Test Design Specification

The importance of documentation during the process of software testing is well known. Along with providing various advantages, these documents also assist software testers in the process of testing and establish great transparency among the team members and various stakeholders. From offering details about the testing procedures and activities, to helping remove uncertainties regarding the testing methods, approaches, etc. these reports and documents are also responsible for the smooth functioning of the whole team.

Test design specification is a document that is prepared during the early stages of software testing life cycle (STLC). It is among those important documents that are standardized by IEEE standard 829-1998 and is an essential part of software & system test document. Therefore, to elaborate more on the importance of test design specification, here is a detailed discussion on the same.

What is Test Design Specification?

A crucial part of software & system test document, test design specification specifies the test conditions for a test item, the detailed test approach, and identifies the associated high level of test cases. The main objective of this document is to specify which the test suites and test cases to run and which to skip. This document enables the team members to identify the set of features or a combination of features that need to be tested and to identify the group of test cases that will allow them to test these features of the software effortlessly. The information recorded in this document is mainly divided into three major categories, which are:

  1. Test Conditions: Various constraints for software testing are mentioned here. These can either be based on software functionality, structure, & performance or can be based on client’s requirements.
  2. Detailed Approach: The approaches that are used for test execution are defined in this document in detail. The purpose of this part of the document is to remove uncertainties and confusion within the testers as well as other members of the project.
  3. High Level Test Cases: The objective of this section of the test design specification is to record information that defines the functionality of the software without going deep into its functionality. This offers testers the flexibility to move away from the defined test cases and explore various other critical and important test cases.

Format of Test Design Specification:

Being a part of software and system test document, test design specification follows a format set by IEEE standard 829-1998, which is internationally recognized and followed by everyone rigorously. This format consist of following information:

  1. Test Design Specification Identifier: Similar to test plan identifier, test design specification identifier also provides a unique identity to the document, which helps the tester and other members of the team understand the purpose of testing as well as other testing related features and components. Moreover, this acts as a guide for pointing out the test plan and design.
  2. Features to be tested: This sections points out the requirements of each as well as the combinations of features to be tested. The main objective of this document is to group related test items together to simplify the process of testing for the whole team. The information provided in this document are software features, attributes, characteristics, test objective, among other things.
  3. Approach refinements: Apart from providing details about the software features and its design, test design specification document also specifies the procedure of software testing, including the testing techniques, its required setup, methods of result analysis, reasons for technique selection, among other important and relevant things.
  4. Test identification: It helps identify each test case, along with a brief description about them. Additionally, it identifies various test levels and offers any other appropriate information that is required to describe the rest relationship.
  5. Feature pass/fail criteria: Finally, it defines the criteria for assessing the features and components of the software as well as whether the tests were passed successfully or not.


Documentations simplify uncountable processes and help individuals in a variety of things. The importance of these documents are immense, as they promote communication between teams as well as various stakeholders of the project. Test design specification too makes the process of communicating details about software system’s various features, components, test cases, procedures, techniques, etc., which further simplifies the process of testing and makes it in compliance with client’s requirements and specifications.