Exploratory Testing: Benefits, Techniques, and Applications

Exploratory Testing: Benefits, Techniques, and Applications
July 21 08:25 2020  

It was J.R.R. Tolkien who said, “Not all those who wander are lost.” Get ready to set off on a new adventure then, our brave tech enthusiasts, as exploratory testing is on-trend again.

This efficient approach has been misunderstood due to its freestyle, unscripted nature. To restore justice, let’s discuss the idea behind the concept of exploratory testing, as well as its applications and the benefits it brings to DevOps/Agile. We’ll also outline the challenges of adapting to exploratory testing.

What is Exploratory Testing?

Recognized among QA engineers as the martial art of the mind, exploratory testing means test design & execution combined with hands-on learning. It is the quintessential way for software testing professionals to actively control each step of the test lifecycle development and use the gained information to improve existing approaches.

An exploratory testing session is based on a charter, which states the purpose and, possibly, some tactics to be used. The path to fulfilling the testing purpose involves defining matters of concern, followed by designing and executing tests to address them and get the answers. If the attempt fails to attain the desired outcome, we adjust the test and keep trying. This is what exploring is about after all.

Exploratory Testing Techniques

When it comes to the classic freestyle testing, the tester freely explores the system, while the test object and purpose are the only constants in this equation.

On the other hand, session-based exploratory testing gets conducted according to the session timing and goals. This common technique provides the framework that makes exploratory testing plan-able, gives direction, and makes applicable for implementation within multiple agile teams.

Exploratory Testing Applications

Exploratory testing fits anywhere that it is not evident what the next test should be, testing steps are not dictated in advance, or you’d like to go beyond the obvious route. More specifically, bring it into play in any of the following situations:

  1. Test planning
  2. Writing new scripts or improving existing tests
  3. Improvising on scripted tests
  4. Providing rapid feedback on a new feature
  5. Identifying a particular bug in the shortest time
  6. Examining the work of another tester
  7. Evaluating the need for scripted tests by investigating the status of a particular risk
  8. Performing legacy regression testing
  9. Improving existing tests
  10. Interpreting vague test instructions

On the other hand, use pre-scripted tests or consider a combined strategy when it comes to especially controversial matters or parts requiring management/customer approval.

Why Exploratory Testing is Critical for DevOps and Agile

While automation is no panacea, exploratory testing maintains its position as the next big thing in manual testing and beyond. There are several ways in which DevOps and Agile automated testing teams can benefit from this approach.

First of all, exploratory testing enables examining the product from various perspectives exposing bugs that automated systems would miss. Manual testers have the flexibility to adjust the means they use for achieving the testing mission. Given this, combining two approaches would provide the greatest coverage.

Secondly, exploratory testing stimulates collaboration between team members. Therefore, each person can bring a valuable perspective to the table regardless of the test automation or scripting knowledge.

Finally, this approach detects functional defects when automation is not advisable – like testing new functionalities that are about to evolve dramatically soon, or legacy regression testing suites.

Challenges of Adapting to Exploratory Testing

Undoubtedly, many testers are willing to master the art of exploratory testing. Still, there are a few sets of challenges that are responsible for misunderstanding and slow adoption.

Challenge No.1: Lack of awareness and understanding

How to overcome it: Increase your level of understanding of the process and qualitative benefits of exploratory testing, while conveying your knowledge to the customer.

Challenge No.2: Lack of standardization and documenting clarity

How to overcome it: Organize your test cycle leveraging the required freedom in terms of time and implementation strategy. Define the testing scope and document the process. Don’t try to test everything. Classify your bugs and prepare a complete bug report.

Challenge No.3: Timing

How to overcome it: Set exact checkpoints early on the testing process.

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Yulia Lomanova
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