Computer software has become an integral part of people’s lives although many people are still not really aware of it. Various software have been developed to help people in the way they do their jobs, transact business, study, travel, shop, and in many other important activities. Manufacturing operations are more efficient and less costly, transactions are faster and convenient, medical examinations are more thorough and less painful or invasive and many hazardous activities are now safer because of the various software and hardware installed in the machines used.
The use of software, be it an application software or a system software, is so widespread that software development has become big business in a competitive environment. Several software are being developed all over the world. Marketing the product is also worldwide as long as there is internet access. Delivery of the product is easy as downloading it to a computer after paying online.
Online purchase of software can be risky for both, the seller as well as the buyer. While the buyer of the software may waste his or her money in buying defective software, the seller who sells defective software may not only lose business, but also the reputation and marketing presence. A very good feedback, testimony or any other form of endorsement for the product would have all people with internet access worldwide as potential buyers.
To survive the competitive market, it is a must that the products provide the buyers with true value for the amount they paid for it. Various software tests are performed at the different stages of development and on the finished product prior to ensure a competitiveness edge in terms of quality, compatibility, cost and delivery.
Compatibility testing is one of the software tests that ensure complete customer satisfaction. Compatibility testing is a non-functional test to ensure that an application operates or performs as expected for all the intended customers. A non-functional test checks, if software operates according to its specified product characteristics like usability, documentation, compliance, reliability and other non-functional characteristics.
As a non-functional test, compatibility testing is not concerned with the resulting output per input. Compatibility test is intended to certify or validate that the software runs or operates properly with the many types of computers and peripherals, many versions of operating systems and in different environments. This test is a very efficient way of verifying the software to check if it works under any type of computing environments. After all, the end user wants high quality software that works on the system without any glitch.
Compatibility test is conducted by using the software under different hardware and software application conditions. The computing environment, where you conduct this test assumes importance, as the software product created must work in a real-time environment without any errors or bugs. You may want to consider the following computing environments, before conducting compatibility tests.
- Operating systems (Windows or Linux)
- Hardware peripherals (printers, scanners, peripherals, drives, etc)
- Browsers (Firefox, Internet Explorer, Opera)
- Database content
- Computing capacity
- Other related system software
To create an effective compatibility testing, software companies should either train and maintain a separate, independent testing group or hire the services of a third party to perform the test on the software, just prior to delivery. The advantages of having the testing done outside is that the company need not maintain a group of testers and the wide range of hardware and software used in testing.
To maintain the different software models, comprehensive compatibility testing is expensive. The disadvantage of not having an in-house compatibility testing facility is the scheduling. If there are other clients waiting in front of you, you have to include waiting time in the delivery schedule.
Some companies maintain a limited compatibility testing facility and hire the services of testing companies for the tests they cannot conduct compatibility test in their own facilities. However, it depends on the size and business volume of the company. A company developing a large volume of software products can easily maintain a well-equipped testing facility, while a small company will need to consider the cost of maintaining one.
Need for Compatibility Testing
A software product that is compatible with different computing environment at the user’s end will be the most successful one, both commercially and structurally. Compatible testing is a great way to check that your software works everywhere and on user’s computer systems. If it works well on a client machine, then you would have ascertained that the software has achieved its planned objectives.
The major reasons why software developers conduct various tests during and after software development are ensuring customer satisfaction and planning product improvement. Anytime, the current and future competitors could come up with a superior product that would cause your product to remain on the market shelves instead of sales. So, how does compatibility testing ensure customer satisfaction and continual product improvement? Here are some of the reasons that justify the cost of compatibility testing:
- To ensure that the product meets the requirements – What the end user or customer expects or desire from the software is very critical for the success of a software application. Before starting designing and developing software, the requirements or standards vis-à-vis quality will need to be set and agreed upon by both the developer and the end user. Any developmental activities that go on in the future should comply with these needs and requirements. A compatibility test with a wide range of software and hardware systems will most likely ensure that the software would meet the needs and requirements that the developers have committed to meet.
- Improve Sales and marketing – There is no better product endorser than a delighted customer. Give the customer all that they expect from the product and you have a happy and satisfied customer. Who would not be delighted to learn that the new software functions well, without any problem, and very quick upon installation on the computer?
- Maintain good product or company reputation – A reputation of being consistently compliant to the specified product requirements will propel the company to success.
- Reduce cost of quality and lower product cost – The cost of attending to customer complaints, product recalls and repairs are computed as cost of maintaining quality. An excessive numbers of customer complaints not only ruin the product’s reputation and the company’s reputations, they also add to the product’s cost. Unresolved or unattended customer complaints may lead to the filing of many legal suits against the developer.
This would also result in bringing increased attention to the supposed product failure. Reducing customer complaints to an almost insignificant level would result in substantial savings for the company. The savings could eventually translate to decreased software development cost and consequently lower product cost.
- Product improvement – Testing is not only a tool to control product quality. The testing results and recording these errors or discrepancies found will become good references to the software developers, in knowing how they can develop good products on a continuous basis.
Product developmental aspects should also take into consideration, while certifying product compatibility with various hardware and software specified in the test plan. This certification of compatibility compels buyers consider the buying product.
- Beat the competitor – Good products with great features and stability will help software developers beat the existing competition.
- Shareholder satisfaction – Better products produced at lower production cost and increased sales volume will increase profits and satisfy the company shareholders as well.
Compatibility testing is costly and time-consuming. Is it necessary to subject developed software to this kind of test? What are the advantages and disadvantages of conducting compatibility testing? Here are some of the significant advantages and disadvantages of compatibility testing.
Compatibility Testing Advantages
An efficient test ensures real compatibility among different computing environments because testers install and use the application on different hardware systems and under different computing environment. In addition, a truly dynamic test reveals quite a lot about the workability and stability of the software.
This test helps you enhance your firm’s image and reputation, as a maker and supplier of high class and productive software. Building good reputation is always difficult. A software product is very difficult to sustain and manage, especially when it is not stable, unworkable, and incompatible with differing working environments. Even a single error in the architecture might spoil your reputation.
Compatibility Testing Disadvantages
Compatibility testing will lead to a rise in cost of production and time. You will need to maintain staff, pay them the salary of their expectations, and update different types of hardware and software systems and payments for testing services. If you do not have a testing facility, then you will need to hire professional testers to do the job for you.
Test delays are common with compatibility testing, which may eventually result prolonged delivery schedules. Conducting this test is very time-consuming because testing has to be conducted with the various kinds of hardware and software those are currently in use by the end users.
One definition of quality is the ability of the product to function in the manner and mode expected by the buyer and the end user. Any testing for quality will add to the cost of production or development. However, incompatibility is a discrepancy or failure that needs immediate action, before any product is delivered to the end user.
Compatibility testing ensures that a gross and costly error, such as the failure to operate due to the issue of incompatibility among different computing environments, is detected and corrected, before the software is delivered to the end users.
Customers always expect that the software applications they buy to be error and bug free. The present method of compatibility testing is time consuming and slow. Until such a time when a quicker and inexpensive method of testing is designed, you may need to use the present method of compatibility testing.
A software product with a wider range of compatibility would certainly be a better product. On the other hand, a software product with limited applications and too many bottlenecks would cause a catastrophic disaster. Compatibility testing ensures that these things will never happen.