Positive Testing vs Negative Testing: Key Differences

Oct 19, 2023 | Best Practices, Test Automation Insights

Positive Testing vs Negative Testing: Key Differences

Quality and optimal performance should be the goal of any development team. If you send a product to market that doesn’t function as intended, it will harm your reputation and undermine your customer’s confidence. Positive and negative testing will improve your ability to find issues before releasing a new software platform or application. This article looks at these two types of testing, breaks down the differences between the two from a positive testing vs negative testing standpoint, and describes at how both can serve to improve your final product. 

➕ What Is Positive Testing?

Positive testing is an essential testing tool used to determine whether a system behaves as expected when you provide valid inputs. It uses typical and desired scenarios to check if the software functions as intended in ideal situations. You assume that users will follow the correct workflow to input valid data

What Is the Purpose of Positive Testing?

Positive testing encompasses a “happy path” approach to looking at the behavior of an application when it receives expected inputs and conditions. Below is an overview of the purpose of positive testing on applications and software. 

1. Verify Core Functionality

Positive testing helps confirm that things work as intended. If a user enters data into a field and clicks a button, that information should get transmitted to its intended destination. Using valid inputs and predefined pathways ensures that users can perform planned tasks without encountering unexpected problems. 

2. Ensure Quality User Experience

User experience (UX) is the most crucial element of software development. A person’s ability to carry out an intended task, whether searching for products or making a payment through a UI interface, is critical to a platform’s success. 

3. Find Glitches Early

Positive testing helps testers locate early-stage software errors and defects. Using ideal use cases helps testers find minor issues before escalating to more significant ones. Finding problems early in development reduces the likelihood of costly late-stage bugs. 

4. Validate Functional Requirements

Software projects typically start with a set of functional requirements that developers must include. Positive testing helps validate that these requirements are followed and implemented correctly. This aligns the software development processes with the intended goals and objectives of the project. 

5. Support Regression Testing

Development teams use positive tests as the basis for regression testing, which verifies that new code changes do not introduce new defects into previously tested and validated software functionality. Maintaining a suite of positive test cases helps development teams rerun them when performing updates to ensure that existing features remain untouched. 

➖ What Is Negative Testing?

Negative testing, also called “error path testing” or “invalid input testing,” is a software testing methodology that evaluates how systems and applications handle unexpected inputs and conditions. For example, if a developer adds a field to a form that only accepts numbers, negative testing will determine what would happen if someone entered text characters. 

What Is the Purpose of Negative Testing?

Unlike positive testing, which looks at what happens under “happy path” conditions, negative testing looks for weaknesses that might appear in unexpected situations, like the entry of invalid data or a user attempting to access a prohibited web page. Below is an overview of common reasons for using negative testing. 

1. Look for Software or Application Vulnerabilities

Negative testing is critical for finding weaknesses in software systems by:

  • Sending invalid inputs
  • Setting up error conditions
  • Putting the application through exceptional scenarios

The above helps testers find areas where an application might break, produce inaccurate results, or behave unpredictably. For example, a tester might enter a negative price in an e-commerce application’s quantity field or try to purchase a product with insufficient funds. Discovering how software handles these scenarios helps improve its security and reliability. 

2. Help With Error Handling

An application’s ability to handle error conditions is critical to software development. Negative testing helps developers determine a software system’s ability to respond to errors and exceptions. Intentionally introducing errors lets testers observe how the application reacts. From there, developers can respond by:

  • Fine-tuning error messages to provide more clarity
  • Improving logging to see where and why errors occur
  • Giving users clear and helpful feedback if something goes wrong

3. Stress Test Software

Negative tests help assess how software performs under adverse conditions. For example, a developer can send high loads, excessive data input, or conduct other unfavorable scenarios to evaluate the system’s operation. This helps locate bottlenecks, resource leaks, or performance degradation when applications experience heavy usage. 

