What Is Software Testing? Definition, Types, and Tools

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What is software testing?

Software testing is the process of checking the quality of a product before launching. It measures the software's completeness to the single functional (or non-functional) attributes and whether it has fulfilled the business logic or shown us the missing gaps in requirements that need immediate tackles. 

Software testing is an integral part of the software development life cycle. Over time, software testing activities have evolved to meet the ever-increasing complexity of applications. 


Why is software testing important?


The road to software development is bumpy, and products can be vulnerable to bugs and defects. It is necessary to ensure that software works according to its purpose before releasing it to the market. In identifying the broken codes, only qualified products are delivered to the consumers; here are the reasons why software testing is essential:

  • Detecting defects in the early phases: A complex application is not an excuse for having errors. The sooner the broken code is fixed, the more accessible teams can focus on feature development. 
  • Improve customers' trust and satisfaction: Adopting software quality management best practices assures stakeholders and customers that they can rely on a product that has been tested multiple times. 
  • Enhance and maintain product quality: Detecting defects early through dimensional testing phases provides another layer of quality assurance. Testers can have different viewpoints which align with defined customers' criteria and can contribute to the software development process. 
  • Identify vulnerabilities that can save company costs and even human lives: Financial, medical, or legal software deals with sensitive, critical information. Errors in the software may cause irreversible damage and put the company at risk of litigation. Software testing protects companies from such risk.


Types of software testing


Different types can be classified into multiple categories based on test objectives, strategy, and deliverables. Currently, there are three major software testing types that Quality Assurance professionals frequently use, including

  • Functional Testing: a type of software testing to verify whether the application delivers the expected output.
  • Non-functional Testing: a type of software testing to verify whether the non-functional aspects of an application (e.g., stability, security, and usability) are working as expected. 
  • Maintenance Testinga type of testing to identify and diagnose potential problems in the software for future enhancements, maintenance, repair, or migration.

These umbrella terms encompass a wide range of testing types, each serving only a specific purpose. As an example, there are 3 main types of functional testing:

  • Unit testing: a type of testing done on an individual unit in an application
  • Integration testing: a type of testing done on groups of application units to see how they work together
  • Acceptance testing: a type of testing to evaluate the application against real-life scenarios


Similarly, under Non-functional Testing, there are also many common testing types, each with different objectives and strategies:

  • Security Testing
  • Performance Testing
  • Load Testing
  • Usability Testing
  • Compatibility Testing

The decision to use which of these types of software tests depends on the test scenarios, resource availability, and business requirements.


Software testing process


Many software testing initiatives follow a process commonly known as Software Testing Life Cycle (STLC). The STLC consists of 6 key activities to ensure that all software quality goals are met, as shown below:


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1. Requirement Analysis

In this stage, software testers work with stakeholders involved in the development process to identify and understand test requirements. This is an essential stage as it provides the QA team with a strong foundation to build their test strategy.

In this stage, QA teams usually create a Requirement Traceability Matrix (RTM), a document that captures all requirements from stakeholders. This is the basis on which testers develop and manage their testing efforts. 

2. Test Planning

After thorough analysis, a test plan is created, in which the test schedule, resource estimates, limitations, and risk is detailed. 

For a greater degree of control over the project, software testers can add a Contingency plan to adjust the variables in case the project moves in an unexpected direction.

3. Test Case Development

Test case development starts once the test plan is ready. 

First, the QA team identifies which data to put into the program when testing (e.g., if they want to test if the Login page is working, they need to prepare a mock username and password).

After that, testers start writing test scripts, often with the help of popular software testing tools.

4. Test Environment Setup

This step can be done in parallel with Test Case Development. A test environment is the software and hardware configurations under which the application is tested, including a database server, front-end running environment, browser, network, hardware, etc.

QA teams will plan resource usage for Test Environment development. This practice ensures efficient resource allocation.

5. Test Execution


Test execution happens when testers execute the test scripts.


Test results will be carefully documented for future analysis. All passed tests are recorded in the RTM, while the defects discovered will be reported to the development team for immediate troubleshooting. 

6. Test Cycle Closure

This is the final phase of Software Testing. Software testers will gather to analyze what they found from the tests, evaluate the effectiveness, and document key takeaways for future reference. 


It is crucial to regularly evaluate your QA team’s software testing process to remain in control of all testing activities across all phases of the STLC.


Software testing model


The Evolution of the Testing Model has been in parallel with the evolution of software development methodologies.


1. V-model 

In the past, QA teams had to wait until the final development stage to start testing. Test quality was usually poor, and developers could not troubleshoot in time for product release. 

The V-model solves that problem by engaging testers in every phase of development. Each development phase is assigned a corresponding testing phase. This model works well with the nearly obsolete Waterfall testing method.

Software testing model: V-model

2. Test Pyramid model


As technology advances, the Waterfall model gradually gives way to the widely used Agile testing methods. Consequently, the V-model also evolved to the Test Pyramid model, which visually represents a 3-part testing strategy.


Software testing model: The Testing Pyramid


Most of the tests are unit tests, aiming to validate only the individual components. Next, testers group those components and test them as a unified entity to see how they interact. Automation testing can be leveraged at these stages for optimal efficiency. 


