Behavior-driven Product Development — The Pathway to Developing the product right
Like any other business, the customer is king in the software industry. Developing, testing, and delivering what the customer wants precisely in terms of functionality, user experience, security, and performance is always the goal. Aggregating and understanding information gleaned from different types of behavioral data from various Omni-channels, and complementing it with an Agile and Behavior Driven Development (BDD) approach is perfect for developing a product that is most likely to meet customer's expectations…here’s why:
- Agile values collaboration between members of the team over excessive documentation. BDD also encourages collaboration across roles to cultivate a shared understanding of the problem statement to be solved and the product to be built.
- Agile teams work in small incremental iterations called sprints. BDD is also designed for teams to work with small and rapid iterations to increase the feedback frequency and the value flow to the customer.
- Agile values a working product over comprehensive documentation. BDD has feature files and gherkin statements that act as the system documentation. These feature files are loosely coupled with the code written in the step definition files, which act as the system behavior.
- Agile requires software teams to work closely with the customer and have frequent discussions. BDD is also a customer-centric approach that brings the customer closer and has more visibility on what’s being developed/tested and whether it’s relevant to the behavior expected from the end product.
In essence, BDD does not disrupt existing Agile processes but enhances them. BDD equips Agile teams to deliver timely and reliable software releases with flexible code to accommodate the changes based on the customer’s evolving needs.
How Does BDD work?
A typical BDD project would be kicked off with a conversation between the developers, product owners, managers, and clients to outline how the product is expected to work. The expectations for the product’s behavior are then set as goals for the developers. Testers form test cases in features that would serve as behavior tests. If all the behavior tests pass, the product has met its requirements and is ready for delivery.
Delineation of Test Cases from the Code
In BDD automation frameworks, the tests are clean, readable, and reusable. With traditional test automation frameworks, business stakeholders cannot know what’s being automated. There is no separation of test cases and test code in traditional frameworks. Writing manual test cases for the test code is a redundant task that would consume a lot of effort, and there is the problem of maintaining a standard because each team member would do it differently. BDD resolves this problem. Keeping the test cases in the feature film, with keywords that have specific meaning/expectations, can be written in a host of commonly used languages, such as English, Spanish, etc. It helps business stakeholders understand with clarity and transparency what’s being automated and in what sequence. It enables the test cases to be designed and comprehended without touching the code base.
Advantages of Behavior-Driven Development
In BDD, the application is documented and designed around the behavior the customer expects when interacting with it. In BDD, developers can focus on just what’s required, preventing excessive code for unnecessary features and reducing unnecessary effort, thus saving money. BDD combines and augments the principles used in TDD (Test Driven Development) and Acceptance testing.
Behavior-driven Development Framework Bridges Gaps and Enhances Collaboration
Transparent communication between internal and external stakeholders is pivotal for the success of a project. A BDD framework helps bring the customer closer to the product that’s being developed, scenarios that are being automated, and predicted behaviors. Every resource, not just the techies on the team, can contribute to the behavior scenarios, provided they clearly understand the product behavior expected by the customer.
Team collaboration fosters quality and productivity, thereby enabling the team as a whole to deliver a better product. The collaboration of people from different perspectives makes it easier to understand the problem and helps build better solutions. This also results in quick and unanimous support for decisions on how to validate whether or not the solution works correctly. If BDD is done right, the customer is closely involved throughout the lifecycle, thereby reducing the chances that the final product does not deliver requiring a lot of re-work. BDD also reduces the cost of fixing bugs, as they are detected and fixed early in the life cycle. BDD can also be perceived as an enhancement of the tremendously popular Three Amigos concept.
Everyone’s Favorite BDD Tool — Cucumber
Cucumber is one of the more popular BDD test automation framework tools. In BDD, tests are created before developing the code. Tests clearly explain how the product should react. Automation scripts are developed for all major deliverables. All stakeholders are involved in the discussions, and tests are developed based on user stories, end product behavior, and iterative customer feedback in an attempt to minimize failure. The client conducts periodic reviews during the development phase to ensure that the team is progressing on the right track.
