tdd


TDD in an large project: How do you get started?


Simple question. Let's put on our engineer/project manager hat for a second:
You have a large project and you will have several different developers working on different parts. You have a solid functional spec and are ready to start figuring out your implementation. You want to practice Test Driven Development. Assume you will be given reasonable but not infinite time and money.
How do you start preparing the modules for implementation by the other developers? Do you start writing interfaces or do you start writing tests? Do you mix n' match?
How would you change your answer if you had a team of veteran coders? A team of less experienced folks? Would your coding environment change your decisions?
Strictly speaking - if you are doing TDD (not just Unit Testing) then you start with the tests first before writing the function that the Unit tests actually test.
All functionality that you write needs to have tests written to verify the code that you are about to write.
The developers themselves would be the ones writing the unit tests - functional/acceptance tests are a separate issue and could be (partially) written prior to work commencing.
If the team is not experienced with Unit Testing, they should start implementing features and then writing Unit Tests as soon as each little class/small piece of functionality is finished
Unit Tests (and TDD as a result) are not to test modules of systems - they are to test at a more granular level - that is that functions and classes do what the dev expects them to.
Testing at a higher level is outside the bounds of TDD, and stepping into other types of tests
If you have a good functional spec, I'd split the work...and start working on test cases.
Once you've got the test cases worked out, the developers can begin coding their modules and the tests to go with them.
...and the approach wouldn't change with different developers or coding environment.
Without searching and being fairly new here, I'm guessing there's been a lot of discussion around this, but let me give an answer anyway.
First, I'd ask what you mean by a 'large' project? I've seen some people label a project taking a few months and involving 4 or 5 programmers as a 'large project'. To others, a 'large project' means a multiple year duration and 30 or 40 devs. I'll assume it's somewhere in the middle, given you mention 'several developers'. To be safe, let's assume it's a half year to a year in duration with 5-10 devs.
As others have said, if you're doing TDD you'd start with the tests first, not a lot of design work. The design is emergent. In practice, however, I think there's a balance between the TDD approach (which I see as valuable but not essential) and simply ensuring you have good unit test coverage, which is essential in my view.
If you're a coder yourself and you have experience with TDD, I'd suggest you should be practicing what you'll be preaching. Rather than trying to design the whole system at an abstract level, definining interfaces, and so on, choose a core piece of the system. Make sure to do the simplest thing possible, get a green bar, refactor, add another test, and so on.
The biggest impediment to using TDD on a project with multiple developers is lack of experience with the methodology. Give your programmers a concrete example (even if it's a small bit of functionality) that really shows them how to do it the right way, pair with people as they come onto the project, have regular reviews of people's unit tests, and make sure it continues to be a topic that's at the forefront of what you're doing, not just an afterthought. If you're doing Scrum, make it part of your definition of 'done' for any task/story.
I'd also spend some time setting up something like EMMA or Cobertura (big fan of Cobertura), so you have some hard metrics by which to assess people's tests . effective your tests are, but they are a data point. If you have 20% test coverage, you can be pretty sure people aren't writing the tests they should. Conversely, just because you have 90% test coverage doesn't ensure the tests are good, which is the reason for things like pairing and reviews.
So, the simple answer is: give your guys an example, focus on pairing/reviews, and put some things in place like a code coverage tool to help keep the team honest.
TDD isn't exactly what you're looking for. TDD happens at the beginning of the project and drives development, hence Test Driven Development.
What you're likely looking for is a test writing strategy. From being on numerous big projects that have implemented testing later on, here are some tips:
Start small. Don't try to get 100% coverage on the entire project, choose one class or one set of functions and begin there.
The impulse will be to start with your smallest/simplest class/functions just to get some quick wins and have code coverage at 100% for one file. Don't.
Instead, as you get bug reports and fix them, write tests to support yourself. It becomes an incredibly effective exercise to write tests to demonstrate bug, fix bugs, run tests and not see a bug.
As you get new feature requests, write tests to support yourself. It's the same effect as fixing bugs.
Once you have a few tests written, run them continuously. There's no point to having tests if they're all broken and/or not being run.
True, you don't end up with 100% code coverage, but you can steadily and regularly apply more and more tests and after a dozen bugs or so, you'll have quite a few useful tests. And more importantly, you'll get more and more tests is the "worst" or most problematic areas of the system. We're doing this now with web2project: http://caseysoftware.com/blog/unit-testing-strategy-web2project.
In traditional development (non TDD), between having a functional spec and writing the first line of code there is a lot of designing involved. You would still need to go through this process and this definitely depends on the skill level of the team. The only thing that would be different in TDD is to write the test cases just before writing the code. You obviously cannot write the tests without knowing what classes/interfaces are involved.

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