Maintaining a full set of software tests can be incredibly difficult — more so once your application becomes a vast, sprawling project. Even after they’re all written and run, they can sit and linger in your test suites for an eternity, going wholly unnoticed and potentially becoming a problem in the future.
Development teams working on these tests will likely find it a struggle to maintain them as your product grows and expands. This means the quality of these tests can decrease over time, becoming an unhealthy test that can stop them.
Understanding unhealthy software test types and how to combat them comes down to your test suite data and the ability to monitor and alert your team before they become a real problem.
What Are Unhealthy Software Tests?
Unhealthy software tests risk quality and pipeline velocity. These tests cause attrition to your CI/CD pipeline overtime and often become roadblocks for your QA team. Many times they’ve become ingrained enough into your test suites that you don’t even realize they’re a problem. Understanding the symptoms of these tests will help you diagnose any possibly unhealthy test cases in your current test suite.
Perfect, Never-Failing Tests
We would love to live in a world where we can get a piece of software to 100% pass all of its tests. But deep down, we know that’s only feasible for projects that are just in maintenance mode or unhealthy tests. If you have a test that always passes, no matter what, it could very well be a sign that the test can shift right. Having never failing tests run so frequently adds unnecessary execution time and maintenance resources.
Tip: Run the test in question a minimum of five times to consider it never failing and then assessing if it is adding value to justify the execution time.
Flaky tests are a notorious barrier to finding the real problems in your test suite. As products and test suites grow, so does decay and increased flakiness. Flaky tests are automated tests that fail randomly for reasons unrelated to the code changes being tested, and are often triggered due to issues with timing, concurrency, or other tasks that may be running simultaneously in the system.
Flaky tests are dangerous. Manually identifying if tests are flaky or if they can be trusted wastes time and harms developer trust in your test suite overall.
Constantly Failing Tests
The opposite of constantly passing tests, contact failures is a red flag for your test suite. These tests make developers feel like you’re walking on eggshells. They could just be fragile or test too many things in one go, but either way, they’re hard to work around. Constantly failing tests are an excellent indication they need to be rewritten.
And if these constantly failing tests stick around into your testing lifecycle, they can become a nightmare for your QA teams. Constantly failing tests will force testers to halt and figure out why they’re failing, which can lead to complete test rewrites, or they’ll need to split it into multiple smaller tests.
Sadly, tests that just keep running don’t end up like a heartwarming Oscar-winning film. Instead, they usually just keep running…and running…and so on. And with time being a precious resource, this only becomes a further drain on your team’s output.
If they go on for too long, they’ll continue to suck time out of your QA team’s busy days, when in reality, these tests most likely can be shortened, allowing your teams to get faster feedback.
Standard Approaches to Vanquishing Unhealthy Software Tests
Unfortunately, there isn’t a single remedy for unhealthy software tests but there are several ways teams have been able to stop them before they spiral out of control.
Identify and Document Test Cases: Your teams should create detailed lists covering the full scope of the software. That means including all of your test cases and positive/negative scenarios. That way, you’ll all know how your tests should look and what’s covered.
Automate Your Tests: A developer’s best friend is automation, so make sure your tests are as automated as possible. With a large suite of automated tests, your QA teams can spend more time examining performance and less time doing menial tasks.
Monitor Test Performance: Ideally, you’ll want to monitor how your tests perform across test suite performance metrics. This will not only help your team be more efficient, but it’ll also give you stellar insights into your testing lifecycle as a whole.
Utilize Test Frameworks: Why work hard when you can work smart? Your QA teams can rapidly set up and start testing by utilizing already existing testing frameworks. That way, they’ll always have a great reference point for testing and clear guidelines to follow as your test suites grow.
Implement Continuous Integration: If you haven’t already, implementing Continuous Integration empowers your team to dramatically shorten your development feedback loop. Your developers can test faster and catch issues far before they get out of hand. Plus, it can improve developer experience and support faster releases, overall.
Double down on Quality Assurance: Your teams are the backbone of your entire company — so treat them like it! Their developer experience is just as crucial as your dev teams, so you'll go farther than ever by ensuring they have good documentation and the tools they need to succeed.
Rehabilitate Unhealthy Software Tests with Launchable
The time and resources required to spot every poorly performing test can easily become a plague — but there’s a great antidote: data-driven pipelines.
By leveraging the power of machine learning, you can stop unhealthy tests from harming your quality and velocity. Machine learning allows your teams to take a data-driven approach to spot and prevent the spread of all four types of unhealthy tests. And with Launchable, you can get your tests on the fast track in no time using your existing toolset.
Launchable gives you all the information you need on the health of your tests with our Unhealthy Tests insights. With it, you’re able to see how different tests performed and whether or not they fall into one of these four categories:
Never Failing Tests
Tests that take too long
Tests that fail too often
Launchable makes it easy to see and triage your top flaky, never failing, always failing, and top longest tests and assess if your recent changes contributed to failures or if it’s your tests that need some TLC.
Unhealthy software tests plague every developer. If your tests are flaky, running too long, or fail too often, it may be a sign that your tests are coming down with something.
Launchable pairs your thorough testing with our AI-powered test intelligence platform to give you the insights you need to make data-driven decisions. See how your tests perform and spot any bad symptoms before they get out of hand.