Testing vs. Debugging

If you’ve been immersed in the tech industry for any amount of time, the difference between Testing and Debugging is probably pretty clear to you. The two concepts are interlocked and cannot exist without one another, even if they are very different. I recently found this article which outlines the differences between them, the purposes of each, and some tips to help with the debugging process. To start off, let’s examine a really great graphic they used to describe the differences: 

As shown above, testing is a process usually maintained by a dedicated team (or at least a few individuals who assist the development team). The job of the tester is to ensure that the product adheres to guidelines, and that it doesn’t execute in any way that it isn’t supposed to. Tests can be automated or manual (or a mix of both), and are intended to not only find an incorrect result, but also to find specifically where the failure happens and what may result from it. Given this information, the correction of the error becomes much easier.

So then what exactly is debugging? Once the testing team observes a failure, they bring that failure to the attention of the development team. It is then again the job of the development team to run through a few instances of the error and find out what exactly is going wrong, attempt to fix that issue in a way that still adheres to the project guidelines, and then resubmit it to the testers. If the testers find an issue, it is no longer their responsibility to ensure that a solution is found. It is the development team’s job to figure out what is going wrong and implement a good solution — and that is debugging.

A lot of this is probably common knowledge in the field, however “debugging” is a term that is haphazardly tossed around (kind of like “refactoring”) that I feel its’ meaning is easily lost. Especially for those breaking into the field or students just learning about what these concepts are, having loose definitions can be confusing. Essentially, if you’re fixing a known error, you’re debugging the code. If you’re trying to find errors, you’re testing your code.

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