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What Is Smoke Testing?

Posted in Software Testing
what is smoke testing

What is Smoke Testing?

You might be wondering, “what is smoke testing?” Don't sweat it — you’re about to learn all you need to know about performing a smoke test, including the smoke testing meaning and smoke testing vs. sanity testing. 

Before we dive in, let's take a look at smoke testing for hardware.

Why Do We Call it Smoke Testing?

Before the phrase “smoke test” became synonymous with software, it only applied to hardware testing.

Let's say you want to test a new computer motherboard. You would follow this testing process: plug it in, turn the power on, and wait. If you see smoke coming from the hardware, it fails the test. If there’s no smoke, it passes the test. 

Today, smoke testing applies to software, too. It’s an efficient way to solve crucial issues before releasing new software.

QA engineers don’t expect to see actual smoke coming from software. Still, they have to ensure the software is flawless and ensure it's ready to proceed to the next phase of rigorous testing.

What is Smoke Testing?

There are many rounds of testing that software must go through, and smoke testing is one of them. The smoke test goes by different names — some people call it "build acceptance testing" (BAT), while others call it "confidence testing.” No matter the term you use, the goal of smoke testing remains the same: to test the basic functionalities of software.

For example, you might use smoke testing to test the response of a software’s graphical user interfaces (GUIs), or whether the software can install and run proper navigation between different pages. 

Additionally, smoke testing allows QA engineers to identify bugs and other defects. The QA team will then confirm if the software is ready for further testing, or whether developers should halt software development.

smoke testing diagram

If you are working on a GUI application, a smoke test will focus on one of the following:

  • Test navigation through primary pages and tabs
  • Verify the look and feel of your software
  • Check all crucial functionalities like a login form, sign-up page, carts, file exports, and more

 

You may have heard of sanity testing for software as well. What’s the difference between smoke testing vs sanity testing? Smoke testing focuses on the stability of basic functionalities on the initial software build, while sanity testing comes after smoke testing and ensures that any changes made to the software are working properly. 

Why is Smoke Testing Important?

Smoke testing helps developers and engineers ensure that new software is as flawless as possible. Smoke testing matters for the following reasons:

  • To identify critical software issues
  • To fix bugs before launching the software
  • To verify whether the software is stable or not
  • To gain customers' trust in your product
  • To assess the functionality of every feature 
  • To determine if the software is ready for the next phase of testing

 

Characteristics of Smoke Testing

Smoke testing lets you uncover issues and save your development team time and money. To optimize smoke testing, make sure you know all of its characteristics and process steps.

Here are the characteristics of smoke testing:

 

  • Build verification testing: To verify how user-friendly each feature is.
  • Choice of test: Manual or automatic smoke test, depending on the requirements and complexity of each software build.
  • Phases of testing
    • Integration testing combines and tests features as a group
    • System testing confirms an integrated software product
    • Acceptance testing determines if the software meets all the requirements

 

When is Smoke Testing Necessary?

When is Smoke Testing Necessary

Smoke testing is necessary for every software. You perform a smoke test under the following circumstances:

  • When there is a sudden change in the build of features or every time you deploy a new feature
  • At the beginning of the development lifecycle
  • Before a detailed test or regression testing
  • When you want to test the stability of your coding

 

Example: When developing an e-commerce application, here are some items that you test:

  • Signup button functionality
  • Push notifications
  • Search functionality based on the "product name,” "brand name,” and so on
  • Product specifications
  • Options
  • Delivery options
  • In stock or out of stock indicator

 

Who Should Do Smoke Testing?

Ideally, a person who performs a smoke test should know the new software’s features and how to test them. In most organizations, the task of smoke testing falls on the QA team, either a QA lead or engineer.

When a developer releases the build to the QA platform, a QA specialist will take over and conduct a thorough smoke test. 

 

Types of Smoke Testing

There are three types of smoke testing: 

  • Manual Method

One of the most common smoke test methods, the manual method is ideal for any startup company in building a suite of smoke tests. With a manual method, the tester updates or creates scripts and each unique code in the software.  We recommend that you perform between 20 to 50 tests, as anything less than that won't be enough to spot errors.

 

  • Automation method

Also called regression testing, the automated method of smoke testing compares already recorded tests against a new software to catch and eliminate bugs and errors quickly. This method is usually faster than the manual method. And, a perfect automation session can do more than test the software’s functionalities. It can also provide insight into the user's action when interacting with your software.

 

  • Hybrid method

The hybrid method combines both manual and automated testing, taking the best attributes of each. With the hybrid method, you can reap the benefits of the speed of automated testing as well as the security in a second check by manual testing. 

 

Benefits of Smoke Testing

Here are some of the advantages of smoke testing:

  • Smoke testing allows you to detect bugs faster.

You can use smoke testing to uncover bugs early in the software life cycle. This on its own will save you time and money. 

  • Smoke testing makes troubleshooting new bugs relatively easy.

Another advantage of using smoke testing is that it can troubleshoot new bugs. Thanks to its high coverage, you can spot regressive bugs effortlessly.

  • Smoke testing enhances competency in your development team.

If improving competency is one of your goals, then you shouldn't skip smoke testing. You can use it to test every single feature and avoid wasting resources.

  • Smoke testing lets you accept or reject new builds.

Smoke testing allows you to become a cautious gatekeeper. You can accept or reject any new build.

  • Smoke testing allows you to assess software development progress.

You can use smoke testing to establish whether a new build is ready for the next testing stage.

 

Smoke Testing Tips

How can we best maximize the benefits of smoke testing? Use these helpful tips below to ace your smoke testing:

  • Prepare For Your Smoke Test

Make sure that you have everything you need before you perform a smoke test. For example, you should ensure you have performing database tables and adequate backup storage. You might also want to gather all your files for testing beforehand and ensure your smoke testing software works perfectly well. 

  • Conduct Your Smoke Test Early

Nip coding issues immediately by conducting your smoke test early. You don’t want to have to fix bugs when you are about to launch your software. 

  • Record Each Smoke Test

Make a habit of recording each smoke test. This helps you access reliable data when you need it.

  • Perform Your Smoke Test Quickly

A proper smoke test shouldn't exceed 60 minutes. Don't keep developers waiting for hours for you to complete a single smoke test. 

 

Last Thoughts

Now that you have the answer to the question, “what is a smoke test?” we hope you have the tools to test any software before launch. 

Keep in mind that after each smoke test, you need to clean up. Cleaning up differs from one QA specialist to another. Some prefer to clean up before performing a smoke test; others do it after every smoke test. Cleaning in this context means deleting files, emptying database tables, and sometimes even stopping a server.

Zoe Biehl

Zoe Biehl

Zoe is Hackr.io's Senior Editor. With more than 8 years in the tech industry, her passion is writing and editing technology content that anyone can understand. View all posts by the Author

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