BDD: not by cucumber alone does man live

Don’t get me wrong, I know how useful BDD is cleaning test reports, grouping different frameworks and giving the ability to scale as it allows non-technical people to expand the feature file. But it has loads of painful points which makes it a powerful tool bridging the gap but most of the complex scenarios are impossible to handle.

That’s why, after some time using it as the default BDD as the default option, I understood its value and now I only use it for the simple and repetitive workflows, allowing anyone to easily understand what’s the current coverage of the “pre-commit” verifications. It also brings a common language for developers, testers and business people to specify the product’s behaviour, as explained by the Three Amigos approach, making it an awesome tool for clarifying misconceptions.

But I’ve found some difficulties implementing it. Since it’s foundation it heavily relies on TDD practices, so implementing it on teams not used to TDD techniques carries an extra challenge. I haven’t found proper documentation for the test implementation, as most of the articles online only state how empowering it is for business people. It requires a rigorous delimitation of what should contain every scenario, breaking them into really small modular ones which goes against our common belief.

Most of the implementation problems happened when we tried to reuse our BDD framework (made with Python and Behave) which was fitting flawlessly one of our small REST API testing suite, into a more complex project. We started lacking some context management, sharing variables between steps, dealing with multiple users… So we try to evolve our framework to the perfect machine that would handle it all. And it became a beast. We started to deal with “worlds” per test suite (a world for the billing system, another different one for user management), that way we wanted to keep things as modular as possible. So it became an ugly beast.

So, at that point, and being coeval with my “I don’t trust in anything I know anymore” moment, I decided to start focusing on “is BDD really what fitting us?” instead of just “how can I make BDD fit us”. Is it delivering more value than a traditional automated test? Are we using it correctly? What are the alternatives?

That’s how we realised that in some projects it wasn’t the way to go. For instance, when we deal with complex user scenarios and we’re not going to scale the test adding new repetitive steps, it didn’t make any sense to spend most of the time adapting the BDD framework. In those cases, we kept the structure for a consistent reporting, and we dealt with the test on the old fashion way.

Did you find any limitations on BDD as well? Is it fitting your needs seamlessly? In a future post, I want to talk about some examples that caused us problems. In the meantime,

May the force be with you,
Gino

P.S: If you want to dive deeper into the BDD world, you may enjoy these resources:

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