Time for another instalment in our series on the fundamentals of software testing. In this segment, we will explore various kinds of software flaws that every tester should be familiar with.
Software glitches come in a wide array of forms. Regardless of its specifics, a defect is still a defect. But sometimes, understanding the nature, consequences, and reasons behind defects can enable us to tackle them more effectively.
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Such understanding helps in faster and, crucially, the most suitable reactions to defects.
In this piece, we will explore the frequent types of software glitches and how to pinpoint them during testing, using exploration and simple practice as a guide.
We’ll start by explaining what software glitches and bugs are.
Contents of This Article:
Defects and Bugs in Software
According to Wikipedia, “A defect is an inaccuracy or a deviation from correctness” and “A software bug is any defect, flaw, mistake, or issue in a computer program or system that brings about an unexpected or wrong outcome, or that prompts unplanned behavior..”
From this, we can infer the following:
- A defect denotes a divergence from the expected results.
- Defects are categorized as software bugs.
- Defects can crop up from incomplete or misguided requirements or as a result of human errors in data entry.
Common Types of Software Defects:
#1) Defects in Functionality:
Functionality relates to the way the software is supposed to work. If the software finds difficulty, confusion, or impossibility in performing what it’s built to do, then it has a defect in its functionality.
Consider the following screenshot:
For the “Cancel” button, the expected functionality is to close the “Create New Project” window without saving any changes, hence not creating a new project. Suppose the “Cancel” button is nonresponsive, denoting a defect in the software’s functionality.
#2) Communication Glitches:
Such glitches occur in the software and end-user intercommunication. All crucial details that the end-user needs for using the software should be explicitly displayed on the screen.
Examples of such defects are missing help instructions or menus, features included in the release that are not found in the help menu, a button tagged “Save” that deletes a file, and so forth.
#3) Absence of Command Defects:
This defect type appears when an expected command is lacking. Refer to this screenshot:
This window is designed to let the user create a new project. However, it doesn’t provide an alternative for the user to leave the window without creating the project. The “Cancel” option or button isn’t available, leading to a missing command defect.
#4) Syntactic Flaws:
Syntactic flaws include typographical errors or grammatically incorrect sentences that are easily noticeable during the testing of the software’s graphical user interface (GUI). It’s important to note that we’re not referring to syntax errors in the code. The compiler will signal any syntax errors in the code.
Observe the misspelled term “Cancel” in this screenshot:
Also, notice this grammatically incorrect message in this screenshot:
#5) Defects in Error Handling:
Any errors that emerge when the user interacts with the software should be dealt with clearly and meaningfully. If this is not the case, it can be labeled as an Error Handling Defect.
Consider this visual. The error message gives no hint of what caused the actual error. Is it a missing mandatory field, a saving error, a page loading problem, or a system issue? Thus, this can be classified as an “Error Handling Defect”.
If achievable, the error log should give additional steps for the user to follow.
Should the software demand that certain mandatory fields be filled before saving information on a form, the validation messages should be lucid and directive, indicating the necessary course of action for the user.
Here are a few more instances:
#6) Errors Yielding Incorrect Calculations:
These kinds of errors are trigged by:
- Flawed logic
- Wrong formulas
- Data type inconsistencies
- Errors in coding
- Problems with function calls, and so forth
For instance, NASA lost the Mars Climate Orbiter in 1999 because a subcontractor used the English system of units, when the metric system was expected, leading to wrong operation of the orbiter’s thrusters. These mistakes caused the orbiter to crash soon after arriving at Mars.
#7) Control Flow Deviations:
The control flow in software refers to the following steps it will take and under what circumstances.
For instance, consider a system where the user needs to fill a form. The available options are Save, Save and Close, and Cancel. If a user clicks on “Save and Close”, their information should be saved, and the form should close. However, if clicking on the button doesn’t close the form, then it considered a control flow deviation.
Let’s try to categorize the following examples:
These are instances of Error Handling Defects.
This equates to a defect in the missing command. The “Cancel” button is nowhere to be found, which is required. Furthermore, both “Proceed” and “Delete” buttons perform the same function and are superfluous.
This is a Syntactic Defect.
Once a defect has been detected, reporting it is crucial. For optimal results, it’s best to report it as early as possible.
The report on the defects should encompass its description, priority, severity, triggers, steps to recreate the situation, and screen captures (if relevant).
For more guidance on creating effective defect reports, please visit this post.
Identifying, classifying, reporting, and finally remedying defects are all integral parts of quality control activities.
Nevertheless, prevention is always better than a remedy. The crux of software quality assurance is in setting up monitoring and inspection processes at each level of the software development lifecycle.
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The objective is to detect defects as soon as possible because the costs related to finding and mending defects surge substantially as the software development moves forward. Hence, identifying defects early is of paramount importance.
Finding and fixing a defect is least costly during the requirement analysis stage. The costs escalate with each successive stage and are most burdening during the post-release maintenance phase.
As Quality Assurance personnel, we may not always be directly involved in defining the requirements. Additionally, we might have little or no direct control over the quality of the requirements.
For that reason, it’s vital that we can identify, search for, and report any defects we find during the testing phase.
About the author: This enlightening piece was composed by Neha B. She is presently serving as a Quality Assurance Manager and is an expert in leading and managing on-site and offshore Quality Assurance teams.
We invite you to share about other kinds of software flaws that you are knowledgeable about or have come across.