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Introduction

Effective Testing for E-Commerce

CQA Doc No 22

Effective Testing for E-commerce What is e-commerce? E-Commerce is defined as the software and business processes required to allow businesses to operate solely or primarily using digital data flows. Why is testing important in the e-commerce environment?

The first and primary reason is because ecommerce is, by its very nature, business critical. The second reason is that e-commerce is a massive and growing market place but one which requires large up-front investment to enter successfully. There are already 5.8 million web sites worldwide. The third reason is because the history of e-commerce development has been littered with expensive failures, at least some of which could have been avoided by better testing before the site was opened to the general public.

At the same time, the technical environment of front-end systems is changing very rapidly, so change is imposed on e-commerce sites even when the site itself is not changing. This requires more regression testing than would be expected in a conventional application to ensure that the site continues to function acceptably after changes to browsers, search engines and portals. New issues have also come to the fore for testers, notably security of transactions and the performance of web sites under heavy load conditions. Front End Systems Static Testing. The front end of an ecommerce site is usually a web site that needs testing in its own right, it must also offer an acceptable level of service on one or more platforms, and have portability between chosen platforms. It should be tested against a variety of browsers, to ensure that images seen across browsers are of the same quality. Usability is a key issue and testing must adopt a user perspective. It is also important to gain confidence in the security of the site. Many of these tests can be automated by creating and running a file of typical user interactions – useful for regression testing and to save time in checking basic functionality. Dynamic Testing. The services offered to customers must be systematically explored, including the turnaround time for each service and the overall server response. This, too, must be exercised across alternative platforms, browsers and network connections. E-commerce applications are essentially transaction-oriented, based on key business processes, and will require effective interfacing between intranet-based and extranet-based applications. Back End Systems The back end of e-commerce systems will typically include ERP and database applications. Back end testing, therefore, is about business application testing and does not pose any new or poorly understood problems from a business perspective, but there are potential new technical problems, such as server load balancing. What is essential, however, is to apply the key front end testing scenarios to the back end systems. In other words, the back end systems should be driven by the same real transactions and data that will be used in front end testing. The back end may well prove to be a bottleneck for user services, so performance under load and scalability are key issues to be addressed. Security is an Page 1 of 3

The Testing Challenges A successful e-commerce application is: •Usable. Problems with user interfaces lose clients. •Secure. Privacy, access control, authentication, integrity and nonrepudiation are big issues. •Scaleable. Success will bring increasing demand. •Reliable. Failure is unthinkable for a business critical system. •Maintainable. High rates of change are fundamental to e-commerce. •Highly available. Downtime expensive to tolerate. Technical Issues The development process for e-commerce has unique characteristics and some associated risks. It is generally recognized that a ‘web year’ is about 2 months long. For this reason, Rapid Application Development (RAD) techniques predominate in the ecommerce environment, and in some cases development is even done directly in a production environment rather than in a separate development environment. These changes increase risk and create new challenges for testers, because time pressures militate against spending a longer time testing sites before they are released. 10718249.doc is too

Syntel CQA Forum

Effective Testing for E-Commerce

CQA Doc No 22

issue in its own right, but also has potential to impact on performance. Middleware and Integration Integration is the key to e-commerce. In order to build an e-commerce application, one or more of the following components are usually integrated: •Database Server •Server-side application scripts/programs •Application server •HTML forms for user interface •Application scripts on the client •Payment server •Scripts/programs to integrate with legacy back-end systems The process of developing an e-commerce site is significantly different from developing a web site – commerce adds extra levels of complexity. One highly complex feature is that of integration. If an application is being built that uses a database server, web server and payment server from different vendors, there is considerable effort involved in networking these components, understanding connectivity-related issues and integrating them into a single development (executable) environment. If legacy code is involved, this adds a new dimension to the problem, since time will need to be invested in understanding the interfaces to the legacy code, and the likely impact of any changes. It is also crucial to keep in mind the steep learning curve associated with cutting-edge technologies. Keeping pace with the latest versions of the development tools and products to be integrated, their compatibility with the previous versions, and investigating all the new features for building optimal solutions for performance can be a daunting task. Also, since e-commerce applications on the web are a relatively new phenomenon, there are unlikely to be any metrics on similar projects to help with project planning and development. The maintenance tasks of installing and upgrading applications can also become very involved, since they demand expertise in: •Database administration. •Web server administration. •Payment server administration. •Administration of any other special tools that have been integrated into the site. 10718249.doc

