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Modular test design enables effective and efficient manual and automated test design and execution. Use modular design techniques to build successful automated testing suites that are easier to maintain, support and add full-system test coverage.

Modular test design creates function-based tests that take functionality divided into separate test modules and develop tests based on each function. The functional tests become reusable modules that can be combined in any number of patterns to create end-to-end or system tests.

Modular test design enables improved maintenance ability as well as an increased understanding of test objectives. The individual modules are simpler to keep updated and easier to follow than long-form procedural-style test cases. Additionally, when keeping the core modules updated, all other tests that use that module are also updated. Updating test cases is simpler and faster than when using a procedural test design.

When using modular design for manual test creation, it’s simpler to then create automation by automating each functional module. Creating test automation is more efficient and effective when tests are small and focus on only a single or small group of functions. In this way, a regression test automation suite is built to handle full system regression testing.

Automated testing continues to grow but still struggles with success. Automated test suites require repeat execution and repeat failure analysis. Part of the failure analysis work is determining if an issue is a defect or a broken automated test script. Failure analysis and manually retesting to determine defects are both time-consuming and tedious. Modular test design addresses the automated test maintenance issue by containing automated scripts in simple, straightforward modular tests where failures are easier to isolate.

This guide discusses the advantages of using modular test design to create understandable manual test suites and build maintainable, effective automated tests.

Key Takeaways

  • What is modular test design?
  • What are test case design methods?
  • How to write a test case design?
  • What are the advantages and disadvantages of using modular test design?
  • Learn how to build a modular test suite.
  • Discover how to build a successful test automation suite from modular tests.
  • Find out how to reduce test maintenance and defect analysis time as well as cost.
  • Determine if an automated modular test design can provide system-level test coverage for your application.

What Is Modular Test Design?

Modular test design is a method of creating manual and automated regression test suites that provide full functional test coverage using individual functional modules. Testers design test cases by dividing an application into functional areas. Each functional area is split into one or more modules based on complexity. Modular test design builds reusable test case modules that are understandable and straightforward, and that verify a single function within the application.

Testers then design full end-to-end or system tests by combining the separate functional modules into various scenarios to cover customer workflows, data flows or negative test scenarios. Each core test module is copied and then edited if changes to the module are needed. Otherwise, the core test module is used as often as needed to cover all application functionality.

Modular test design fits both manual and automated testing needs. Modular tests can be grouped by function as well as by different workflow or system scenarios. Updates and maintenance are done once per module with all shared modules getting updated concurrently. By updating concurrently, test maintenance is reduced.

Modular tests are easier to follow. Rather than having to read through multiple pages or tabs of a procedural or step-by-step test case, modular test cases create direct and efficient test cases that can cover all application functionality including system, integrated and functional testing techniques.

What Are Test Case Design Methods?

Test case design techniques are various methods of creating test cases. The test case design chosen helps the testing team provide accurate and thorough test steps in an understandable and repeatable manner.

For example, boundary value analysis, equivalence partitioning and decision tables are test case design methods. Each of these are created with a different test design. Decision tables are typically created as a test matrix using a spreadsheet or graphical chart to designate the input values and the expected output for each. Similarly, for boundary value analysis test design, the values that test the boundary for an input field may be listed in a table or line list rather than individual functional steps.

The test design used makes the test cases effective, efficient, understandable, thorough and repeatable.

How to Write a Test Case Design?

Test case designs can be written as sequential steps, test matrices or spreadsheet lines of input and output values. Test case design construction depends on the type of testing technique being used and the objective of the test.

Testing teams can create their own test designs or use standardized templates. Many testing teams combine different test designs into longer test modules. Use the test design that matches the test objective best and provides accurate test coverage.

What Are the Advantages and Disadvantages of Using Modular Test Design?

Modular test design represents a non-standard approach to test design. Typical test design takes a linear, procedural or step-by-step approach. The typical test design includes all details and aspects, or related functionality used with the test.

Often tests are long, complex and difficult to follow unless a tester fully understands the application functionality. Linear tests work for manual testing but don’t translate to successful test automation based on the length and complexity of the test objectives.

Advantages of modular test design include:

  • Increased test reusability
  • Consistent test structure
  • Reduced maintenance time
  • Test scripts are focused on specific application functions
  • Utilizes data abstraction

Disadvantages of modular test design include:

  • Increased lead time for test design and development
  • Detailed knowledge of application functionality required
  • May challenge users because test development is not linear or step-by-step

Modular test design increases test maintainability by reducing the length and complexity of the test. Making tests single function based and separating them into reusable modules eliminates the built-in redundancy of linear tests and reduces confusion when testers try to follow complex linear test workflows.

How to Build a Modular Test Suite

So, you want to go forward with modular test design. How can you start building a modular test suite?

To start using modular test design:

  • Separate application functionality into all functional parts.
  • Identify all the system and user workflows the application performs.
  • Create test modules that test each functional piece.
  • Take the modules created and link them together using calls into system and user workflows.

The first step involves separating the application into all its functional parts. Once the functional modules are identified then the test design process begins.

When designing modular tests, spend time determining how to write specific steps that are still generic enough to be used in various test scenarios. Once the modules are created, when calling to link modules into test flows be aware of the need to possibly pass in variables or data as needed.

Building Automated Test Suites from Modular Test Cases

Once the testing team has identified and started creating test modules, then automated test development begins. Automated testing works best when created in small, defined scripts that test specific functional outputs. The more succinct the automated test script, the easier it is to maintain and troubleshoot if failures occur.

Automating modular designed tests involves automating the actual module test function as well as automating the calls or links to other test modules. Each module can be linked to a trigger during automated test execution in various workflows or system testing scenarios.

Automated testing suites then cover both the functional modules as well as full system testing. The process of automating workflow test cases is simpler to code and maintain and less time-consuming to debug.

Modular test design takes time to develop initially but it’s time invested in automated test scripting success. Modular design benefits manual testing as well as test automation. Using modular test design testing teams create full test coverage by individual function as well as system and workflow tests. Essentially, the application test coverage increases while the time it takes to maintain tests is reduced.

Modular test design can be tackled without tools, or many test management tools offer modular design templates to get the process started.

Are your testers already maxed out with test executions? Consider tools to make managing testing both efficient and effective. Testing tools like Test Studio leverage the latest in testing technology for creating, managing and executing effective and efficient test execution, be it manual or automated.

About the Author

Amy Reichert

A QA test professional with 23+ years of QA testing experience within a variety of software development teams, Amy Reichert has extensive experience in QA process development & planning, team leadership/management, and QA project management.  She has worked on multiple types of software development methodologies including waterfall, agile, scrum, kanban and customized combinations. Amy enjoys continuing to improve her software testing craft by researching and writing on a variety of related topics. In her spare time, she enjoys gardening, cat management and the outdoors.


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