If one wanted to learn Test-Driven Development, AKA TDD, in 2019, where should
It’s worth mentioning first that there are different versions of TDD. There’s
outside-in or black-box TDD, red-green-refactor, BDD, ATDD, and more. They’re
all in the same family, but they differ. Each version has a purpose, but they
can distract from understanding the core principles they all share.
TDD is defined by actions. Here’s my take on classic TDD:
- Write an automated test that describes the nonexistent feature or bugfix.
- Run and watch it fail.
- Build as much of the feature as you can.
- Run the test again. It may fail for a different reason. Let that drive your next step.
- Repeat 3 & 4 until the test passes.
- Commit your code.
- Refactor (optional, encouraged).
- Add more tests.
Why Use TDD
TDD is much harder than just writing code. So why bother? Here are my arguments:
- You will write a test. In languages like Ruby this matters a lot.
- You can guarantee that the test failed before implementing the feature. This
helps ensure, but doesn’t guarantee, that the test is testing the right
- You can use the technique to get unstuck. I wrote about about this in greater
detail back in 2014.
Here’s my playlist of resources that shaped my understanding of TDD.
- Test-driven Development - Wikipedia: pretty
- Roman Numerals Kata - Jim Weirich: Master Rubyist Jim Weirich
live-codes a Ruby programming puzzle using TDD. This is where my concept of naive
implementation comes from.
- Exercism: Exercism is an open source project designed to help
people get better at algorithms, and all exercises are test-driven. Because
it’s initially so counterintuitive, deliberate practice is the key to TDD. This is a
great resource to get that practice.
- Test Driven Development: By Example by Kent Beck. I’d be remiss if I didn’t
include this book, which is credited with inventing or rediscovering TDD. I’ve
never read it.
A caveat: there’s writing out there saying TDD is bad, dead, or impossible to
do. Here are a few such counterarguments:
In my opinion, TDD is a technique like whiteboarding or retrospectives: helpful
in some situations and a hindrance in others. Learn how to do TDD correctly,
then make your own decision.
If I’ve missed a resource you love, please let me know.