What is a Testing Pyramid? How Does It Benefit Software Agile Teams -1

What is a Testing Pyramid? How Does It Benefit Software Agile Teams?

In the realm of Agile software development, the concept of a “Testing Pyramid” stands as a fundamental pillar in ensuring the delivery of robust, high-quality software. This methodology is not only integral to Agile teams but has also found wide application in frameworks like Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe). Let’s delve deeper into understanding what the Testing Pyramid entails and how it brings substantial benefits to Agile teams, particularly within the context of SAFe.

Table of contents

What is a Testing Pyramid?

The Testing Pyramid is a strategy for creating a well-structured set of tests for agile software development. It emphasizes different levels of tests, prioritizing those that are faster to create and run. The pyramid visualizes three levels of tests: unit, integration, and UI (or end-to-end) tests. A well-balanced pyramid will have a wide base of unit tests, followed by a smaller layer of integration tests, and then a narrow top layer of UI tests.


  • Faster feedback: Unit tests are quickest to run, allowing developers to catch issues early in the development process.
  • More efficient use of resources: Focusing on unit tests reduces the time spent on slower UI tests.
  • Higher quality software: A strong test suite helps ensure the overall quality of the software.

What’s the difference between an Agile Testing Pyramid and a Traditional Testing Pyramid?

Agile Testing Pyramid focuses on using automation for 70% of testing efforts, preventing bugs efficiently on the other hand Traditional Testing Pyramid, often inverted, relies more on manual checks and risks complications. Agile Pyramid’s balanced approach boosts software quality through early and automated bug prevention.


Both pyramids share the same layers—UI Testing, Integration Testing, and Unit Testing. However, they differ in structure and approach.

difference between an Agile Testing Pyramid and a Traditional Testing Pyramid

Key Points of Traditional Testing Pyramid

  • Base Layer – Unit Tests: Primarily on unit tests (70% of testing effort). Identify defects at the code level, ensuring individual components function correctly. Fast execution, easy maintenance, pinpointing of specific issues.
  • Middle Layer – Integration Tests: Integration and API tests (20% of testing effort). Validate interactions between units/modules to ensure they work together as expected. Checks data flow and interfaces, catches integration issues early.
  • Top Layer – End-to-End/UI Tests: End-to-end and UI tests (10% of testing effort). Simulate real user scenarios, ensuring the entire system works seamlessly. Verifies system behavior from the user’s perspective, identifies high-level issues.
Traditional testing pyramid

Key Points of Agile Testing Pyramid

  • Efficiency Through Automation: Focuses on automating 70% of efforts, especially on small and fast low-level unit tests.
  • Layered Approach: Utilizes an intermediate layer of integration and API tests ( 20%) and a smaller portion for high-level end-to-end UI tests (10%).
  • Preventing Bugs: Shifts the focus from finding to preventing bugs by investing in thorough unit tests.
  • Logical and Efficient: Covers diverse code paths and test combinations logically and efficiently.
  • Unit Tests’ Role: Unit tests, while not preventing all bugs, efficiently identify issues early in the development process, complementing end-to-end tests created from the end-user perspective.
Agile testing pyramid

Test Automation Pyramid Functions at Three Levels

Let’s break down the test automation pyramid into three levels, each representing a different type of test:

Unit Tests

Unit testing forms the foundation of the test pyramid, focusing on individual code units. These tests have a narrow focus, ensuring that isolated sections of code perform as intended. They should evaluate a single variable and avoid reliance on external dependencies.


In this layer of the pyramid, the team conducts both pre- and post-commit tests, initiated by developers. Using virtual devices such as simulators and emulators is strongly recommended for these tests. Testing on virtual devices proves sufficient, offering necessary feedback along with log and debugging information. Additionally, testing with virtual devices is quicker and more cost-effective than using physical devices.


Who performs unit tests?  Software developers perform unit tests to ensure their code works as intended.

When is Unit Testing Performed? Typically during the development phase.

