The way I usually explain automated software tests to people who aren’t familiar with them is that if you write a test for the thing you’re working on now, it will let you know when you accidentally break it later, before the bug gets into production.
This describes how tests can be a part of QA, but not how they can be a part of the development process.
I’ve been working on a complicated feature for several weeks and I don’t think I could have done it without using TDD. The requirements are just too complex for me to hold them all in my head at once.
Last month, Sarah Mei tweeted about how “genius” programmers can be at a disadvantage because they aren’t forced to learn the techniques that non-geniuses rely on:
Sometimes I think that people who can hold complex systems entirely in their heads - classic ‘genius’ programmers, clearly the type this author is - are actually at a disadvantage these days.
At some scale, even they run out of brainspace, and then they don’t have the habits people like me developed early on - by necessity - to carve out spaces where we didn’t have to hold it all in our heads.
TDD is a tool that lets non-geniuses build complicated software when the requirements are too sprawling to hold everything in your head at once. When things get really hairy, the non-genius who is skilled at practicing TDD may be more effective than the genius who can get by without it.