Collaboration between developers and non-developers in FitRadar

Initially when we worked on the idea of Fitradar several people were involved – among them were sports club manager, designer, and developer. Everyone put his ideas on the table and after several brainstorm meetings we came up with initial requirements for our future product. Later all who participated in user requirement creation became in one or another way a tester. The user requirement authors knew the best how the app should work, so they were the ones who could verify the application’s design and the functionality.

Now when we have a tangible product, the people who laid down the requirements want to make sure their ideas are working properly in the application. Some of the features are possible to test via User Interface, like design and navigation. And in this case a screen is serving as a medium of communication between developers and testers. People who are testing the application can take screenshots and explain the problem to developer in a demonstrable way. But how to make sure the business logic implemented in application is behaving according to the requirements. Developers implemented it according to their interpretation of requirements. Although we used UML diagrams tables and pictures, many times the only way to describe the business logic was a human language. And as we know human language is quite ambiguous and fills the gaps with a lot of assumptions and that inevitably leads to misinterpretation. One way for non developer to test the applications business logic is to try to invoke it from a UI and see if it works correctly, but developers and QA know that in such way we are covering just a small portion of test cases. So there must be a better way for user requirement authors, would it be Quality Assure, Business Analysist or any other team member, to make sure the business logic he proposed is functioning as expected.

I already wrote about the test strategy in our team and well known test pyramid. The lower level tests are written by developers and only time when they need an input from other team members is the time when they are interpreting the requirements. Once the requirements are clear they can write the code and accompanying unit tests. Even UI tests can be written with little help from non developers, but the part where user requirement authors start to play important role is functional tests. In case of our app the UI is separated from the rest of application and most of the business logic happens on the back-end. So the functional tests in our team include back-end API tests and mobile application API tests.

The way how we helped the non developers in our team understand the implanted business logic was by using some principles of the Domain Driven Design and Behavior Driven Development. I should say not everything what Eric Evans described in his book “Domain Language Tackling Complexity in the Heart of Software” was applicable to our solution, but some aspects really helped us to establish a good way of collaboration between team members and today I wanted to share those aspect of DDD:

  • Ubiquitous Language, the term introduces by Eric Evans, helped our developers and the rest of the team speak the same language. The main idea of Ubiquitous Language is to create a common vocabulary of a given business domain that both domain experts and developers would speak. It was quite easy to establish since in the process of creation of user requirements both developers and non developers were present and developers knew quite well the business domain. Most of the value of the common language we started to see when developers had to read their implemented logic to non developers
  • The next step when the vocabulary of app was created, was to create the API methods that non developers are able to understand and follow. In order to achieve this API methods were written on such abstraction level that only domain vocabulary was used – all the technical details were hidden in the underlying classes and methods. Even logical operations were converted in to the methods that expressed the domain concept.
  • Once the API methods were in place, the business logic authors could participate in API review. But even then there might be a flaw in the requirements itself. And so we needed to write tests expressed in domain language. For this purpose we use some aspects of Behavior driven development, particularly we used Cucumber language (Gherkin plugin on Android Studio and SpecFlow extension on Visual Studio) for writing functional and UI tests. Since the Cucumber language is intended to be used not only by developers but by regular humans as well then everyone who contributed to our application’s user requirements was able to add tests as well.

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