Testing vs. BDD

I’ve found a few places recently where the word “Test” has been used in combination with the words “Behaviour Driven” (with or without the “u”). Normally this makes me wince; the whole origin of BDD was intended to separate the act of describing behaviour through examples from the act of testing! Part of my self-appointed role in the BDD community is to be the anchor at the far end of that scale – you’ll hear me say “It’s not about testing!” a lot, especially if I’m answering a question about how to use JBehave to produce some particularly complex set of tests.

This post by Elizabeth Hendrickson describes her use of a BDD framework for genuine testing. Here, Elizabeth is acting in the role of a tester, and using RSpec imaginatively to support her work. Testing is a very different discipline to the act of describing what a system should do, or what a class should and should not be responsible for, and I think this example illustrates that point nicely.

If you find yourself struggling with BDD’s language, or wanting to know how to do something with BDD that only makes sense after the code’s already been written, separating the idea of testing from describing behaviour and responsibility may help you work out what it is you’re trying to achieve and express that to others. Testing is crucial to good software development; it may be that you’re doing something else.

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