4. Enhance Data Security

Data security is critical in today’s digital landscape. Hackers constantly look for ways to exploit software weaknesses to find their way into an organization’s systems and networks. If successful, they often try to steal confidential information or data for nefarious purposes. Inputting malicious data allows testers to evaluate a system’s resistance to common security threats, including:

  • SQL injection
  • Cross-Site Scripting (XSS) 
  • Cross-Site Request Forgery (CSRF)
  • Remote code execution 
  • Unrestricted URL access

5. Ensure Regulatory Compliance

Industries like healthcare and finance must comply with specific regulatory standards and requirements. Effective testing is critical in validating that software used by organizations in those industries meets compliance criteria, specifically when dealing with errors and exceptions in ways that satisfy regulatory authorities. 

🙌🏼 Key Differences Between Positive and Negative Testing

There are critical differences in applying each methodology. How you use positive and negative test cases depends on what you want to achieve.

Focus and Objective

Positive tests look at what happens to a software application under ideal conditions. Testing occurs under the assumption that users will follow instructions and only provide valid inputs when they interact with an application. 

In contrast, negative testing focuses on the behavior of a platform when it encounters unexpected or invalid inputs and conditions. Testers purposefully introduce errors like invalid data and make the software operate in exceptional scenarios.  

Inputs

Inputs for positive testing focus on putting in expected data. A tester would ensure that they entered dollar amounts for currency fields or text when users are prompted to enter their first and last names.

Negative testing involves doing the opposite. A tester may enter text in the number fields, or vice versa. The goal is to uncover how the application responds and if it provides a valid error message and prevents the invalid entry.

Complexity

Positive testing covers simple, straightforward scenarios that verify the functionality of the software. Its intended uses, formats, and functions are well defined and expected.

Negative testing has a much broader scope, as it challenges software by introducing unexpected and complex conditions. These are less predictable and often involve edge cases, malicious inputs, or unusual user behavior. Examples include a user entering an incorrect password and interpreting an error message. Testers might introduce many simultaneous requests to see how the application handles the stress. 

Detection of Issues

Testers use positive testing to determine software performance when things go as anticipated. Users don’t perform unexpected actions and they enter accurate information into input fields. Testers focus on ensuring that users can perform routine tasks and operations. It’s most effective when performed to detect validation errors or user interface layout and design problems. 

Negative testing helps to uncover issues that might go undetected during positive testing. Forcing the application to handle unexpected inputs helps expose vulnerabilities, security flaws, and error-handling deficiencies. Examples of problems often found during negative testing include:

  • Buffer overflows when input data exceeds a field’s limits
  • Security vulnerability exploited when someone enters malicious data

Positive testing helps deliver a seamless user experience. In contrast, negative testing confirms the robustness of software by finding and addressing problems that could make an application less secure, stable, and reliable. 

Relation to Edge Cases

Edge cases are situations deviating from standard use cases. A few instances where you might apply positive testing to edge cases include:

  • Determining how a web application behaves when users try to upload a file exceeding the maximum limit set
  • Looking at how a database system responds to a large number of simultaneous connections

Negative testing makes edge cases a central focus. Testers deliberately look for and execute scenarios that aren’t normal. Examples of introducing edge cases into negative testing include:

  • Looking at a GPS application’s behavior when dealing with frequent user location changes
  • Testing a financial application by trying to withdraw money from an account without available funds
  • Seeing what happens when you attempt to make a purchase in an e-commerce application using an invalid credit card

🗓 When to Use Positive or Negative Testing

Start by evaluating the goals and objectives of the software being tested. Take a positive testing approach if you want to ensure that the application’s core functions work. This is typically a part of the earlier stages of development, while negative tests occur in later phases. 

Negative testing scenarios are best when you’re trying to uncover application weaknesses. It’s also useful to ensure that an application complies with regulatory standards or if you need to perform comprehensive security checks. Negative testing is useful for performing risk assessment and testing the overall robustness of an application.

🚀 Improve Your Test Coverage With Automation Testing

Regardless of whether you’re conducting positive testing or negative testing, Ranorex’s test automation tools make the process seamless by allowing developers and testers to cover multiple app testing scenarios in a centralized location. Why not get your own free trial of Ranorex Studio and see how our and how they can benefit your organization?

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