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Discussion on: What are the alternatives to unit tests?

conectionist profile image

Did I do unit tests wrong?
I can't say for sure, but what I can say if "Trying to hit that famous 100% coverage" is a nothing but a wild goose chase. To find out why, see this article:

Is there an alternative?
Code changes happen all the time and unit tests have to change with them.
It's unpleasant but necessary.
However, if a large part of your architecture has to change (and this happens quickly/frequently) then the problem is not with your unit tests.
It's with the architects and the faulty/rushed decisions they make when deciding upon an unstable/unreliable architecture.

Are integration tests (black- or grey-box) enough when automated?
Unit tests and integration tests serve different purposes. They are complementary. They are not meant to be a substitute for one another.

Unit tests are meant to test code. They are like a defense mechanism against yourself (or, more specifically, against accidental mistakes you might make).
The idea is the following:

  • you write a piece of code
  • you decide what your expectations you have after that code has run
  • you write some unit tests that make sure those expectations remain the same after you've made some changes in that area

Because it's possible that changes you make in some places, have undesired effects in other places. That's where unit tests come in. They tell you "No, no! If you continue with these changes, you will break something that was working well. Back to the drawing board!"

Integration tests on the other hand test functionality. They check if everything works ok when it's all put together.

Is TDD a placebo?
Certainly not. But like all things, it works only if used properly.

As a side note, don't be discouraged if your unit tests didn't catch any major bugs. That's very good! That means your a good programmer who writes very good code.
If your unit tests failed every time you ran them, it would mean you're very careless (or in love and with your head somewhere else :)) )

Think of it this way:
If you hire a security guard and you have no break-ins, are you upset that you have no break-ins?
You're probably feel that you're paying the security guard for nothing.
But trust me, if he wasn't there, you'd have more break-ins that you'd like.

kayis profile image
K Author

Yes, I guess that's the problem.

After a few years of practice you write code that is pretty robust and the tests you write basically do nothing until the first changes to the software happen :)

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