Best practices for effective software performance testing

Today’s highly competitive software market leaves no room for unwieldy, slow and failing software solutions. And before your app or website hits the market, you always want to make sure it’s robust, responsive and ready to deliver seamless performance under any conditions.

You want to meet user expectations with a product that is fast, stable and scalable regardless of the number of people using it. That being the case, it is crucial that you run thorough performance testing to eliminate any issues that could hamper the capacity of your software, causing it to fail in the long run.

In this post, we’re talking about performance testing, its types, and some of the best ways to improve its efficiency.

What is performance testing?

Performance testing is responsible for determining how stable, effective and responsive your website or application is under different workloads and conditions. It is an important part of software quality assurance in charge of measuring and verifying qualitative and quantitative performance attributes of your software—from stability, scalability, and interoperability to resource usage, throughput, peak response times, and concurrent users.

Types of performance testing

Performance testing consists of several series of checks. Through load, stress, endurance, spike, configuration, and isolation testing, QA engineers can identify and address all the bottlenecks in your software’s subcomponents and processes before it goes to market.

Every type of testing serves a different purpose:

  1. Load testing validates your software’s ability to show high response times under a specific expected workload (concurrent number of users, transactions, etc.).
  2. Stress testing pushes your software beyond its normal working conditions to measure its performance under extreme loads.
  3. Endurance testing is conducted to determine whether your software can effectively sustain a specific expected workload without any performance degradation over a long period of time.
  4. Spike testing puts your software under sudden load fluctuations to check how it responds and whether the performance will suffer from abrupt workload spikes.
  5. Configuration testing determines how your software behaves under various combinations of software and hardware components (e.g. different platforms, browsers, devices, drivers, etc.).
  6. Isolation testing is carried out by breaking down your software into smaller parts and testing these components separately, which makes a well-disguised performance issue easier to find and fix.

Efficient performance testing: tips and tricks

Test early and often

This is the most important tip on the subject of practically any type of testing. By implementing quality assurance and testing as early as possible in your software development life cycle, you make addressing development issues easier, cheaper and faster for your project team. Instead of letting all the issues pile up and rushing with unrealistic testing deadlines right before launch, your team can focus on fixing performance bottlenecks as soon as they arise.

This is exactly why so many companies today adopt combined practices like DevOps and Continuous Testing (CT). By testing regularly, software developers recognize the risks of releasing faulty software and the rising costs of fixing it after launch. They are no longer willing to compromise the scope of their project for a tiny bit of saved resources upfront.

Include performance testing in your unit testing plan

A good place to start performance testing is the unit testing phase. There is great value in testing individual units of source code, modules, and usage procedures before you start testing them together. It’s easier for your team to detect and mark performance issues in separate areas early on than when your codebase becomes pretty massive and these issues are more difficult to find. 

Set realistic performance goals

In order to avoid wasting time and money experimenting with the wrong metrics, you have to understand the kind of conditions your software will be facing after launch. Before you begin, try to list all the common and particular performance factors to consider when testing. How many users do you anticipate? What key performance indicators do you and your target audience care about the most? What are the time requirements and acceptance criteria for a given process?

Depending on the kind of software you’re building and its complexity, your KPIs may vary from resource utilization, throughput, and error rate to peak response times, concurrent users, and requests per second. Focusing on the right metrics will help your team set achievable goals, prepare ideal benchmarks and have a clear understanding of your software’s performance limits.

Simulate real-world scenarios

Don’t focus solely on response times and server-side issues. Good server load results do not necessarily guarantee an enjoyable experience for your users. Always consider your users’ perspective on performance when creating test scenarios. Derive relevant metrics through monitoring and research of user behavior. It will help you generate specific situations your software might encounter when released and test against them with both key performance indicators and user habits in mind.

Use relevant testing environments

For your performance testing to be as accurate as possible, you have to make sure the testing environments you’ve chosen reflect real-world conditions, including hardware, software, and network configurations. Take the time to research your production environment and try to simulate it the closest you can. This will help you identify real issues without corrupting the actual production data.

Consider things like user geography and test against different locations to make sure your infrastructure provides optimal performance to users from other countries. Consider the platforms and devices your target audience uses. If they mostly use Apple devices, for example, focus on optimizing your product’s performance towards their software and hardware. If there is a bigger variety of target platforms and devices, include that in your testbed. Try keeping your testing environment as consistent as possible.

Optimize what you have before investing in more

Performance testing is key to making your infrastructure cost-effective. Don’t waste money getting more bandwidth and buying new servers before you’ve tested and utilized your current resources to the max. You can start with a small audience and scale up users over time to gradually identify bottlenecks, determine the peak states and see how the test results affect both the test environment servers and the users. Only then you can decide on whether it is worth investing in more infrastructure.

Conclusion

Now you know why software performance testing is one of the major quality assurance procedures you should conduct before releasing your product into today’s oversaturated software market. It verifies that the connection between the many elements in your software is seamless. As you open new markets and your user base continues to grow, it makes sure that every system is stable and durable, ready for intense workloads and able to handle peak counts.

Performance testing sure takes a lot of time and effort. But now that you know how to do it right, it can definitely add great value to your software development project. If you need help with performance testing or simply want to learn more, reach out to us! Our customer-obsessed engineers will gladly help you polish your testing processes to utter perfection.


TestFort is an outsourcing company dedicated to providing manual and automated testing services to startups, SMBs, and enterprise clients. Over the past 19 years we have completed over 300+ projects for clients from more than 40 countries. If you understand the value of thorough testing and need a reliable team for short-term work or long-term partnerships — get in touch!