August 26, 2010

Identify the Primary & Secondary Functions

Primary Function: Any function so important that, in the estimation of a normal user, its inoperability or impairment would render the product unfit for its purpose. A function is primary if you can associate it with the purpose of the product and it is essential to that purpose. Primary functions define the product. For example, the function of adding text to a document in Microsoft Word is certainly so important that the product would be useless without it. Groups of functions, taken together, may constitute a primary function, too. For example, while perhaps no single function on the drawing toolbar of Word would be considered primary, the entire toolbar might be primary. If so, then most of the functions on that toolbar should be operable in order for the product to pass Certification.
Secondary Function or contributing function: Any function that contributes to the utility of the product, but is not a primary function. Even though contributing functions are not primary, their inoperability may be grounds for refusing to grant Certification. For example, users may be technically able to do useful things with a product, even if it has an “Undo” function that never works, but most users will find that intolerable. Such a failure would violate fundamental expectations about how Windows products should work.
Thus by identifying the primary function and secondary functions for the system, testing can be done where more focus and effort can be given to Primary functions compared to the secondary functions.
Example: Consider a web based application developed for online shopping. For such an application we can identify the primary functions and secondary functions and go ahead with Exploratory Testing. The main functionality of that application is that the items selected by the user need to be properly added to the shopping cart and price to be paid is properly calculated. If there is online payment, then security is also an aspect. These can be considered as the primary functions.
Whereas the bulletin board provided or the mail functionality provided are considered as the secondary functions. Thus testing to be performed is more focused at the primary functions rather than on the secondary functions. If the primary functions do not work as required then the main intention of having the application is lost.

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