A common misunderstanding is that manual testing is not technical and that you need to learn coding only for automation purposes. In fact, having a basic understanding of programming can substantially benefit the manual testing process alone.
When we learn to program, we learn about the elements and structure of software. We learn how data is represented inside the computer, and how bits can be interpreted and misinterpreted. We learn about flow control, decision points, looping, and how mistakes can be made. Even if we never see the source code, when we learn how programs work, we also learn how they might not work.
Essentially, I see coding skills as a technical skill that enhances manual testing and builds a foundation for automated testing, taking the tester to a new level in their profession.
There are 7 key ways that learning to code, and more specifically, learning Python (see below), will improve your software testing. They can be divided into two categories: the benefits of understanding code and the benefits of writing code.
- The ability to understand code will help enhance manual testing.
- The ability to write code will allow one to automate tests and write tools to support manual testing.
Let’s see how understanding programming concepts (points 1-5) and knowing how to write code (points 6-7) can make you a better software tester:
- A deeper understanding of code change impact: Test case design is a challenge for black-box testers. Not knowing how the code is written, you need to identify the set of conditions to evaluate the software in a limited time. If you have a basic understanding of programming, you can talk to developers and learn how the logic is implemented. This can help you focus your functional and regression tests on the most risky areas.
- An understanding of the boundaries and layers of the application:Software is built in different layers – business layer, service layer, database layer, etc. Knowing how code layers interact with each other can help you design better integration tests.
- An understanding of the release process: In software release flows, developers create branches, fix bugs, and merge fixes to a master branch. If you are familiar with this process, you can identify what type of issues may occur as a result of version control.
- The ability to speak developer’s language: Technical language is the language developers speak, and knowing the terminology can increase the quality of communication with developers.
- Earn dev trust and gain professional reputation: If you speak developers’ language, they will have more respect for you as a skilled tester. This may open them up to share with you their concerns about the code, risky spots, and refactoring ideas – something they might not have done previously, thinking you would not understand enough.
- Automating functional tests: A common usage of coding for testers is to automate functional tests. Most of the automation frameworks require you to write code, like Selenium WebDriver, which is the most popular framework. As automation experts state, writing test automation that is maintainable, robust, and reliable is not a simple task. So, the better your programming skills, the higher your chances are to build solid automation.
- Handling tasks that aren’t practical to complete manually: Apart from automating functional scenarios, testing applications may also require handling various tasks which are not practical or sometimes not even possible to handle manually.
Here are a few examples:
- Generate test data
- Read data from DB, flat files, or XML
- Parse log files
- Extract and analyze performance info
- Set up test environment
- Monitor state of the application
All of these tasks can be automated via scripts and can support testers in finding issues which otherwise would be difficult to find.