Application Design Is Bounded By Test Design


An M4 tank tops the ridge on a test course. The tank was designed to meet all the challenges of the test course -- the test course should simulate all the extremes of the field.

...a development organization has mechanisms to document and enforce the software architecture, and developers to write the code. You are planning how to engage your customer. A Testing role is being defined.

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When do you design and implement test plans and scripts?

Test development takes time, and cannot be started just when the coding is done ("when we know what we have to test").
Scenarios are known when requirements are known, and many of these are known early (see ScenariosDefineProblem).

Test implementation needs to know the details of message formats, interfaces, and other architectural properties in great details (to support test scripts and test jigs). Both software developers and testers need to work closely together from the same "script"--the Use Cases that define customer needs.

Yet external tests are largely ignorant of the internal software structure, so much test development can take place in parallel with design and implementation of the deliverable software. Implementation changes daily; there should be no need for test designs to track ephemeral changes in software implementation.


Use case-driven test design starts when the customer first agrees to use case requirements. Test design evolves along with software design, but only in response to customer use case changes: the source software is inaccessible to the tester. When development decides that architectural interfaces have stabilized, low-level test design and implementation can proceed.

Software designers can and should use test specifications as a major touchstone for requirements.

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This provides a context for ScenariosDefineProblem and complements EngageQualityAssurance. Once the expectations are established between the testers and developers in the context of customer expectations (perhaps through FireWalls and GateKeeper) you can approach the customer to capture Use Cases.

Making the software accessible to testers causes them to see the developer view rather than the customer view, and leads to the chance they may test the wrong things, or at the wrong level of detail. Furthermore, the software will continue to evolve from requirements until the architecture gels, and there is no sense in causing test design to fishtail until interfaces settle down.

In short, test design kicks off at the end of the first major influx of requirements, and touches base with design again when the architecture is stable.