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Exploratory Testing Explained


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Exploratory testing is an approach to testing that emphasizes the freedom and responsibility of testers to continually optimize the value of their work. It is the process of three mutually supportive activities done in parallel: learning, test design, and test execution. With skill and practice, exploratory testers typically uncover an order of magnitude more problems than when the same amount of effort is spent on procedurally scripted testing. All testers conduct exploratory testing in one way or another, but few know how to do it systematically to obtain the greatest benefits. Even fewer can articulate the process. Jon Bach looks at specific heuristics and techniques of exploratory testing that will help you get the most from this highly productive approach. Jon focuses on the skills and dynamics of exploratory testing, and how it can be combined with scripted approaches.

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Exploratory Testing Explained

  1. 1. Explorator y Testing Explained Jon Bach QE Director, Live Site Quality STAR Canada 2013
  2. 2. Do you see structure here?
  3. 3. How about here? 3
  4. 4. … or here?
  5. 5. … or here?
  6. 6. … or here? 6
  7. 7. Preamble Ever use the term "playing around" to describe your testing? Ever cringe after saying it, wishing there was a better way of describing what you did than to give the impression it was all accidental and random? If so, this workshop may help you understand and explain exploratory testing as a thoughtful, purposeful approach whose results stand up under scrutiny. 7
  8. 8. Promises  Participate in exercises that focus on bug isolation and investigation, risks and vulnerabilities.  Learn frameworks and heuristics of exploration to use in tight situations  Discover ways to report your exploration so it stands up to scrutiny. There is structure and purpose if you know how to identify it and tell a story about it. 8
  9. 9. Why this talk? 1) Exploratory testers want respect: When testers explore during testing, they find great bugs. However, since they often don’t know how to describe their thinking, it’s considered to be dismissed as “playing around”. 2) The documentation dilemma: Project managers may insist that all testing be documented, so how to balance time spent documenting with time spent testing? 3) Your work might be scrutinized: You may have to give a report someday about something you did that was exploratory – like attending this conference.
  10. 10. Exercise (ebay Search) Most bizarre thing for sale on ebay? Most expensive thing on ebay? What’s trending? How can you find completed items? What’s most common item sold? How many categories of items for sale? How many actual items?
  11. 11. Exploratory Testing • Sabourin: “continuous test design as testing continues; continuous testing as design continues; continuous test planning as testing continues” • Hendrickson: a style of testing in which you explore the software while simultaneously designing and executing tests, using feedback from the last test to inform the next (Test-Driven Testing?) • Bolton: Operating and observing the product with the freedom and mandate to investigate it in an open-ended search for information about the program. • Kaner: Simultaneous learning, design and execution, with an emphasis on learning.
  12. 12. “The” ET Definition A style of software testing… that emphasizes the personal freedom… and responsibility of the individual tester… to continually optimize the quality of his/her work… by treating test-related learning… test design… test execution… and test result interpretation… as mutually supportive activities… that run in parallel… throughout the project. -- Cem Kaner, 2006
  13. 13. “The” ET Definition A style of software testing… that emphasizes the personal freedom… and responsibility of the individual tester… to continually optimize the quality of his/her work… by treating test-related learning… test design… test execution… and test result interpretation… as mutually supportive activities… that run in parallel… throughout the project. -- Cem Kaner, 2006
  14. 14. Analogies Psychologist Driving a car “20 Questions” Sports Bounty Hunter Going to a testing conference Job Interview Jam session Newspaper reporter
  15. 15. Missions that inspire ET • Change test case variables • Execute a checklist • Regress a list of bugs • Confirm a rumor • Design a test case • Write some automation
  16. 16. Testers light the way. This is our role. We see things for what they are. We make informed decisions about quality possible, because we think critically about software. 16
  17. 17. Key Idea Testing is… an infinite process of comparing the invisible to the ambiguous in order to avoid the unthinkable happening to the anonymous.
  18. 18. Key Idea Testing is… an infinite process of comparing the invisible to the ambiguous in order to avoid the unthinkable happening to the anonymous.
  19. 19. What is testing? “Try it and see if it works.” Learn anything reasonable that matters about whether it can work and how it might not work. 19
  20. 20. What is testing? “Try it and see if it works.” Coverage Oracles Get it set up Choose where to look Read specs Run it See what’s there See if product matches Run it again, maybe See what’s not there Find problems… …especially the bad ones Procedures 20
  21. 21. “I want you to test this…”
  22. 22. What is testing? If you don’t have an understanding and an agreement on what is the mission of your testing, then doing it “rapidly” would be pointless. “everything that matters” 22
  23. 23. The “tester freedom” scale pure scripted vague scripts fragmentary test cases (scenarios) freestyle exploratory charters roles To know where a test falls on this scale, the tester must ask themselves: “to what extent am I in control of the test, and from where did the idea originate?”
