Industry Wisdom Software Testing Techniques

How does Exploratory Testing help? Twelve reasons why it’s a must!

Exploratory Testing has gained popularity in past few years. There are several studies and has also received much of professional attention from the industry. Exploratory Testing gives power to the tester together with responsibility; it offers great freedom and opportunity to the tester for exploring and identifying areas for improvement. But why do we need exploratory testing if we’re already doing a good level of scripted testing? We’re writing test scenarios in each story, running them on different builds until they all pass, and we’re also running them in regression to make doubly sure that the product is still working. Sound good and thorough – what’s the point in doing more software testing on top of that? Well, there are a few good reasons to do exploratory testing in addition to the regular, scripted testing. It exposes the underlying issues within your product, app or website and allows testers to literally explore the functionality.

“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

There are several benefits of using Exploratory Testing; however, we have listed twelve major benefits of this approach.

Test Coverage

“Exhaustive Test coverage is impossible, but we can give it a try at least”

No test process provides complete coverage. Scripting all the possible failure conditions is impossible. Software can fail in many different ways, e.g. different configuration settings, unpredictable inputs, environmental state, network conditions, etc. Through exploratory testing, we create sessions and charters to really expand the scope of the application we haven’t explored before. To improve the breadth and depth of your testing, consider allotting some time, maybe 20 percent per test cycle to pure exploratory testing. Pick one or more risk areas in the product and design and execute tests for that, seeking to find important problems fast and collecting information that will help the project evaluate the state of the product.

Quick Feedback

“Exploratory testing is useful to provide rapid feedback on a product’s quality on short notice, with little time, off the top of your head, when requirements are vague or even nonexistent, or early in the development process when the system may be unstable.”

Exploratory Testing is Quick

With the traditional test case design, you’re adding steps, expected results, descriptions, pre-conditions, all of these things add to the time it takes you to actually go about testing that. With exploratory testing, you’re not getting into all that granularity. So you’re really a bunch of time. Exploratory testing is typically a relatively quick process, usually taking a few hours to a couple of days, so that a tester can quickly find useful information for a decision on further testing. It helps the tester quickly identify major discrepancies. If there are any changes that need to occur, stakeholders want to know right away. Exploratory tests helps with that by having those debrief sessions and having that rapid feedback as soon as the testing has been completed.

New Product | New Approach

“It is especially useful in complicated situations when you don’t know much about the product.”

Exploratory testing is useful in dynamic product environment when the product is unstable, at the early development stage and undergoing changes. As Exploratory testing requires lesser or no documentation before starting test activities, it could quickly bring the focus on testing in the agile environments. You don’t have a chance (or time) to create the whole package of test cases allowing to verify the application’s compliance with the assumptions.

Automation++

“Test automation covers the cases we already know about. Exploratory testing covers the cases we haven’t discovered yet.”

Interestingly, even software that is well covered by automated tests can regress after bugs are fixed, because the fixes “unmask” other bugs that had been buried for so long that no one thought to check for them.

Avoid Pesticide Paradox

“With a script, you’ll miss the same things every time.”

Once your scripts have been run and tested, running the same script again and again is effectively trying to find the same issue again and again. The product risk profile keeps evolving throughout the lifetime of the product, whereas test scripts are mostly written while implementing (or sometimes designing) a particular story. The continuous evolving risk throughout the product mandates continuous impact analysis and maintenance which takes a significant amount of time and effort. That’s another reason why it is a good idea to have test automation so that the machines can look after finding the impact issues, and human minds can be used to find new issues. By not obliging to following the steps, testers can freshly start with each ET session because charter do not put the designated procedure in front of testers.

Different Perspectives

“Every Tester is different”

Different people make different mistakes, and likewise different people can think of different conditions to find the problems with a system. In this way, the same set of tests can be proven limited. Exploratory testing fills that gap and allow us to leverage expertise and human intelligence over time.

Out-of-the-Box Bugs | Ignored otherwise

“It can uncover bugs, which are normally ignored (or hard to find) by other testing strategies.”

Exploratory testing is a very natural activity. Testers can use deductive reasoning based on previous results to guide their future testing on-the-fly. You are testing based on the data you have gathered at that moment, not based on the script. There are empirical studies for determining the effectiveness of Exploratory Testing. Under the controlled environment, ET is very effective in detecting bugs of diverse severity. When used intelligently, exploratory testing will therefore increase your chances of capturing quality bugs.

Better your Requirements’ understanding

Exploratory tests helps in confirming that a tester understands the application and its functionality properly and has no confusion about the working of even a smallest part of it, hence covering the most important part of requirement understanding. Testers are free to utilize their skills and knowledge while gaining a deeper understanding of the product.

Closest to Business Validation (UAT)

All stakeholder testing is primarily done through exploratory testing. Even if they don’t really actually go through a certain exploratory session or charter, what they are really doing is validating what is actually being delivered to them. The best way they do that is using their subject matter expertise and actually going in the application and incorporating some exploratory testing.

Use of Tester’s Cognitive skills

Exploratory Testing is Cognitive

“It’s cognitively structured compared to the procedural framework of scripted testing.”

The ability to perform exploratory tests is an indispensable skill of testers in every team. We don’t want testers just to be robots. The process is creative, but it’s a learnable discipline that fits anywhere testers are expected to use their minds. During exploratory testing, new test scenarios are often created due to the stimulation of the tester’s mental process and the evolving creativity. The tester has an added advantage for demonstrating own skill set, experience and knowledge from different angles and helps in improving the quality of the system under the test. Well conducted exploratory tests allow you to find errors which would not be found when testing with other techniques. It helps testers learn new strategies, expand the horizon of their imagination that helps them in understanding and executing more and more test cases, and finally improve their productivity.

The Real Tests

Exploratory Testing is more real in the sense it is actually using the application, as your end-users will. End-users won’t refer any test scripts or product documentation. Just login and start exploring.

Exploratory Testing is more robust than Scripted Tests

A system, organism or design may be said to be “robust” if it is capable of coping well with variations (sometimes unpredictable variations) in its operating environment with minimal damage, alteration or loss of functionality. Test scripts are very little tolerant to change. And change is not unusual in modern software. With exploratory testing charters, the focus is just on the ‘new’ or ‘modified’ functionality and not on the documentation.

Exploratory Testing Management

The goals of exploratory testing vary.  In some cases, it serves as a final reality check on the quality of the software before determining whether or not it is ready for release. In others, it serves as a beginning point, an analysis of application strengths and potential weaknesses before beginning formal testing.  Ideally, it should be used throughout the testing process, alternative with other forms of testing to provide a high level feedback of different types of interactions with the application. The key lies in the perfect blend of techniques, tools and skills that pave way for the highest possible opportunity to lower production issues and enhance product quality.

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