Best practices of Unit Testing

  • Test only things that can fail.
  • Keep tests simple.
  • Use relevant test data.
  • Write readable tests.
  • Test one scenario per test.
  • Automate unit tests.
  • Write independent tests.
  • Follow a proper naming convention.
  • Ensure tests are repeatable and scalable.

Top 5 Tools of Unit Testing

Top 5 Tools of Unit Testing
  • NUnit: Open-source unit testing framework for .NET applications.
  • JUnit: Open-source unit testing framework for Java applications.
  • TestNG: Automation testing framework supporting Java.
  • Mocha: JavaScript-based testing framework running on Node JS, with features like browser support and test coverage reports.
  • Unity Test Tools: A free framework for creating and executing automated tests.

Integration Testing

Integration testing, the second tier of the software testing pyramid, builds on the foundation laid by unit tests that focus on smaller sections of the codebase. In integration testing, the development team takes the reins, examining how these code portions interact with each other within the broader application. This scrutiny extends to checking how the code engages with external components, such as APIs, databases, web services, and similar elements. The primary aim is to ensure efficient communication and accurate data retrieval, guaranteeing the software’s overall functionality.

Fixed rate staff augmentation Price Model:

  • Interaction with External Components: Integration tests assess how a codebase interacts with external elements, like APIs, databases, and web services.
  • Efficiency and Accuracy: The focus is on verifying that the software communicates effectively and retrieves precise data to meet performance expectations.
  • Slower Pace: Integration tests tend to be slower than unit tests due to the need for interaction with external sources.
  • Pre-production Environment: These tests require a pre-production environment for execution.
  • Balancing Virtual and Real Devices: Striking the right balance between virtual and real devices is crucial for successful integration testing.

Virtual vs. Real Devices in Integration Testing

  • Acceptance Testing on Virtual Devices: Some testing types, like acceptance testing, can be carried out effectively on virtual devices.
  • Limitations of Virtual Devices: However, certain testing aspects such as security testing, performance testing, and specific accessibility features cannot be adequately assessed on virtual devices.
  • Ideal Combination: For a comprehensive approach, a combination of actual and virtual devices is recommended during integration testing.
  • Consideration for Real OS/Device Settings: Incorporating real OS/device settings that align with usage metrics and market trends adds value to the testing process.

Best Practices for Integration Testing

  • Start early: Initiate integration testing at an early stage.
  • Automation: Automate integration testing for efficiency.
  • Detailed test plan: Develop a comprehensive test plan.
  • Test in small batches: Test components in smaller groups.
  • Include positive and negative testing: Evaluate both successful and unsuccessful scenarios.
  • Avoid testing business logic: Reserve business logic testing for other phases.
  • Understand the difference: Distinguish between integration and unit testing.
  • Separate test suites: Keep unit and integration test suites distinct.
  • Incorporate into CI/CD: Integrate integration testing into the CI/CD process.

Top 5 Tools for Integration Testing

Top 5 Tools for Integration Testing
  • Testsigma: A cloud-based platform supporting automation for integration, GUI, and API tests.
  • Selenium: A well-known open-source platform for automating integration testing of web applications.
  • Ranorex: A popular tool for testing web, desktop, and mobile applications, supporting cross-browser testing.
  • Katalon: A powerful automation test platform for integration testing, offering cross-browser support and record-and-play features.
  • TOSCA: A versatile choice for continuous testing, supporting various types such as regression testing and SAP testing, and utilizing model-based testing.


These tools provide diverse solutions for ensuring the seamless integration of software components during the testing phase.

End-to-End Tests

End-to-End (E2E) testing, also known as E2E testing, is a comprehensive evaluation of a product’s entire functionality, covering the journey from the user interface to the backend. In E2E testing, QA teams simulate real-world scenarios, testing the application as an end user would. For instance, consider testing the login page, where various user actions are scrutinized, including valid and invalid inputs, as well as interactions with external services like Google or Facebook.

