Saturday, January 5, 2008

To Make Sure the Software is Functional, Don't Forget the Non-Functional Tests

When I first heard the term "non-functional test, I thought that it was a joke. I was working for a now-defunct company on a now forgotten product. The product's code was anything by fully "functional," so when I was asked about non-functional tests, it seemed more like an appropriately funny and sarcastic comment than a serious question. It may sound odd when you first hear it, but the classification of tests as "functional" or "non-functional" actually is very logical.

What are functional tests? These are the tests that you build and run to exercise (and exorcise the bugs out of) the code that supports the functions and features of the product under test. In other words, these tests tell you if the product fulfills its functional requirements. What are non-functional tests? The best description that I've seen is that these tests verify how well the product fulfills its functional requirements. A good way to think about this difference between functional and non-functional tests is that the functional tests verify the "whats" and the non-functional tests verify the "hows."

The details of functional tests for a product will be specific to that product. For examples, tests for a text editor will be different from tests for a firewall. The types of non-functional tests that apply to a product will also depend on the characteristics of the product, but will likely include types of tests such as these[1]:

* Compatibility testing
* Compliance testing
* Documentation testing
* Endurance testing
* Load testing
* Localization testing and Internationalization testing
* Performance testing
* Resilience testing
* Security testing
* Scalability testing
* Stress testing
* Usability testing
* Volume testing

So, functional tests or non-functional tests? Which types should you build and run? For a thorough test cycle, you really need both. Hmm. What about dysfunctional tests? I'll get back to talking about these in a later post.


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