  24. 24. Exercise This app asks you for the next item in a sequence of numbers. What is the next number? Operating rule?
  25. 25. Exploration is discovery… ? ? ? Pa rts Un ? kn ? ow n ?
  26. 26. …that starts with an idea…
  27. 27. and ends with a perception… Ea rth s top sh e re …
  28. 28. …depending on the mission Before exploring After exploring
  29. 29. …mission, mission, mission If you don’t know your mission, you’re not testing. That’s ok, just call it *touring*.
  30. 30. Lewis & Clark, 1802 Mission: Find a water passage across North America…
  31. 31. The charter from Jefferson “The object of your mission is to explore the Missouri river, & such principal stream of it, as, by its course & communication with the water of the Pacific ocean may offer the most direct & practicable water communication across this continent, for the purposes of commerce.”
  32. 32. Chartering Making your own decisions about what you will work on and how you will work. Understanding your client’s needs, the problems you must solve, and assuring that your work is on target.
  33. 33. Sponsors and stakeholders • • • • • • • • • Test Manager Product Manager CEO Customer Developer Marketing Tech Writer Customer Support Other testers
  34. 34. Charter-based method #1 Session-Based Exploration Think in time-boxed missions to explore, resulting in a test report with Notes, Bugs, and Issues.
  35. 35. Structure The “Session” 1) 2) 3) Time Box Reviewable Result Debriefing
  36. 36. “I want you to test this…” My testing demo…
  37. 37. Some sample session charters  Installation: When installed, does Triangle! put any files in the wrong places? Does it leave any files for the uninstall? Check the registry keys, use InCtrl to see what changes are made. Installation is new, so we want to be sure it’s clean.  Boundary testing: We got word from customer support that there are run-time errors when using integers over 32000 but no one can repro it. Best recon is on Win XP Pro with Office 2003 running in the background. Sam K. in CSS says you can use his machine, and he also has customer specs.  Ship drill: Start Triangle! right out of the box. For example, is the readme ready to go? We’re waiting from word on Legal as to the License Agreement, but that shouldn’t hold you up. Also make sure you hit Vista and see what issues arise there.  Claims testing: Triangle is meant for first graders, but we plan to ship a version to General Dynamics in a few months. Try some usability profiles or personas to see what functions become more or less risky. Also, discover the algorithm by which Triangle! reports its results. Is it way off from what a user would expect. Does it cause the user to lower their confidence?
  38. 38. Charter-creation method #2 Open-Book Testing The act of creating open-ended questions such that…
  39. 39. …testers… …are immersed in the product right away, building a model or mind map. …learn how they are provoked into critical thinking by being exposed to many types of questions (test ideas). … quickly find bugs and raise issues in answering the questions they are given
  40. 40. Questions } test ideas test cases test scenarios test plans test scripts test designs test strategies test heuristics
  41. 41. test ideas test cases test scenarios test plans test scripts test designs test strategies test heuristics } Questions These comprise the exam to which software will either pass or fail.
  42. 42. A few non-obvious (?) sources for charters • Bug database • Testers (paired testing) • Programmers (different domain expertise) • Similar (or competing) products • Customer Support • Claims made by marketing • Emails / Meetings / RSS feeds
  43. 43. Resources Questions and answers can originate from the same sources:           Documentation / Specifications Web forums Previous products Team members Competing products PSS data / KB articles Your expertise Heuristics Help files Manuals
  44. 44. IM OPEN  Interrogate: The test manager or tester develops a list of questions to answer.  Manipulate: The testers execute actions to answer the question.  Observe: Testers take notes on what they find.  Plan: Testers determine any follow-up questions (tests) that occur to them, in preparation to debrief their results.  Evaluate: Testers and test manager meet to compare answers (test results).  Negotiate: After the debrief, testers and test managers talk about the appropriate next steps in mission or coverage
  45. 45. A Heuristic Test Strategy Model Project Environment Tests Quality Criteria Product Elements Perceived Quality 45
  46. 46. A Heuristic Test Strategy Model Project Environment Tests Quality Criteria Product Elements Perceived Quality 46
  47. 47. Coverage Product coverage is the proportion of the product that has been tested.  Structure  Function  Data  Platform  Operations  Time Capability Reliability Usability Security Scalability Performance Installability Compatibility Supportability Testability Maintainability Portability Localizability 47
  48. 48. Structural Coverage Test what it’s made of. input platform  Print – – – – testing example Files associated with printing Code modules that implement printing Code statements inside the modules Code branches inside the modules output
  49. 49. Functional Coverage Test what it does. input functions functions platform  Print – – – testing example Print, page setup and print preview Print range, print copies, zoom Print all, current page, or specific range output
  50. 50. Data Coverage Test what it does it to. input functions & structure output platform  Print – – – testing example Types of documents Items in documents, size and structure of documents Data about how to print (e.g. zoom factor, no. of copies)
  51. 51. Platform Coverage Test what it depends upon. input functions & structure platform  Print – – – – testing example Printers, spoolers, network behavior Computers Operating systems Printer drivers output
  52. 52. Operations Coverage Test how it’s used. input platform  Print – – – – testing example Use defaults Use realistic environments Use realistic scenarios Use complex flows output
  53. 53. Time Coverage Test how it’s affected by time. input output platform  Print – – – – – – testing example Try different network or port speeds Print one document right after another, or after long intervals Try time-related constraints--spooling, buffering, or timeouts Try printing hourly, daily, month-end, and year-end reports Try printing from two workstations at the same time Try printing again, later.