Key Aspects of End-to-End Testing

  • Scope: E2E testing assesses the complete product flow, ensuring all features work seamlessly.
  • User Scenarios: QA teams perform both positive and negative testing, exploring different user actions.
  • Automation: Typically, these tests are automated to ensure reliable verification, especially after updates or changes.
  • Importance: Every test is crucial for validating product stability and functionality.


Who Performs End-to-End testing? QA teams are responsible for conducting End-to-End tests.


When End-to-End testing is Done? E2E testing usually follows integration testing, being performed after functional and system testing.

Best Practices for End-to-End Testing

  • Automation: Automate E2E tests for efficiency and reliability.
  • Codeless Automation: Use codeless test automation to expedite the testing process.
  • Test Data: Ensure proper test data availability for accurate testing.
  • Prioritization: Prioritize tests based on critical functionalities.
  • User Perspective: Always approach testing from an end-user perspective.
  • Realistic Test Design: Design tests that resonate with real-world scenarios.

Top 5 Tools for End-to-End Testing

  • Testsigma: An AI-driven platform supporting web, mobile, desktop, and API tests. It offers quick cloud-based testing with plain English test step creation using NLPs.
  • Avo Assure: A scriptless test automation tool for testing applications across various platforms.
  • testRigor: A popular E2E testing framework for creating robust end-to-end tests.
  • SmartBear: An end-to-end testing framework enabling the building and running of tests for desktop and web apps.
  • Selenium WebDriver: An open-source test automation platform built on JavaScript, widely used for testing web-based applications.


These tools empower QA teams to conduct effective and reliable end-to-end testing, ensuring the overall stability and functionality of the product.

Benefits of the Software Testing Pyramid for Agile Teams

Benefits of the Software Testing Pyramid for Agile Teams

The Software Testing Pyramid proves highly beneficial for Agile teams, facilitating quicker product launches, enhanced quality, and cost reduction through the following mechanisms:


  • Faster Feedback: The pyramid structure encourages quicker feedback loops, allowing Agile teams to promptly address issues and make necessary adjustments during development.
  • Improved Quality: By prioritizing automated tests, especially at the unit testing level, the pyramid promotes code simplicity, reliability, and bug-free development. This leads to an overall improvement in software quality.
  • Reduced Costs: Automated tests, particularly at the unit and integration levels, reduce the costs associated with manual testing. This efficiency results in significant cost savings for Agile teams.
  • Agile Methodologies like TDD: Agile methodologies, such as Test-Driven Development (TDD), align seamlessly with the testing pyramid. TDD involves writing tests before production code, ensuring a systematic and quality-driven development process.
  • Time Management: The pyramid structure, with its emphasis on running the most accessible tests first (starting with unit tests), helps Agile teams manage their time effectively, achieving better results within constrained timelines.
  • Risk-Based Prioritization: The testing pyramid aids Agile teams in prioritizing tests based on associated risks. This risk-centric approach allows teams to focus efforts where they are most needed, optimizing the testing process.

Best Practices for Testing Pyramid

Follow these best practices to maximize the benefits of the testing pyramid:


  • Risk-Based Prioritization: Prioritize tests based on the risks associated with each type. This approach accelerates the testing process by addressing critical areas first.
  • Test Automation Scope: Identify what test cases to automate and the scope of automated tests. Automation, when applied judiciously, contributes significantly to product quality.
  • Unified Automation Tool: Select a single, comprehensive tool for test automation. Tools like Testsigma, which support various testing types in one place, streamline the testing process.
  • Clean Test Code: Maintain clean and readable test code to enhance maintainability and reduce the likelihood of errors.
  • Integration into Deployment Pipeline: Integrate tests into the deployment pipeline to expedite product delivery and catch issues early in the development process.
  • Diverse Test Data: Use various test data to cover all user scenarios, ensuring a thorough validation of the software’s functionality.
  • Avoid Test Duplication: Eliminate test duplication to enhance test efficiency and save valuable time.
  • Exploratory Testing: Incorporate exploratory testing to uncover issues not identified by the automated pipeline. This approach encourages creative problem-solving and thinking outside the conventional testing framework.


