This week I attended a local meet-up of software testers. Michael Thiele from Saxonia Systems AG gave a talk about his view on testing and developing (original German title: “Testend Entwickeln – Entwickelnd Testen”).

The main message of the talk was that test-driven development on unit test level didn’t work for him and his team. Instead, they are now following the acceptance test-driven approach of development. Starting with the requirements in the specification of the software that is to be developed one derives the actual test cases that will later be used as an acceptance criteria. Michael emphasized that this is already done in code, not in some test case management tool nobody is looking at. Of course, the first description of the acceptance tests is pretty high-level, but it’s of good use to prepare automated checks. One defines the various test cases independent from the technologies that are used to run the tests. Then the implementation of the software or user story is done and unit tests are written directly after that followed by integration tests, if multiple components are involved.

Michael and his team made positive experience with that top-down approach of TDD, especially because developers get used to ask about the acceptance criteria instead of inventing their own. So, it fosters communication between product owner, testers and developers and its a good way to find bugs and gaps in the requirements early.

What is missing in that approach is a good overview of what actually is and isn’t tested. Michael told they tried to extract human-readable test documentation automatically from the test code. I still think that the behavior-driven approach is the better way to achieve the same. With a language like Gherkin you get the test documentation for free and can still benefit from reusing existing test methods, parameterization and so on. It even has good integration into current IDEs.

Summing up, it was a very good talk about a very interesting topic that is relevant for so many software development teams.