What I Learned When I Developed a Web App

Last week, I released a web application for people to use to practice UI and API automation. It took me about four months to develop, working on weeknights and weekends, and it was quite an adventure! Here are five lessons I learned while developing the app.

Lesson One: Software development is hard; really hard
You’ve probably heard this before, and probably from the developers you work with. But unless you’ve actually tried to develop an app yourself, you really don’t know how hard it is. I remember in my early days of software testing, when I would find bugs where field validations weren’t working correctly, and I would assume that the developer just didn’t care. But now that I know just how hard it is to get validations to even work at all, I am really sympathetic!

Lesson Two: We have product owners for a reason
Take a moment to appreciate your product owner this week; the work they do is more important than you realize. When I started to work on the front end of my application I didn’t think it would be very complicated because it only has a few simple screens. But as I was coding the pages, I kept coming up with questions about how each page should be connected to the others. Finally I had to stop what I was doing and sketch out wireframes. This is the kind of thing that product owners do for us so that we don’t have to!

Lesson Three: Even the best coding courses won’t teach you everything
As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, last year I took a really great Node.js course to prepare me for this project. I learned a ton about how to create and validate APIs, how to create a web page, how to work with a database, and how to publish an application. But there were some details missing about working with web pages and JavaScript files. Even though the course was comprehensive, it couldn’t teach me absolutely everything. I didn’t have time to take another course, so I wound up doing a lot of web searching.

Lesson Four: There are a lot of different ways to solve a problem
All that web searching brought me to my fourth realization: there are a lot of different ways to do things with code, and this makes software development very confusing. One of the things I struggled with was how to get authentication working on my site. I had it working in the back end- thanks to the Node.js course- but I had no idea how to get it working in the front end. My searches would bring up several different blog posts, each with a different solution. I’d start trying to follow one tutorial, and then hit a roadblock and decide that it wouldn’t work for me. Finally I found this post, which came the closest to meeting my needs.

Lesson Five: Testing and developing are different skill sets
There has been a lot of focus recently on making sure that the whole development team owns quality, and this is a really good thing! Test automation is more reliable and scalable when developers help with the automation frameworks and add new tests. But working on this project, it was so clear to me that testing and developing need really different mindsets. While I was developing the app, I kept on thinking of all the different things I could do to test it, and I had to tell myself to stop thinking like that so that I could focus and get the development work done! When I’d finished creating the API, then I took a break and created all the tests I could think of. And when I finished the UI I had a lot of fun doing exploratory testing on the app. There may be some people out there in the world who enjoy both developing and testing, but I’ve never met anyone who is truly passionate about both.

Developing my app made me understand the big picture of web applications better, and made me appreciate the developers and product owners I work with even more! If you have some time to spare, I recommend going on an adventure like this yourself.

4 thoughts on “What I Learned When I Developed a Web App

  1. Viacheslav

    Thanks for your thoughts. Now, as a tester, I’ll really reconsider my attitude to the bugs and issues in the developer’s work.

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  3. Paul Lewis-Borman

    Authentication as a service is very appealing if you’re creating a SaaS app enabling your users to login using their existing Google or O365 accounts. However I’ve run into problems with this because often “large enterprise” clients disable 3rd party cookies in their users’ browsers preventing solutions like Auth0 or Firebase Auth from working for federated login. So another element to testing is properly understanding your potential customers’ systems.

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