Ron Jeffries – What makes a good test suite?

Ron Jeffries is one of the fathers of Extreme Programming. He’s also one of the most prolific emailers in the community, always ready to help a novice get started and tell a master where they’re screwing up.

The experts know when Ron thinks they’re screwing up. Ron is our community curmudgeon. When he tells me to change my ways, he’s usually right.

I asked Ron the same question that I asked everyone else:

What are the characteristics of a good test suite?

Ron’s Answer

You’re right, not easy. I am assuming “automated test suite” here, recognizing that there is a need for exploratory testing, and perhaps even a suite of exploratory testing, as well. Some characteristics that come to mind:

  • Fast to run
  • Two levels, programmer tests and customer tests. Serve as a double net and also as a strong communication technique between customer / devs.
  • Customer tests point to stories working and not;
  • Programmer tests point to objects / code / abstractions working or not;
  • Programmer tests are not unit tests. They test clusters of objects too.
  • Each test tells a story of how the system should work
  • Tests in order tell a story of how the system evolved into being
  • Tests tend to be pointed at a single issue
  • Tests are integrated with build release process to serve as gateways to going forward
  • Test running is automatic. Release / checkin etc depend on passing.

Just some random thoughts. I’d like to see what all you come up with, and will try to think of more if my brain opens up.


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