Agile development methodologies are increasingly necessary to adapt to rapidly changing requirements, deliver value faster, and ensure a robust user experience. While many strategies address these challenges, behavior-driven development (BDD) is gaining particular attention for its unique ability to deliver on these goals through enhanced collaboration.
In this article, we’ll look at BDD, why enterprises are adopting it, and what it means for QA testing teams.
BDD focuses on creating a shared understanding of how software should behave, but it requires a shift in mindset and tools — particularly for quality assurance teams.
What is BDD?
Behavior-driven development (BDD) is an Agile software development methodology that encourages collaboration between developers, testers, and non-technical stakeholders. As an extension of test-driven development (TDD), it focuses on creating a shared understanding of how software should behave to avoid miscommunication and rework.
These efforts accomplish three goals:
- Encouraging collaboration to build a shared understanding.
- Working in rapid, small iterations to tighten the feedback loop.
- Producing “living” documentation that’s always up to date.
The process actually involves several steps:
- The BDD process begins by pulling down a user story and discussing concrete examples of the new functionality. Usually, this occurs in a discovery workshop where testers, developers, and stakeholders meet to brainstorm ideas.
- Next, the team documents the concrete examples in a human-readable and executable way. Typically, the process involves translating a Gherkin test specification written during the discovery workshop into executable code for test automation.
- And finally, developers implement the behavior described by the examples using automated tests to guide development. The process is similar to test-driven development, which seeks only to write enough code to pass the test.
Cucumber’s documentation provides an excellent overview of the BDD process, including the concepts of discovery workshops, example mapping, and writing Gherkin tests. You also can check out Cucumber’s live or online classes for more in-depth training from experts. The online courses are free and focus on specific roles and languages.
Why Use BDD?
Many enterprises adopt behavior-driven development to gain or maintain their competitive advantage in software delivery. After all, many software defects and related issues stem from poor communication. For example, a feature may not accomplish an intended business goal, resulting in software bloat and wasted time spent reworking the feature.
BDD can help solve these problems in a few ways:
- Better collaboration — BDD encourages communication between developers, testers, and stakeholders. By creating a shared understanding early on, there’s less room for misunderstandings, and the development process becomes more efficient.
- Clear requirements — BDD uses natural language to define software behavior through “Given-When-Then” scenarios. These scenarios make the requirements easier for everyone to understand, including non-technical stakeholders.
- Less rework — Clear requirements reduce the potential for costly rework and speed up development. And less rework translates to more time spent developing new features to build or maintain your competitive advantages.
- Test automation — BDD tools like Cucumber enable automated tests by translating human-readable scenarios into executable code. As a result, it’s much easier to maintain and scale the test suite, improving test coverage and quality.
- Faster feedback — Test automation provides rapid feedback on the software’s functionality, helping identify and fix issues earlier in development. So, teams can spend less time fixing defects while ensuring a robust and error-free user experience.
It’s essential to note that unlocking these benefits requires patience. BDD requires a shift in mindset and tools, and it will take time for everyone to catch on. As a result, it’s common to see a modest reduction in throughput during the initial stages of adoption (although defect rates should start to drop immediately due to better collaboration).
Impact on QA
Behavior-driven development involves a significant shift in how quality assurance testing works — conceptually and in practice. Therefore, when adopting BDD, it's essential to include QA testers in the conversation and ensure they understand how their roles and tools will evolve. That way, you can provide a smooth transition with fewer potential hiccups.
Three significant changes:
- Shifting Left — BDD shifts testing to the beginning of the development process. QA testers must participate in discussions about requirements and behavior before writing any code. This open communication may require a change in mindset from simply testing the end product to collaborating on the design and development.
- Understanding context — BDD tests focus on a software’s behavior from a business standpoint rather than solely technical functionality. As a result, QA testers must understand the technical aspects and the business context when writing and executing tests.
- Test automation — QA testers must become familiar with BDD tools and frameworks like Cucumber. In particular, they must write and maintain executable specifications and collaborate with developers on implementation. This collaboration may include writing tests in Gherkin syntax and translating that into automated tests.
In addition to a shift in mindset and roles, QA teams may require new test management tools that support BDD workflows. For example, Zephyr Enterprise provides native support for BDD tests, making it easy to create BDD features and incorporate them into test automation workflows.
On a broader level, Zephyr makes it easy to combine BDD, automation, and test management and synchronize all your test automation processes and results in one place. That way, you can make informed release decisions and keep your team in sync with end-to-end traceability and accessible test metrics.
The Bottom Line
Behavior-driven development is becoming increasingly popular to improve communication, reduce rework, and increase velocity. However, BDD adoption requires a shift in mindset and tools, particularly for quality assurance teams. So, it’s essential to plan and address these issues to realize the benefits of BDD most effectively.
If you’re interested in adopting BDD, Cucumber and Zephyr make it easy to transition and effectively manage your tests.