One of the biggest enemies of experienced testers is their own experience.
It is not the experience of the tester per se, but the overconfidence that many times comes from it.
Let me explain.
Have you ever felt that you know exactly what you need to test, and since you have tested this multiple times in the past you can get into auto-testing-pilot? I know I have, and this is very problematic!
It is even more problematic that most of the times I get away with testing in auto-pilot, and I am still able to find most of the important bugs in the AUT.
Does this mean that I am a good tester? Maybe.
But it also makes me even more overconfident, and it is only a matter of time until my luck runs out and I let slip a very big and trivial bug.
A tester should never be overconfident
Overconfidence is the biggest enemy of a tester, even worse than lack of knowledge or lack of tools!
Lack of knowledge or tools are obstacles that can be overcome by investing additional efforts and by thinking outside of the box.
But overconfidence is like the thin fog that creeps into our field of vision while driving in a quiet country road. It makes us believe all is good and “as expected” until a deer crossing the road or a stranded car on the side appears out of nowhere and causes that disastrous crash to happen…
(Sorry for being melodramatic, but I wanted to drive a point home)
If this is the case, we can implement practices or tools to help fight the effects of overconfidence from clouding our testing vision.
Some practical tips to maintain your Testing Edge, even after the experience creeps in
You can try to tell yourself, “I am going to be a professional and not miss any bug in this test“.
But it can be just as effective as when your small kids on Christmas eve say they will stay awake in order to catch Santa Claus bringing the presents from the chimney…
By 10 PM they are sound asleep, just like after 10 minutes of testing you are back to your testing-auto-pilot, thinking about the ski vacation you are planning or the movie you want to see with your friends tonight.
Still, there are some tips and practices you can do in order to maintain your testing edge while running over what may be seemingly simple testing tasks. Let me go over a few I use all the time as part of my testing practices.
1. Take 2 minutes to plan every testing session you are going to have
Even if you have done the same test a hundred times already in the past, or if you are planning to test this feature for only 10 minutes, sit and plan your testing session.
Think why you are running it? What changed, and what bugs could this change bring? Plan the main paths you are going to take, include some that you run all the time as well as some that you have not run in a while, this will help you to add noise to your testing operations and avoid the pesticide paradox.
It is up to you to choose how you want to approach your testing. Using the requirements module in PractiTest, I sometimes create a fully defined scripted tests, or I keep it lean by writing down some notes and comments.
Even if you are going to be running an Exploratory Testing session, make a high level plan or a set of points you want to evaluate, they will serve as beacons along the way.
The vast majority of the times it will better to have a plan and make changes along the way, than to start with no plan at all.
2. Test from your Testing Zone
I wrote about how I like working from my Testing Zone when I test. It helps me to focus and perform tests better.
If you don’t have a zone (yet 😊 ) at least look for a place where you can focus on the tests and the application at hand, and where people won’t bother you with tasks in the middle.
For those of you working in open spaces, you can create your “zone” by working with really good (or noise canceling) headphones and finding the type of music that lets you concentrate.
I also recommend printing a font 42 page that says something like:
“I am busy testing, interrupt me only if extremely important!”
3. Use Heuristics and Testing Resources
There are many resources with heuristics, cheat-sheets, data-sets, and even ideas on things to test depending on the type of application and of testing task at hand.
These testing tools (they are tools if you are using them to facilitate your testing), will not only save you time and remind you of things that you might have forgotten, but they can also provide you new ideas and ways to challenge the system under test better.
Some of the places where I look for my resources are:
4. Log your testing operations using ET and Session Based approaches
When you are working with scripted tests, make sure to add notes for the temporary steps you check that are not part of the original script.
If you are working using non-scripted tests it is also very important to log the things you tested in a way that will allow you to remember what was tested, as well as to explain the things you covered and found.
I personally like using the Exploratory Testing approach for annotations and use it both when I work with PractiTest – a test management tool that enables the combination of manual, automated and exploratory testing, as well as when I am taking notes in my personal notebook.
The importance of writing down notes cannot be exaggerated. First of all, they will help you to remember what you covered in your tests in the future if someone asks if you check for a specific scenario. But most importantly for me, they allow me to share the tests I did with my peers (developers, testers, POs, etc) and get feedback on things I might have missed during my testing operations.
5. Look for things you were not looking for in the first place
This should be instinctive for every “good” tester, but it is important to mention.
Some of the most valuable bugs I ever found came as a complete surprise to me! What do I mean by surprise? As simple as it sounds, I was not expecting to find them and I did not really plan my tests around them, but nonetheless they were there and I was able to detect these bugs.
If you are a good tester and have been doing this for a while, you already know what I mean. Even when you are doing a specific operation, your brain is open to capture the things on the periphery that are “out of place”.
It also helps to “actively stray away” from the path you are traveling. The way I like doing this is by defining the borders of what I am testing, and then look for ways to cross over them.
6. Review your tests, and not only your results, with peers
It is very important to review your tests with peers in order to find things that may be interesting to check and for some reason you did not think about it yourself.
Many times we plan our tests so that by the time we are done we are also very close to the deadline for our results. This means that when we get feedback for things we should test again it is already too late.
But if as part of your testing approach, you make sure to get feedback on your testing operations with enough time to use this feedback, then you will be able to expand the coverage and the results of your testing operations.
This is why I like using a tool like PractiTest that enables full visibility and is a common meeting ground for all stakeholders. With PractiTest I can share my progress with my managers, define and track the team’s process, share external dashboards, trace each entity within the system and more.
The most important thing is not to assume you know exactly what you are looking for!
- Challenge your assumptions!
- Don’t take anything for granted!
- Look for the unexpected!
- Use tools that will help you test better!
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Joel started testing by accident as a student job back in the late 90’s and after about 5 years of trying to run away from it he finally realized that he actually like the work and responsibility of a Tester.
Joel has been able to work in small and larger organizations, from tiny Internet Startups and all the way to Global Enterprises such as Mercury Interactive (back in the day). During his professional journey he’s been a tester, test manager, qa director, consultant, trainer, speaker and more. Joel has been lucky enough to speak at conferences such as Star East, CAST, QA&Test, and in a number of meetups throughout Europe.
Today in PractiTest he manages all the aspects of Quality for the Company, and as Solution Architect he also works with PractiTest customers to understand their needs and create a better product. In the last number of years Joel has been working on giving back to the community with a number of projects such as the State of Testing Report– (running for 4 years now) together with TeaTime with Testers, and his latest project, the OnlineTestConf – that already ran 2 editions and is starting to plan the third one for this fall.
Joel will present his as part of a conversation track with Simon Prior. Joel will present his session ‘Daring to provide more value than simply testing‘ at UKSTAR 2018 in London.