QW2000 Paper 7W2

Ms. Andrea MacIntosh & Mr. Wolfgang Strigel
(QA Labs Inc.)

"The Living Creature" - Testing Web Applications


Key Points

Presentation Abstract

While few people in the software development industry doubt the need or at least the advantage of including testing and quality assurance in development projects, it has taken many years, many projects, and many failures to get to this point. Now we are entering the age of web applications, a new era, and one that somehow doesn't seem like "real software development": these projects are fast, faster than any application software project, moving in Internet-time. Perhaps it is the speed of creation and deployment, the ease of publishing components, or the perceived lightweightness of these components ("it's just some JavaScript") that allows many to believe that testing can be omitted, or done on the fly by the development staff. But with the fast web-time environment comes a new type of customer - one who can, in the blink of an eye, browse away from your site if it's too slow, hard to use or doesn't work the first and every time.

Now, web application companies are seeing the importance of adding testing to their project schedules, and many are finding it to be a very difficult task. Why? One would think that a web application project could be treated much the same as a software application development project, and thus could be subject to many of the software engineering practices developed over the last 30+ years. But herein lies the problem: the initial assumption that a web application project is similar (if not identical) to a software application project is a false one.

Web applications target a different type of user, who has different needs and wants than the traditional desktop application user. Web applications also move at a completely different pace and move in a different timeframe than off-the-shelf software, a far faster one with shorter and shorter schedules. While traditional applications only had to be compatible with several versions of an operating system, web applications need to run on a wide spectrum of browser versions and cope with complex browser incompatibilities that change much quicker than the traditional operating system release cycles. Web applications also have the extra burden of a wide variety of external marketing pressures, including shortened time-to-market, advertising revenues, and branding. Add to this situation a fundamentally different application architecture, one that follows more closely a business transaction model than any other, and you are facing quite a different beast than your traditional desktop application.

This paper will describe our experience in testing web applications and give some practical hints for the "do's and don'ts" in web testing.

About the Authors

Wolfgang B. Strigel is the founder and President of the Software Productivity Center Inc. (SPC), and of QA Labs Inc. The SPC is an international resource centre with products and services for software development organizations. QA Labs offers services in quality assurance and software testing, including QA outsourcing, consulting and training. Previously, he was a Vice President at MacDonald Dettwiler, a Canadian aerospace company, where he was responsible for the engineering department.

Mr. Strigel is a member of several academic advisory boards. He also serves on the board of several private corporations and the Japanese Software Productivity Society. Mr. Strigel is a member of the Editorial Advisory Board of IEEE Software Magazine, a member of TIA, CIPS, IEEE, ACM, PMI, ASQC and ISO standards council. He is an expert advisor to Giga Information Group. He is a frequent speaker at international conferences. Mr. Strigel received a B.Sc. (Munich, Germany) and M.Sc. (McGill University, Montreal, Canada) in Computer Science, and a MBA (SFU, Vancouver, Canada).

Andrea MacIntosh is one of the founding partners of QA Labs Inc., where she focuses on Quality processes, training and consulting. Her areas of technical expertise include Java, XML, web applications, Macintosh and Linux operating systems, file formats, and ISO 9000 series implementation. Previously she was the Director of Quality Assurance for Paradigm Development Corporation, where she worked on projects for Microsoft, Adobe, Corel, Inso, and Disney Interactive.

Ms. MacIntosh's formal education is in the field of Physics (B.Sc. UBC) where she had the opportunity to perform research in the area of non-linear dynamics of water turbulence and human cardiac patterns.