Functional vs Non-Functional: Which should I use for email testing?

Before sending out a fresh batch of emails to your customer base, it’s important to make sure your email system is working properly so your audience gets the correct information at the right time. Mistakes and bugs in customer communications make your business look unprofessional. This can send your customers straight to your competitors.

So how do you make sure your email campaigns are working properly before you send them out? By testing them in different ways to make sure they can handle whatever your customers throw at them.

There are two major categories in the testing process: functional and non-functional testing. Functional testing makes sure the information input into the system outputs the correct results, and non-functional testing covers parameters that functional testing doesn’t, like security, reliability, and performance. The right types and amount of testing for your projects depend on your needs. More details on each type of testing are discussed below to help you figure out where to prioritize your resources.

What are the benefits of functional testing for emails?

Functional testing of software only looks at what goes into the system and what comes out of it, not any of the inner workings of the software. For software programs used to automate email campaigns, functional testing is used to determine if the emails you have set up get sent according to the rules you determined. Some of the main benefits of performing functional testing on your emails include:

  • Verify the software’s existing functionality
  • Run tests quickly with low resources
  • Identify problems before they become large issues
  • Ensure the code is safe and secure
  • Improve email deliverability

Verify functionality

The primary purpose of functional testing is to ensure the end result is what you expect it to be. You want to make sure your code does all the things you programmed it to do.

Run tests quickly and cheaply

Since functional testing only looks at the inputs and outputs of the software, it can be completed by people who aren’t experts in the programming language used to write the code. This means you can run tests with more flexibility. Having a larger pool of people to choose from to complete the testing reduces cost and scheduling restraints, allowing you to focus those resources on other areas.

Identify problems early

Faster and cheaper testing means you can perform tests more frequently during the development phase, and catch bugs and errors before they become integrated into larger pieces of code. Scaling up your testing is a huge time-saver in the long run. The amount of time you’ll spend hunting down each bug in a large, complex, integrated piece of code more than makes up for the time and resources spent on testing at smaller scales.

Functional testing is perfect for taking a quick pulse on your code while it’s being developed. Small segments may not have any bugs, or only a few small fixes that are easily remedied, and running a large, expensive test going through the code itself isn’t necessary when a brief functional test will tell you if your piece of code is working or not.

Ensure code safety and security

Flaws in your code can introduce vulnerabilities that can be exploited by other people. Removing bugs and errors helps ensure the emails you’re sending to your clients are safe, along with their personal data. Email campaigns are usually tailored to clients using some personal data to make sure they receive the content that best matches their needs. Keeping that data safe demonstrates that your brand is trustworthy and values its clients.

Improve email deliverability

Errors and bugs in your emails can get your content marked as spam by members of your audience, which hurts your email deliverability. In other words, if the emails you send to people now aren’t free of mistakes, the emails you send in the future are more likely to be blocked by spam filters. Increasing your email deliverability requires dedicated campaigns and resources that could be spent on improving your products and getting more sales, so it’s a good idea to take steps to ensure your emails don’t get caught in spam filters long before it is a big enough problem to impact your company.

What are the limitations of functional testing with emails?

Here’s some details about functional testing to keep in mind:

  • Only focuses on the end results
  • Requires specialized software and tools
  • Takes time, money, and labor to perform each iteration
  • Requires manual input to set up

Only focuses on the outputs

Functional testing is a type of black box testing, or tests that don’t look inside the code to see what’s happening. All that functional testing keeps track of is what goes in the box and what comes out of the box. While this can give you valuable information about whether your product is working or not, it won’t always tell you much about why it’s not working.

Requires specialized software and tools

To perform functional testing, you’ll need access to and experience using software tools designed for that purpose. There’s lots of different tools out there to generate the inputs you need to test your software, or you can create your own. However, this still takes time and resources to develop, and you’ll need people who understand the ins and outs of functional testing to conduct it effectively.

Needs multiple iterations

Functional testing is best conducted throughout the development process, not at the end once everything is already together. While this does give excellent information about the state of your software, you’ll need to decide what stages to conduct it at and set aside time for the testing to be completed. Depending on the way your project is organized, this may turn into time not being used efficiently by the people waiting for the software testing to be completed.

Requires manual input

To get functional testing completed, you’ll need to spend time figuring out what inputs you need to test and how to generate those inputs. The first step alone can be fairly time-intensive and require a lot of research and organization specific to your system in order for a good functional test to be run. The planning stage is critical, since launching into testing without a clear plan and measurable objectives runs the risk of not getting the information you need.

The benefits of non-functional testing

Non-functional testing is a broad category that contains everything from security testing to load testing. In general terms, it focuses on testing how the software handles inputs that aren’t expected. Performing non-functional testing on your code can do the following:

  • Improve the user experience
  • Ensure the software can handle multiple users
  • Protect your customers and your products

Improve the user experience

This can mean anything from the speed your code runs at to how reliable it is. Can your code be counted on to work quickly without crashing and give the correct outputs to the user in a seamless manner? Improving the user experience can also mean ensuring your code can handle a wide range of inputs that users might choose, and that there are measures in place to handle unexpected inputs.

Load testing

Functional testing may have told you that your software can give the expected output, but what happens if multiple people are using it at the same time, or it’s tasked with handling large amounts of data? Load testing your software will show you how it handles these situations, and if the code needs to be further optimized to handle the conditions it’s expected to operate in.

Security testing

Your software and data are valuable, so it’s key to test that your software isn’t giving people access to things it shouldn’t. Non-functional security testing involves checking to see how your software handles security vulnerabilities and your customers’ important data.

The limitations of non-functional testing

While performing non-functional testing is an important part of making sure the software performs well, it’s not a complete set of tests on its own. Some of the limitations of non-functional testing are:

  • Needs more resources to be performed
  • More difficult to measure
  • May not catch errors early in development

More resource-intense

Non-functional testing requires more resources to complete and get good, accurate results since it’s more in-depth and there’s a lot of bases to cover. You might need multiple people specializing in different types of non-functional testing, depending on your needs and the scale of your project.

More difficult to measure

Since non-functional testing is more ambiguous than functional testing, it’s less clear what testing objectives to set. Determining what security requirements to test, which loads to handle and how to simulate them, and other concerns takes research and experience, both of which can get expensive.

May not catch errors early in development

Because non-functional testing is performed later in the testing cycle, it’s not going to pick up on problems with the code while it’s still in the beginning stages of development. Some bugs may show up in testing that require redoing a lot of work that was built on top of them, requiring more iterations of testing to ensure everything is working as it should be.

What is the difference between functional and non-functional testing?

Functional Testing Non-Functional Testing Comparison
Tests if the software functions as expected Tests if the software can handle unexpected inputs Functional testing makes sure the software works, while non-functional testing makes sure it works well
Black box testing White box testing Functional testing only focuses on the inputs and outputs, while non-functional testing focuses on what the software is doing
Completed many times during the testing process Completed after the software is mostly finished Both types of testing are usually required, but they need to be performed at different stages of development

Functional and Non-Functional testing with Mailosaur

Mailosaur can help you with both functional and non-functional testing for your email campaigns by providing software that integrates with your existing testing framework. You can create as many email addresses as you need, email servers, and more so you can walk through your customers’ experiences across every email scenario. To explore what Mailosaur’s testing capabilities can do for you try it free or contact us with any questions you have.