What’s all the hype with TDD and BDD?

In a consumer culture that places such heavy emphasis on user experience and intuitive navigation, software developers and testers need to approach their processes from a more user-centric angle.

The rise of testing techniques such as behavior-driven development is a testament to the impact of this sweeping trend, proving that companies, staff members, consumers and business partners all want a smoother and more user-friendly experience when they interact with software in the workplace and at home.

As an offshoot of test-driven development, BDD has gradually gained momentum in the testing world thanks to its user-focused approach and, when combined, these two methods can deliver unbeatable results in terms of test efficiency and effectiveness. Here’s a closer look at the evolution of BDD from its TDD origins, and how modern testers are using both techniques to create a masterful, user-centric software experiences faster than ever before.

Today's programs prioritize user experience, making BDD a highly valuable tool.Today’s programs prioritize user experience, making BDD a highly valuable tool.

Defining BDD
While BDD has been defined in a wide range of contexts, there is a common thread that runs throughout these attempts at definition. According to Programmers Stack Exchange, “its purpose is to help the folks devising the system (i.e., the developers) identify appropriate tests to write – that is, tests that reflect the behavior desired by the stakeholders.” At its core, BDD is a testing method that focuses on the experience of the user, rather than the verifying the machine functions of a program without any additional interactive input.

This seems like a great concept on paper, but what is the real difference that sets BDD apart from more traditional testing methods? The source explained that a BDD test format includes a human element, such as text that creates a story-telling dynamic in the test itself. The test begins with a functional document that highlights the expectations, demands and desire of the end user – criteria that must be met throughout the testing process.

Big benefits
The differences in BDD may appear to be subtle, but the impact is significant in terms of testing processes and the end results it creates. A text-based testing dynamic allows programmers to pinpoint exactly what needs to be done from the perspective of the end user, creating a more intuitive and navigable final product. In a business world where applications must be fast, simple and effective, this is simply a smarter approach on all fronts.

Furthermore, BDD can bridge communication gaps that typically keep end users, developers and testers apart from one another when they need to tackle a challenge relating to the user experience. This ability to get multiple stakeholders on the same page and moving toward a clearly-defined end goal is perhaps the most powerful benefit of BDD, and should be a source of motivation for testing teams to incorporate this methodology sooner rather than later.

“BDD utilizes something called a ‘Ubiquitous Language,’ a body of knowledge that can be understood by both the developer and the customer,” continued the Programmers Stack Exchange article. “This ubiquitous language is used to shape and develop the requirements and testing needed, at the level of the customer’s understanding.”

“BDD is quickly becoming best practice.”

The role of TDD
With so many clear advantages to BDD, where do more conventional testing methods such as TDD fit into the picture? First, it can’t be forgotten that BDD is only a supplementary technique to be layered on top of a solid TDD foundation. While behavior-driven methods are valuable, it’s more important that the core functions of the software are stable. Testers must therefore never forego TDD techniques, but instead use the best of both worlds for big results.

“When applied to automated testing, BDD is a set of best practices for writing great tests. BDD can, and should be, used together with TDD and unit testing methods,” according to Code Utopia.

Thankfully for today’s developers, there are a number of agile testing tools on the market that offer both TDD and BDD support, giving testers the proven stability of the former in addition to the innovative approach of the latter. Combined with tactics such as exploratory testing, development teams can bring their agile methods to a new level of user-driven performance.

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