SAN MATEO (07/17/2000) - Dynamic, database-driven Web sites capable of generating pages of information in real-time based on end-user input are naturally a boon to e-commerce, allowing online storefronts to address the individual needs of online shoppers.
But serving personalized pages on the fly adds an additional level of complexity to the site building process and places heavier demands on quality assurance. If your Web site delivers the wrong pages to visitors, or processes purchases or payments improperly, you're going to lose customers.
With the trials and tribulations of testing dynamic, multi-tiered Web sites directly in its sights, ParaSoft Corp. has released WebKing 2. Borrowing a page from the C, C++, and Java debugging playbook, WebKing inserts itself directly into the Web development life cycle by treating the disparate pages that make up a Web site as a single application.
At US$3,495, WebKing 2 isn't cheap. But given the potential savings in developer time, not to mention the quality assurance it provides, the software should more than pay for itself in the long run.
Running under Windows NT Server 4 on a Dell Dimension XPS equipped with a 450MHz Pentium III processor and 256MB of memory, WebKing 2 successfully worked through every Web site I threw at it -- even larger sites containing more than 5,000 pages. My tests revealed that crunching through complex sites doesgenerate a fair amount of traffic, so it would be best to unleash WebKing 2 on your corporate network during times of off-peak usage.
I applaud ParaSoft for providing an uncluttered work environment, but I found WebKing 2 to be a little too Spartan at times. Context-sensitive help would be nice in spots to prevent frequent trips to the on-line manuals. The product also does not strictly adhere to Microsoft Windows GUI standards. For example, I could not access the Network Neighborhood from within any of the Open or Save As dialog boxes. Hopefully ParaSoft will improve WebKing's Windows integration in future releases.
A battery of tests
WebKing 2 allows you to perform four types of tests in a Web environment: white-box, black-box, regression, and "Web-box," ParaSoft's own method of testing dynamic output. Each test type addresses a different group of components that typically make up a Web site, from HTML coding in pages to a site's interaction with back-end databases.
As a complement to white-box testing, WebKing 2's black-box testing component is used to test a site's functionality and integrity. Part of this process involves testing the critical paths an application takes through the site. For example, you could use black-box testing to verify that your credit-card processing application presented users with the correct Web pages in response to their inputs.
To protect developers against introducing errors when modifying Web applications, WebKing 2 provides regression testing. Basically, this allows you to determine if any incremental change in the code of your Web site has caused it to fail any of the black-or white-box tests that it passed earlier.
Rounding out the testing suite is Web-box testing, a technique that allows you to test a single dynamic Web page at a time. For example, in addition to validating a shopping cart applet located on my site, Web-box testing allowed me to automatically issue commands to recompile the applet, test for errors, and transfer the new executable to my production server when changes were made to the applet code.
As Web sites continue to evolve dynamically, tools such as WebKing will become more and more critical to maintaining high quality assurance standards. Organizations looking for an ally in the testing and debugging process should give WebKing 2 serious consideration.
Todd Coopee (email@example.com) covers Internet-based groupware, document management, Web site analysis tools, and application development for the Test Center.
THE BOTTOM LINE: VERY GOOD
Business Case: This Web site testing tool not only decreases the time and costs necessary to develop and maintain large-scale dynamic Web sites but also can improve online customer satisfaction by ensuring that Web sites function properly.
Technology Case: From validating code to spell-checking to application and form verification, WebKing 2 offers a number of useful testing options for Web developers.
+ Multiple testing options
- Quirky interface COST
Cost: $2,995 introductory price; $3,495 after July 31, 2000; WebKing Lite available for freePlatform(s): Windows 95, 98, 2000, NT 4, Linux, SolarisParaSoft Corp., Monrovia, Calif.; (888) 305-0041; www.parasoft.com.