Cucumber supports the formation of test cases not just in English, but in various other languages too. The structure for a BDD construct for a generic login functionality would be as shown below:
Feature: User Login Test
* Scenario: A registered user tries to log into the system
* Given: Landing page loaded, the username and password fields.
* When: User enters valid user name and password and clicks login.
* Then: Validate the application dashboard.
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BDD Empowers Code Reusability
Steps are the essential components of test cases and are almost always the same. Each step is identified as a unique component in BDD frameworks. Any scenario can employ one step with its definition, and steps can be parametrized for flexibility. Once enough steps have been built, a “snowball” effect is created, so that new tests may not require any additional automation code. The steps already established can be reused. This mechanism isn’t available in traditional test frameworks, but it could be done by invoking functions and classes outside of test classes. However, not all automation engineers are disciplined enough to do so, and each person who does it will do it differently. Steps from the Given-When-Then model can be reused across scenarios. Each step’s underlying implementation remains unchanged hence, the automation code becomes entirely modular.
Onboarding new team members might be difficult. They have a lot to learn about the product, the code base, and team dynamics. If tests are built using a BDD framework, newcomers can learn about the features by reading the behavior scenarios. New automation engineers can also reuse existing steps when they create new tests.
Good frameworks naturally deal with a multitude of issues. Logging, dependency injection, and cleanup should not cause test cases to fail. Hooks in BDD frameworks allow you to add extra logic to steps, scenarios, features, and even the entire test suite to address these problems. Because the framework is organized around steps, hooks can fit between them. Instead of forcing programmers to make explicit logging calls in each test function, hooks can automatically report steps to Extent Reports, for example.
Alleviates the Pain of Automation Failure Analysis
Analyzing failed test results might be one of test automation’s most challenging and redundant tasks. It’s a time-consuming task that one or two team members can generally accomplish, and it usually necessitates the participation of the individual who authored the automated test. This problem arises when there’s no supporting documentation to describe each test. BDD makes interpreting test results and investigating failures much easier because the test case is tied directly to the executable specification (step definition automation code) that explains what it does.
Enabling Shift Left Testing
Testing early in the development process is referred to as “shift left.” Early testing implies fewer bugs afterward. In BDD, test case definition is strongly intertwined with the requirements/expected behavior. Testing and automation can begin as soon as behavior scenarios are developed. BDD is a beautiful alternative for organizations trying to shift left since it allows developers to test early in the software development process.
Sail Through Code Reviews
An unclear code review on features you don’t understand can ruin your day. You are responsible for providing valuable insights, but you can’t figure out what’s being done by the code in the time you have available for the review. Good Gherkin, on the other hand, makes things a lot simpler. A reviewer can examine the test case independently of any code to ensure it is a good test case. A non-technical individual, such as a product owner, could be the reviewer at this level. The reviewer can either send the test case back with feedback or go deeper into the automation code if the test case passes the initial review.
A streamlined BDD process speeds up the development process. The BDD scenarios can be used as a base for the development. Resulting in a tremendous reduction in the number of defects. BDD enforces the quality-first and test-first mindset. The BDD tests can fail at first, and then as each function is implemented, they can start to pass.
Scenarios contain all requirements, acceptance criteria, test cases, and scripts in one package. Gherkin syntax’s modularity speeds up test automation development. Scenarios can also be used as steps in defect reporting to reproduce failures.
Flexible to Incorporate Changes
BDD framework Gherkin allows modification of test cases much easier as they are in plain English. Modifying the step definition automation code is also more straightforward because the code is modularized, parameterized, and reused. A selection of scenarios mentioned with specific tags can be made to run in an automation suite using BDD.
Parameterization and Data-Driven Tests
The data that’s passed to the steps can be parameterized using BDD. A scenario outline helps execute the same scenarios multiple times for the different sets of data provided. Parameterization helps build reusable code, and BDD also allows for data-driven testing using the ‘Example’ keyword.
Payoda as your Product Development Partner
Choosing the development framework certainly contributes to the success of a product. The same goes for choosing the talent available to you on your information technology teams. Come and talk to the experts at Payoda…our team understands how to leverage your data to help build products your customers want and need.
Aswathy Ramachandran, Mohan Bharathi, and Vijayakumar Arunachalam.