  54. 54. Exercise Does it work? What is the hidden feature? What story does the data tell?
  55. 55. How did you *find* that? Some Exploration Skills and Tactics “MR.Q COMP GRABC R&R?” Modeling Chartering Generating/Elaborating Recording Resourcing Observing Refocusing Reporting Questioning Manipulating Alternating Pairing Branching/Backtracking Conjecturing Exploratory testing is a mindset using this skillset.
  56. 56. Skills of Exploration  Put the tester's mind at the center of testing.  Learn to deal with complexity and ambiguity.  Learn to tell a compelling testing story.  Develop testing skills through practice, not just talk.  Use heuristics to guide and structure your process.  Be a service to the project community, not an obstacle.  Consider cost vs. value in all your testing activity.  Diversify your team and your tactics.  Dynamically manage the focus of your work.  Your context should drive your choices, both of which evolve over time. 56
  57. 57. Testing ourselves Chartering is an opportunity for testers and managers to cultivate and improve testing skill: How did you arrive at that answer? What did you see along the way? Was there anything confusing about the questions? Any riffs off of questions? What test ideas did others have with the same question?
  58. 58. What managers might ask How did you spend your time? What did you find? Did you need some help / tools? Do you think there’s more to do here? Was this charter reasonable? Agenda: “PROOF” Past Results Obstacles Outlook Feelings
  59. 59. The real message What’s being asked What they may be thinking What was your mission? Remind me what I told you to do… How did it go? What do I worry about next? How far did you get? Are we closer to shipping? Need anything? Can I speed this along? When will you be done? Will I get my bonus?
  60. 60. What to document Historical Explorer Tester Observations • drawings of flora / fauna • feature model (To the degree you think they are relevant to stakeholders) • descriptions of indigenous people • text from log files • landmarks • text from dialogs Conjectures • what is this thing? • test ideas (Inferences based on experiences. After I test, I think I know something) • where should we go today? • questions • how do we get there? • • new orders from HQ? • are those people hostile? product and project issues • concerns risks charter Project information • mission • • (Independent of observer) • supplies and staff • test actions • latitude / longitude • config info • death and disease • build details • supply status • tools used
  61. 61. Testing *is* journalism It involves consulting sources, references, oracles -- and taking notes about those details. It requires communication to an audience who wants information and who will either scrutinize or trust your report. It involves a story formed by following up on rumors, tips, leads, conjectures, and questions – in pursuit of the truth.
  62. 62. When I was 10, Dad said… Every story is this simple: Somebody wants something… Something stands in their way… This is what they do about it…
  63. 63. Story Elements (Testing) Characters (Somebody) Purpose (Wants something) Conflict (Something’s in the way) Actions (What was done about it) Testers Customers Stakeholders “How stable are these new features?” “I want to print all of my recipes.” “Try to repro this bug.” Limited budget and time "How does this thing work?” "We have yet to run <these> tests.” Risks exposed Techniques used Features covered
  64. 64. Key Idea Agility is about the freedom to create, learn, and adapt, as we get fast feedback. [ Responding to change over following a plan ]
  65. 65. Key Idea Exploratory testing is about the freedom to discover, learn, and adapt, while delivering fast feedback.
  66. 66. A report of my exploration
  67. 67. Activities to report Bug Investigation Test Design and Execution Session Setup (and Reporting)
  68. 68. Conclusion There is structure and purpose in exploration … know how to identify it.     Management Method: Session-Based tests Chartering Method: Open-Book Testing Idea Method: Heuristic Test Strategy Model Technique inventory: stress, flow, risk, claims, etc…