This idea is to provide an introduction to Test-Driven web development using Django (and Python). Essentially, we run through the same material as the official Django tutorial, but instead of 'just' writing code, we write tests first at each stage - both "functional tests", in which we actually pretend to be a user, and drive a real web browser, as well as "unit tests", which help us to design and piece together the individual working parts of the code.
The tutorial uses the new release of Django (1.4), and covers 95% of what's covered in the official Django tutorial. Suggestions, comments and feedback are gratefully received... What should I do next??
Who is this for?
Maybe you've done a bit of Python programming, and you're thinking of learning Django, and you want to do it "properly". Maybe you've done some test-driven web development in another language, and you want to find out about how it all works in the Python world. Most importantly, you've heard of, or had experience of, working on a project where complexity has started to get the better of you, where you're scared to make changes, and you wished there had been better testing from the get-go.
Who is this not for?
If you know Python, Django and Selenium inside out, I suspect there's better things that you can do with your time. If you're a total beginner programmer, I also think it might not be quite right for you - you might do better to get a couple of other tutorials under your belt first. If you're already a programmer, but have never tried Python, you'll be fine, but I thoroughly recommend the excellent "Dive into Python" for a bit more of an insight into the language itself.
Why should you listen to me?
I was lucky enough to get my first "proper" software development job about a year ago with a bunch of Extreme Programming fanatics, who've thoroughly inculcated me into their cult of Test-Driven development. Believe me when I say I'm contrary enough to have questioned every single practice, challenged every single decision, moaned about every extra minute spent doing "pointless" tests instead of writing "proper" code. But I've come round to the idea now, and whenever I've had to go back to some of my old projects which don't have tests, boy have I ever realised the wisdom of the approach.
So, I've learnt from some really good people, and the learning process is still fresh in my mind, so I hope I'll be good at communicating it. Most importantly, I still have the passion of a recent convert, so I hope I'll be good at conveying some enthusiasm.
Why Test-Driven Development?
The thing is, when you start out on a small project, you don't really need tests. Tests take time to write - as much as, if not more than, the actual code for your application. You've got to learn testing frameworks, and they inevitably come with a whole host of their own problems (and this applies especially to web-browser testing. oh boy.). Meanwhile, you know you could just knock out a few lines of code, and your application would be off the ground, and would start to be useful. There are deadlines! Clients who are paying for your time! Or maybe just the smell of that Internet money, and arriving late to the party means none of it will be for you!
Well, that's all true. At first. At first, it's obvious whether everything works. You can just log into the dev server, click around a bit, and see whether everything looks OK. And changing this bit of code over here, is only ever going to affect these things here and here... So it's easy to change stuff and see if you've broken anything...
But as soon as your project gets slightly larger, complexity rears its ugly head. Combinatorial explosion starts to make you its bitch. Changes start to have unpredictable effects. You start to worry about making changes to that thing over there, because you wrote it ages ago, and you're pretty sure other things depend on it... best to just use it as it is, even though it's hideously ugly... Well, anyway, changing this thing over here shouldn't affect too much stuff. I'll just run through the main bits of the site to check... Can't possibly check everything though... Oh well, I'll just deploy and see if anyone complains...
Automated tests can save you from this fate. If you have automated tests, you can know for sure whether or not your latest changes broke anything. With tests, you're free to keep refactoring your code, to keep trying out new ways to optimise things, to keep adding new functionality, safe in the knowledge that your tests will let you know if you get things wrong.
Look, that's got to be enough evangelising. If you don't believe me, just ask someone else with experience. They know. Now, onto the practicals.
Convinced? Get on with part 1 of the tutorial then!
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