System quality assurance and code testing

The term ‘Quality Assurance’, or ‘QA’, refers to methods used to test and improve the production process and the quality, security, suitability, maintainability and reliability of a product or system, which take place during its design and manufacture, and prior to its release. These processes are sometimes known as measuring ‘code integrity’. The main goal is to prevent problems from taking place, rather than solve them after they have occurred.

Often referred to as ‘debugging’- the production of a system testing plan often becomes an essential part of the creative process for a developer: thinking about how the system might break often results in better system design before coding even starts. The process of debugging can be aided by specialist software, known as a ‘debugger’. A debugger is normally included in integrated development environment (IDE) software, along with a source code editor.

Unit testing is when each individual unit of a program (the smallest part it can be divided into) is tested independently from the other units to ensure it is fit for use, and to identify problems as early as possible in the development cycle. Static testing is less detailed, and mainly involves checking the syntax of the code, without actually using the software. Some software incorporates built-in tests (self-testing code), and error checking functions can sometimes be written.

A software application called a ‘bug tracking system’ can be used to keep track of and prioritise any bugs in a system that is being developed or maintained. Sometimes issues and development requests can be reported by the system’s external users, but some systems only allow internal reporting.

User testing and the use of iterative design can also contribute to the processes of system quality assurance.

Related methods include: Iterative design and Usability analysis.

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