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Unit Testing Part I

posted Jan 27, 2010, 5:42 AM by Raymond Bokenkamp   [ updated Jan 27, 2010, 9:25 AM ]


Unit testing matters because (a) your code will be more reliable, especially when your code is updated over time and (b) you will reduce programming hours over time. It is tempting to solve the problem and hack a solution together as quickly as possible, doing ad-hoc testing as you go. Taking the time to unit test may add approximately 15% of initial coding time.

A common scenario is that everything is crystal clear when the initial coding is done. However, we live in a dynamic world and things change. So when adding a feature months later, all of a sudden it becomes a lot harder to verify if everything is working properly. You may spend a full day on a silly bug that could have easily been pointed out by unit tests. This is frustrating and not sustainable over time. The investment in Unit testing will earn back those 15% of extra effort you put in initially, quickly.

How it works

Let's consider a simple black box model. A function has input parameters and as output it has the returned result. In addition, an exception can occur, in which case no output is returned. This is diagrammed below.


RawDev make the setup of unit tests as easy as possible by using a fluid interface so that you can typically fit a test on one line of code. The time it takes to do unit tests now solely depends on how deep you are going to test. Typically you would like to produce fewer tests that cover as many as possible scenarios. By nature certain functions require more testing based on how critical they are. Tests are just like code, you have to maintain them over time.

In the real world the black box model is overly simplified because a function can impact state that is external to the function (e.g. object state, global state). However, the construct is still useful and we will get checking state that is external to the function at a later time.

The fluid methods to setup your unit test are:

function setInput($input[, $...]) [fluid]

function setOutput($output) [fluid]

function setExpectedException($expecteException) [fluid]

function setTitle($title) [fluid]

The final test execution method is:

bool function test()


Consider a simple function that returns the sum of multiple floats or integers based on two or more input parameters. The function sum is displayed below:

function sum() {
$params = func_get_args();

if (count($params) < 2) throw new RException('math_too_few_params', 'Two or more parameters please.');

$sum = 0;
foreach($params as $param) $sum += $param;

return $sum;

My test strategy is to quickly test 0, 1, 2 and 3 params and see if the right output is produced. See the RawDev code below. In addition, for demo purposes I include a test for the invalid output, an expected exception that didn't happen and an exception that wasn't trapped.

RFunctionUnitTest::construct('sum')->setTitle('Zero Params')->setInput()->setExpectedException('math_too_few_params')->test();
RFunctionUnitTest::construct('sum')->setTitle('One Params')->setInput(1)->setExpectedException('math_too_few_params')->test();
RFunctionUnitTest::construct('sum')->setTitle('Two Params')->setInput(1, 2)->setOutput(3)->test();
RFunctionUnitTest::construct('sum')->setTitle('Three Params')->setInput(1, 2, 3)->setOutput(6)->test();
RFunctionUnitTest::construct('sum')->setTitle('Invalid Output')->setInput(1, 2)->setOutput(4)->test();
RFunctionUnitTest::construct('sum')->setTitle('Expected Exception Incorrect')->setInput(1, 2)->setExpectedException('math_too_few_params')->test();
RFunctionUnitTest::construct('sum')->setTitle('Untrapped Exception')->setInput(1)->setOutput(1)->test();



X: Invalid Output : Value is [3] but should be [4].
?: Expected Exception Incorrect: Exception [math_too_few_params] was expected.
E: Untrapped Exception : Two or more parameters please.


RawDev makes it easy to define the expected output (result/exception) of a function based on the input. It also has an easy way of labeling a test and displaying the results of many tests. What is not yet incorporated is (a) the output of non-scalar variables such as hashes and objects (not such a big deal) and testing of object functions that change the state of an object. These topics will be added and discussed in the near future.



Fluid functions

Function Test API Doc