Functional Testing: The Unsung Hero of the Testing Spectrum?

by Dmitry Kirsanov 11. December 2023 04:00

Functional Testing is like Eagon Spengler, the brains behind the Ghostbusters team, often overshadowed by more flamboyant characters but indispensable for their success. That accomplished yet humble individual belies the very essence of functional tests. Just like him, functional testing plays a crucial yet understated role in the software development process.

In the world of software testing, we are so often enamoured by the technological characters: UI testing with its flashy complexities, API testing with its mysteries of wire protocols and data payload formats. Yet, the quietly diligent and most dependable hero - functional testing - is often left in the shadows.

The Gentle Giant in the Testing World

What converse do API and UI testing share with functional testing? Why it's none other than their intrinsic focus on technology and implementation details. Functional tests, however, march to the beat of a different drum. They elegantly waltz in the realm of domain logic, taking scant note of these implementation trivialities.

The primary intent here, is the application's business functionality. In fact, this type of testing seems so easy-going, that often, the tools and terminologies utilized in conducting functional tests are easily comprehensible even to customers and domain experts.

Who Authors Functional Tests?

Greater surprises await! Functional tests, in certain cases, may be scribed by domain experts! Could a greater twist of irony exist in the software testing world? And quite unlike their showy kin - the unit tests, which are notch above in their coded form - functional tests have the liberty of non-programming forms!

No, I'm Not Rebranding!

Now, before you stir from your seats, behold, dear readers - I am not preaching a new mantra. Whilst it's true that functional testing is also known by the sobriquets of ‘acceptance tests,’ ‘customer tests,’ or ‘executable requirements,’ I find the term ‘Functional Tests’ is a better moniker. For, it is - plain, simple, and tells it how it is. Functional Tests focus solely on domain functionality. Need I add more?

Often, one must tread cautiously while referring to price specs of a domain, lest one falls into the yawning pit of vocabulary tangles.

Your Trusty Functional Testing Tools

I like singeing my marshmallows till they are golden, not burnt to unsightly cinders. Thus, to better equip you on the smoky battlegrounds of testing, I gift you your trusty swords: Cucumber and Fitness.

Equipped with these panaceas, you can now traverse the rugged terrains of an application’s functionality sans any programmatic writing. While Cucumber comes with the Gherkin syntax, a popular name in the BDD (Behaviour-Driven Development) school of thought, Fitness offers a more tabular expression to test requirements.

Interestingly, both Cucumber and Fitness are, but, two of many. Seek, and thou shall find many more friendly tools in this cadre. All have one shared vision - to ease the customer’s interaction with, and creation of, functional tests.

The Caveats

However, beware, there are limitations to even the best weapons of trade. Just as the One Ring forged in the fires of Mount Doom promised supreme power, it also held within it a deadly will of its own.

Functional Testing is no exception. This approach to testing may seem the best course given its strengths and popularity, and yet, adoption and buy-in can often seem monumental. Wooing customers and domain experts and getting their commitment becomes an inevitable part of the process!

A Tough Climb, but Absolutely Worthwhile

Maintaining an extra layer of code to wire the expression language of these tests to the code under test may seem hard, but let's be real. Functional tests offer no more than what unit tests would. It’s true; it’s an additional technology to comprehend, a learning curve to be surmounted. However, I can guarantee that there are few other ways to ensure your complex and vital business logic remains steadfast and functional!

So, the climb up the Functional Testing peak may seem steep, but let me tell you dear readers – the sublime vista from the peak is unmatchable. It's an unparalleled sense of accomplishment once you traverse this rocky trail. And at the end of it all, you’ll have bulletproof, effective, and reliable software ready for the market.



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