Adhering to these best practices ensures that Agile teams leverage the testing pyramid effectively, resulting in accelerated development cycles, improved product quality, and efficient resource utilization.

Related Topics


In summary, a Test Automation Pyramid, also known as Agile Testing Pyramid, helps achieve an ideal balance in testing for agile software development.  The testing pyramid serves as a robust strategy for software development teams, especially in agile settings. It establishes a solid groundwork for quality assurance, enabling teams to detect defects early in the development cycle and contributing to enhanced overall product quality.

Frequently Asked Questions

At the top, we have exploratory and UI testing, involving manual exploration and automated/manual evaluation of the user interface. The lower levels include integration testing, ensuring smooth component interaction, and unit testing, examining individual code units.

The pyramid advises maintaining a balance in testing at various levels, promoting a higher quality product. It also minimizes the time required for developers to assess the impact of updates.

In Agile, flipping the pyramid is considered to focus on bug elimination. This involves early testing at the code and UI levels, leveraging automation effectively.

Unit Testing: Aims to verify individual code units’ correctness.

Integration Testing: Focuses on ensuring seamless interaction between integrated components.

System Testing: Aims to validate the overall system functionality.

Acceptance Testing: Confirms the application meets specified requirements and is ready for use.

The Testing Pyramid proves advantageous for agile teams by ensuring thorough software testing while minimizing costs and efforts. It brings about efficient resource utilization, better test coverage, faster feedback, and a streamlined testing process, ultimately leading to improved product quality.

The Testing Pyramid places a strong emphasis on a balanced and clear testing approach. It encourages the writing of tests at multiple levels with the primary goal of detecting defects early in the development cycle.

Pyramid Automation, also known as the Test Automation Pyramid, is a testing strategy that highlights a hierarchical approach to test automation. It is structured into three levels: Unit Testing, Integration Testing, and End-to-End Testing. This approach optimizes the efficiency of the testing process.

The Agile Testing Pyramid is a conceptual framework that illustrates the ideal distribution of automated tests across different levels of a software application. It emphasizes a balanced approach with a foundation of unit tests, followed by integration tests, and topped with end-to-end (E2E) tests.

The Testing Pyramid is crucial in Agile development as it promotes early defect detection, faster feedback loops, reduced maintenance costs, improved test coverage, and alignment with Agile principles like continuous integration and test-driven development (TDD).

Unit tests are at the base of the Agile Testing Pyramid. They validate the functionality of individual components (e.g., classes, methods) in isolation, ensuring that each unit of code behaves as expected.

Integration tests verify the interactions between various components or modules of the software. They ensure that different parts of the system work together harmoniously.

End-to-end (E2E) tests, at the top of the pyramid, simulate real user scenarios by interacting with the application through its user interface. They validate the system’s behavior from end to end, mimicking actual user interactions.

The Testing Pyramid aligns well with SAFe principles by enabling early defect detection, faster feedback cycles, reduced maintenance overhead, broader test coverage, and seamless integration with continuous delivery practices.

Agile teams can implement the Testing Pyramid effectively by prioritizing unit tests for comprehensive code coverage, followed by integration tests to validate component interactions, and finally E2E tests to ensure end-to-end functionality.

Some challenges include maintaining a balance between different test types, ensuring appropriate test coverage across all layers, and managing the complexity of E2E tests, which can be slower and more brittle compared to unit tests.

The Testing Pyramid contributes to software quality assurance by fostering a culture of testing throughout the development lifecycle, ensuring early bug detection, facilitating faster feedback, and promoting stable and reliable software releases.

Automation is integral to the Testing Pyramid as it enables frequent and rapid execution of tests across all levels (unit, integration, and E2E). Automated tests ensure consistency, efficiency, and scalability in Agile development practices.