Finally, at the UI testing stage, testers focus on the UX and UI of the application.

3. The Honeycomb Model

The Honeycomb model is a modern approach to software testing in which Integration testing is a primary focus, while Unit Testing (Implementation Details) and UI Testing (Integrated) receive less attention. 


This software testing model reflects an API-focused system architecture as organizations move towards cloud infrastructure.

Software testing model: The Testing Pyramid


What can be automated within software testing?


Automated software testing can be leveraged to test large volumes of software components when manual testing becomes counterproductive. Automation brings high ROI and allows QA teams to perform more critical testing activities. 


A test case is qualified for automation if the following criteria are met:

  • It’s repetitive, and test steps are unlikely to change
  • It’s time-consuming/impossible to perform manually
  • It runs on multiple software/hardware platforms
  • It’s prone to human error


In practice, Unit Testing usually takes top priority for automation because unit testing is easier and less costly to debug thanks to the script’s simplicity. 


Additionally, automation testing tools usually come with excellent test reporting and analytics. They also offer centralized testing management on which teams can collaborate through many development and testing phases.

Manual vs. Automated testing


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Is automated testing making manual testing obsolete?



Automated testing is a great leap forward in software testing, enabling QA teams to test software faster and more effectively.

So is Automated Testing making Manual Testing obsolete? 


The short-term answer is “No”.


The long-term answer is “Maybe”.


Manual testing still has its place in the software testing world. It is needed to deal with ad-hoc cases. We also need humans to evaluate the application’s UX, supervise automation testing, and intervene when necessary. 

However, AI technology is gradually changing the landscape. Smart testing features have been added to many automated software testing tools to drastically reduce the need for human intervention. 

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In the future, we can expect to reach Autonomous Testing, where machines completely take control and perform all testing activities. There will be absolutely no need for humans except for the development of testing algorithms. 


Of course, autonomous testing is still only in its infancy, but with the unprecedented growth rate of technology today, manual testing might soon go obsolete.


Software testing tools


Currently, plenty of software testing tools are available on the market. We can choose software test automation frameworks built using open-source libraries or a commercial testing solution pre-built by a vendor equipped with features to perform many testing activities.


Here is a list of top software testing tools we have selected for you:

The Katalon Platform

Best software testing tool Katalon Platform

The Katalon Platform allows QA teams to author web, mobile, and desktop apps and UI and API automated tests, execute those tests on preconfigured cloud environments and maintain them, all in one unified platform, without any additional third-party tools. The Katalon Platform is among the best commercial automation tools for functional software testing on the market. 


Open source software testing tool Selenium


Selenium is the best open-source library dedicated to automated web testing. It offers tremendous flexibility for QA teams to author from the simplest to most complex test cases at no cost. 

However, Selenium requires a lot of technical expertise and coding knowledge, which can be quite a learning curve for young teams.




Software testing tool for performance testing JMeter


JMeter is another open-source software designed specifically for load testing. JMeter’s strength is its capability to measure web applications' response rate and performance while working alongside Selenium to run functional tests.


Software testing learning resources

Software testing is an exciting field to pursue with a lot of growth potential in the future. 


In the beginning, gaining a foundation in STLC phases and programming languages is essential, with the most popular choices being Java, C#, Python, and Ruby. Knowledge of Linux and OS Fundamentals is also required to set up test environments and execute test cases. The following courses can equip you with valuable knowledge on your journey to becoming a test automation engineer:

1. Software testing free courses

Software testing free courses at Katalon Academy

As a leading automation testing platform, Katalon supports aspiring software testers with Katalon Academy - a knowledge hub packed with Software Testing free courses for both Beginners and Intermediate testers. 

For Beginners, Katalon Academy offers courses to get started with the Katalon Platform designed as short-form, digestible videos. For more advanced learners, Katalon Academy provides plenty of in-depth guides on the Katalon Platform. Learners can also specifically choose to study API testing, Desktop Testing, Mobile Testing, or Web Testing based on their professional requirements. 

Katalon Academy is constantly updated, so even experienced testers can occasionally come and refresh their knowledge to catch up with the latest trends.

2. Software testing certificates

For testers who want to polish their automation tester resume and acquire the skills to become a test automation engineer, an online course that offers certificates is a great choice. Numerous eLearning websites provide software testing courses, which charge a small tuition fee, but the benefits you get are worth the investment. 


The Complete 2022 Software Testing Bootcamp from Udemy


The Complete 2022 Software Testing Bootcamp from Udemy is among the most comprehensive courses about Software Testing out there. With up to 312 lectures, clocking 27h 38m in length, the course equips learners with everything they need to kick-start their software testing career. It also covers interview tips and questions to prepare for Web API Testing and Mobile Testing interviews.

Software Testing and Automation Specialization from Coursera


This is the top software testing course on Coursera offered by the University of Minnesota. Intended for Intermediate testers, the course covers essential concepts in software testing, automated testing, testing theory, and automation tools. To earn a certificate, you have to complete a hands-on project, which equips you with a lot of practical experience with testing.