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How test-driven development increases overall usability

Test-driven development (TDD) can be the path to not having to reinvent the wheel with every new test. In the test-driven development I’ve done, I’ve found that my tests force me to write a more manageable interface over time. Early in a programming a class, I find that I can get away with something simple that might not be intuitive. But the more tests I add (so I can add more and more functionality), the more refactoring I have to do to get the previous tests to pass. This continually forces me to think about the interfaces I have and the best way to test them. That gets me thinking about simplifying my previous crufty code. In the end, I have a more usable interface for me, which I suspect also makes it a more usable interface for others.

The folks over at UX Booth recently posted an article on “How Test-Driven Development Increases Overall Usability.” As with all of their articles, it’s a well-researched and well-written look at the topic. In the article, they contrast testing at the user interface with testing at the application interfaces. It’s not an in-depth technical article, but it’s an interesting look at the topic. I think they accurately express one of the core ideas of test-driven development—to “make the application more usable to everyone involved.”

Another great example of TDD increasing usability can be found in Dale Emery’s analysis of Brian Button’s article “TDD Defeats Programmer’s Block—Film at 11.” Dale points out Brian’s general pattern of naming his tests using stimulus, result, and context. The naming scheme makes the tests more readable and allows you to readily interpret what the code/tests are trying to accomplish. It’s another, more detailed example of the UX Booth idea of usability at the application interface. Dale further expands on this pattern in a follow-up post on the anatomy of responsibility.

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