Weighing development methods

Test-driven Java development vs. traditional testing: Comparative study

Anastasia Stefanuk
© Shutterstock / tomertu

What are the pros and cons of traditional testing and test-driven development? While traditional testing requires a lot of time and money, using TDD results in faster and cleaner code. Although, TDD requires learning new developer skills. This article examines the two methods and how Java software developers should utilize them.

TDD, test-driven development, or development through testing, is a software development methodology that is mainly based on the repetition of short cycles of development. The test is written from the beginning, then the program code is written, which implements the desired behavior of the system and allows to pass the written test, and then the refactoring of the written code is performed with tests.

The development methodology through testing is to organize automatic testing of developed applications by writing unit, integration and functional tests that determine the requirements for the code immediately before writing this code. First, a written test checks the correctness of the work of unwritten program code. This test fails. After that, the developer writes code that performs the actions required to pass the test. After the test is successfully passed, refactoring (revision and processing) of the written code is carried out if necessary, under the control of passing the tests.

Initially, TDD will be time-consuming. Over some time, a developer will get used to writing tests first, and only then to code. The development process will be clearly structured. You can hire a Java developer and they will have to decide what to write, and only then how to write it. In this article, we are going to look closer at the advantages and disadvantages of TDD for developers.

How to perform TDD tests and traditional testing


The flowchart above presents the process of Test-Driven development. Source: Creately

The entire TDD development is divided into many small cycles: first, tests are written to cover the desired change, then written code passes these tests. After that, the code is refactored, if necessary, new tests are written. If a piece of code fails some tests, then it can be fixed. In the traditional development method, first the code is completely written, and then tests are carried out. Many people are accustomed to traditional development, but it is worth trying TDD and it will be clearly noticeable that it takes much less time.

Even more useful information on this subject you can find in this article. A team of Java developers can help to facilitate the process of TDD implementing. The Java language is the most appropriate for TDD.

TDD principles

The methodology is a structured practice. It allows a Java development team to get clean code and modify it through a combination of programming, unit testing and refactoring. Java developer skills include knowing TDD principles. The methodology has three phases:

1. Does the code not compile? Write a unit test.

2. The implementation is written in a short time. Have a clean and easy solution? If so, implement it. Otherwise, the product will improve step by step. The main goal is to get positive results for unit tests.

3. Refactoring. Do not neglect this step – it eliminates repetition and introduces the ability to change the architecture. The phase does not affect program behavior.

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Pros and cons of each technique

Both traditional testing and TDD have their advantages and disadvantages. Knowing them, it’s easier for a Java software developer to choose what he is ready to spend time on.

Pros of traditional testing

  • Traditional testing strategies rarely affects the final code
  • This type of testing helps to find one or more defects in the code

Cons of traditional testing

  • Testing is often delayed at the end of a project when budget and time constraints prevent thorough testing
  • The larger the scale of the project, the more carefully you need to conduct tests

Pros of TDD

  • Helps achieve 100% coverage of each line of code through testing – less chance of a bug
  • TDD helps learn and understand key modular design principles
  • It makes code easier to maintain and refactor
  • This kind of testing is easier to work in a team, as each member of the team can edit the code, and in case of a bug, tests will immediately show it

Cons of TDD

  • Tests can be hard to write
  • This initially slows down the development process
  • Studying this type of testing takes a lot of time and effort and requires a lot of dedication
  • Hard to apply to existing legacy code

In addition, it is worth mentioning that Java test-driven development helps advance code testing and fine-tune specifications. TDD also makes code cleaner in appearance and simpler in maintenance. By itself, this type of testing allows the developer to maintain less documentation.

TDD Java example

TDD is a separate paradigm. During learning, developer skills and advantages of the approach grow. Consider the technique as a contribution to the future. Changes affect application documentation and unit tests representing executable specifications. Tests are used to verify compliance with requirements and describe them. A great difficulty for a Java software developer is creating a roadmap for complex functionality in the form of planned tests.

The methodology detects bugs in the early stages, which reduces the cost of finding a solution. Therefore, the developer confidently proceeds refactoring and continuous improvement.

Development with TDD implies that we need to create test cases first, and then establish the requirements for implementation. Then we will create the code for the implementation to conduct the tests.

In simple words, there are 3 steps in each cycle:

  1. Writing tests
  2. Implementing features
  3. Refactoring

In the first case, we determine the requirements in the form of tests, then we conduct the test without cleaning and improving the code, and in the last step, we improve the code, making it easier to read and maintain.

SEE ALSO: Best practices for securing CI/CD pipelines, or how to get security right

Examples of code snippets

public class CustomItem<E> implements Item<E> {
 private Object[] internal = {};
 // new empty implementation methods
public boolean isExist() {
 return false;
public boolean isExist() {
 return true;


In general, it is honest to say that TDD is a technique that is valuable for its bug detection in the early stages of development. The results of such testing improve code, in contrast to traditional testing. Moving forward, both types of programming will gain the opportunity for development. The only difference will be that engineers put testing first, and development second. Traditional testing requires a lot of time and money while using TDD results in faster and cleaner code.


Anastasia Stefanuk

Anastasia Stefanuk is a passionate writer and Information Technology enthusiast. She works as a Content Manager at Mobilunity, a provider of dedicated development teams around the globe. Anastasia keeps abreast of the latest news in all areas of technology, Agile project management, and software product growth hacking, at the same time sharing her experience online to help tech startups and companies to be up-to-date.

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