost, eliminating potential flaws and making code maintenance more manageable. Ultimately, all the above benefits lead to reduced costs and improved team performance.

TDD aids in development cost reduction; fewer problems translate into fewer hours developers spend, directly affecting project expenses. Keep in mind that these cost savings happen throughout the product’s lifespan. TDD will almost always be more expensive in the short run because the project will require more testing.

5. Obtain assistance for bug prevention

TDD is a unique approach that guarantees complete test coverage when carefully adhered to. Since running tests is TDD’s main priority, the developer can ensure that the application will function as intended and need only minor fixes. It’s critical to note that in a TDD environment, developers put more emphasis on writing tests to catch defects before they occur than on fixing them after the code has been developed.

TDD allows developers to build complete test suites, which are advantageous to projects. As long as the codebase is thoroughly tested, defects are less likely to surface undetected, thanks to testing suites.

6. Gain from lifelong documentation

For a developer, tests can act as documentation. The way one wants to utilize the class is most likely one of the scenarios for which tests with TDD are typically developed. It is a current account of a feature that establishes test scenarios using a common language. Based on the claims stated in the test, the user may see the expected inputs a method requires and the desired results.

This can boost developer comprehension of many aspects of the system, which supports common code ownership. Any developer can now make code changes instead of only the one familiar with it.

7. Create a maintainable codebase

The TDD process includes reworking, or restructuring, working code to increase readability and optimize implementation. The next step required in the TDD process is refactoring, which stands for the optimization of existing code and has the single objective of making it simpler to introduce. Developers can refactor a tiny feature or improvement’s code to meet standards if it passes the initial tests. This test-driven methodology is as effective as old code since it uses the same steps: add a new test, run it to check if it fails, create code, test it, rework it, and repeat.

8. Benefit from a dependable process

With TDD, the developers and the initiator may both be confident in the dependability of the created solution. After refactoring or introducing a new feature, tests help determine if everything works as intended. Without TDD, developers lose track of current developments and are unsure how recently developed software will interact with previously flawless code.

Furthermore, the solution could be broken by any fresh modifications. In essence, it is yet another illustration of how TDD enables agile development while allowing developers to worry less about the consequences of future changes.

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Limitations of Test-Driven Development

While implementing TDD, one should also be aware of its limitations. They are as follows:

1. TDD may slow down the development process

It initially slows development because tests must be written first, which can take some time in context with the rapid iterative startup. The TDD approach might not be one’s best option if you’re rushed for time and need to launch the product or service right now. Because a team will be preoccupied building tests first, one may not complete the implementation code on time.

It’s a frequent misconception that TDD requires more time and hence costs more, although this is only true for projects that are completed quickly. In the long-term, however, it hastens development.

2. TDD can be hard to maintain and support

One of TDD’s most important drawbacks is arguably this. Developers must modify the tests to accommodate changes in a product’s needs. You’ll need to adapt the code to the new tests. In any development methodology, fundamental requirement modifications are expensive, but with TDD, these scope adjustments can significantly impact schedules.

Additionally, several teams discover that as the project gets bigger, it gets more challenging to maintain the numerous unit tests. In actuality, many conventional unit tests, whether created using TDD or not, are closely tied to specific code implementation.

3. It is hard to learn the TDD approach

It may be difficult for the extended team to understand and adapt to the TDD methodology’s concepts if they have never used it before. Anyone attempting to learn it on their own may find it challenging. Developers must be highly committed to it and always desire to improve.

When the architecture is more straightforward, and one may need to leverage to acquire momentum and quick iteration, it is simpler to adopt TDD in the early stages of a project. Otherwise, TDD can interfere with allocating time and resources for more advanced projects.

4. TDD code is sometimes difficult to understand

Because writing code is distinct from writing code correctly, it can be challenging to grasp the TDD code. The functionality of TDD is also not covered; thus, many teams simply concentrate on code coverage, which tells one almost nothing about code coverage. An art form exists in creating practical unit tests. Many managers tend to focus on measures like code coverage, which have little to do with the caliber of the unit tests, and rarely bring up this element of TDD.

5. The TDD approach tends to be firm and rigid

At first, this strategy could seem a little daunting because not every developer is accustomed to concentrating on one thing at a time and writing tests before looking at the code. Developers will have to keep up with the housework. Refining those tests to make them run more quickly or to remove duplicate tests is vital because booking more and more tests causes the build to get longer and longer. The TDD methodology can affect code planning; thus, for it to be effective, every development team member must be aware of and follow its guiding principles.

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Takeaway 

Test-driven development is built on the “shift left” philosophy, where the sooner one begins testing and flaw identification, the faster one can deliver high-quality products. Recently, companies like Microsoft have improved TDD to create Test-Driven User-Intent Formalization or TDUIF. 

Developed by Microsoft and the Universities of Pennsylvania and California, TDUIF incorporates user intent-based tests to drive 90.40% coding accuracy. Advancements like these make it essential to understand the role of TDD in DevOps and software development processes in general. 

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