Black box/White box testing

I’ve have been programming with different languages since my college days, and testing has played a very important role in any software I’ve developed. Without proper testing, there is surely a large number of bugs left behind in the code, and this will eventually mess up the whole software when being implemented.

2 kinds of testing are usually performed: black box and white box testing, and sometimes, people tend to mix up these two. So here’s a brief explanation of the two.

Black-box and white-box are test design methods. Black-box test design treats the system as a “black-box”, so it doesn’t explicitly use knowledge of the internal structure. Black-box test design is usually described as focusing on testing functional requirements. Synonyms for black-box include: behavioral, functional, opaque-box, and closed-box. White-box test design allows one to peek inside the “box”,and it focuses specifically on using internal knowledge of the software to guide the selection of test data. Synonyms for white-box include: structural, glass-box and clear-box.

While black-box and white-box are terms that are still in popular use, many people prefer the terms “behavioral” and “structural”. Behavioral test design is slightly different from black-box test design because the use of internal knowledge isn’t strictly forbidden, but it’s still discouraged. In practice, it hasn’t proven useful to use a single test design method. One has to use a mixture of different methods so that they aren’t hindered by the limitations of a particular one. Some call this “gray-box” or “translucent-box” test design, but others wish we’d stop talking about boxes altogether.

It is important to understand that these methods are used during the test design phase, and their influence is hard to see in the tests once they’re implemented. Note that any level of testing (unit testing, system testing, etc.) can use any test design methods. Unit testing is usually associated with structural test design, but this is because testers usually don’t have well-defined requirements at the unit level to validate.


One thought on “Black box/White box testing

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