Technical support should also be borne in mind. Correctly functioning back-end and front-end systems offer no guarantees of reliable overall functionality or performance. End-toend testing of complete integrated architectures, using realistic transactions, is an essential component. Ten Key Principles Commerce Testing of Effective is a Erisk

Principle 1. Testing management process

Effective testing adopts a strategy that is tailored to the type of application or service being tested, the business value of the application or service, and the risks that would accompany its failure Plans should include measures of risk and value and incorporate testing and other quality-related activities that ensure development is properly focused on achieving maximum value with minimum risk. Principle 2. Know the value applications being tested. of the

To manage risk effectively, we must know the business value of success as well as the cost of failure. The business community must be involved in setting values on which the risk assessment can be based and committed to delivering an agreed level of quality. Principle 3. Set clear testing objectives and criteria for successful completion (including test coverage measures). The test programme must be properly planned, with test scripts giving precise instructions and expected results. There will also need to be some cross-referencing back to the requirements and objectives, so that some assessment can be made of how many of the requirements have been tested at any given time Principle 4. Create an effective test environment. Cross-platform testing is, naturally, an important part of testing any multi-platform software application. In the case of ecommerce, the term ‘cross-platform’ must also extend to include ‘cross-browser’. In order to ensure that a site loads and functions properly from all supported platforms, as much stress and load testing as possible should be performed. Principle 5. Test as early as possible in the development cycle. Page 2 of 3

Syntel CQA Forum

Effective Testing for E-Commerce

CQA Doc No 22

In the case of an e-commerce site, a fault found after shipping will have been detected as a failure of the site by the marketplace, which is potentially as large as the number of Internet users, hence that the earlier faults are detected, the cheaper the cost of rectification. Principle 6. User Acceptance Testing (UAT). E-commerce users are becoming increasingly intolerant of poor sites, and technical issues related to functionality, performance or reliability have been cited as primary reasons why customers have abandoned sites. Early exposure of users to sites with problems increases the probability that they will find the site unacceptable, even if developers continue to improve the site during beta testing. Principle 7. Regression testing. Webbased applications that reference external links need regular regression testing, even if their functionality does not change, because the environment is changing continuously Principle possible. 8. Automate as much as

be immediately expensive in terms of lost revenue and even more expensive in the longer term if disaffected users seek alternative sites. Yet the time pressures in the e-commerce world militate against the thorough testing usually associated with business criticality, so a new approach is needed to enable testing to be integrated into the development process and to ensure that testing does not present a significant time burden.

The key is to take testing processes sufficiently seriously that you document them and control them so that automation becomes a feasible option – then you select, purchase and install the tools. Principle 9. Capture test incidents and use them to manage risk at release time. All incidents found must be recorded via an incident management system (IMS), which can then be used to ascertain what faults are outstanding in the system and what the risks of release might be. Outstanding incidents can be one of the completion criteria that we apply, so the ability to track and evaluate the importance of incidents is crucial to the management of testing. Principle 10. Manage change properly to avoid undoing all the testing effort. Things change quickly and often in an ecommerce development and management of change can be a bottleneck, but there is little point in testing one version of a software application and then shipping a different version; not only is the testing effort wasted, but the risk is not reduced either. Conclusions Testing is crucial to e-commerce because ecommerce sites are both business critical and highly visible to their users; any failure can 10718249.doc Page 3 of 3

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