How to share what you discover on your next exploratory testing session

June, 22nd 2016Simon Tomes

I grew up listening to amazing artists such as Prince and Michael Jackson. I didn't know much about them other than their incredible music and mind-boggling videos.

Back then they had no ability to share what they had for breakfast or who they were hanging out with last night. They had an air of mystery about them and I liked it. They focused on their craft and shared material at a reasonable rate — particularly Prince. This satisfied my musical cravings.

Too much information unrelated to the essence of their artistry and I'd lose the joy of their output.

Too little information and I'm confused and disillusioned by the lack of content. Remember Chinese Democracy?

Simplify your exploratory testing output

Exploratory testing sessions create frustration if too much or too little information is shared.

Simplify your exploratory testing output and reduce frustration for you and your team.

I'll contribute some thoughts on how to share what you discover on your next exploratory testing session. Consider trying the following:

1. Avoid using pass and fail

What does pass and fail tell you about your product? If a test passes it indicates that something specified might have been met. If a test fails it suggests something is different to what was desired.

What if you have further thoughts beyond pass or fail? What if you'd like to provide context to what you've discovered?

Learnings aren't binary so it feels odd to group your test output with pass and fail.

Using pass and fail closes the door on product discovery – the opportunity to find out what the product actually does instead of what it was intended to do.

2. Capture problems and discussions

It's difficult to group the outcome of your exploratory testing discoveries. Output is often refererred to as bugs, defects, issues, enhancements, ideas, feature requests, tasks, notes, thoughts and more.

Try using two categories:

Using Problem and Discuss alleviates non-value adding comments such as:

3. Get to the point

A while ago I took pride in configuring JIRA to ask for information such as a summary, steps to recreate, actual result, expected result, known workaround, number of users affected and more. This info didn't add much value.

Consider your target audience and capture the essence of your exploratory testing discoveries.

Instead of capturing so much information, describe how you discovered the problem using bullets. And only do that.

Add a screen recording to your problem to clarify detail. Much better to show than tell. Tools like liceCap and Screencastify are incredible screen recording tools.

Softer language might help create better discussions. For example:

4. Invite people to the conversation

You've learnt many things during your exploratory testing session. Invite others to engage with your discoveries and create a conversation.

Centre your team around your product and what you've discovered by asking this question: "What do you think?".

Over to you

I'd love to hear your thoughts. How do you capture and share exploratory testing discoveries? What challenges do you face sharing with others? Have you used some of the suggested techniques? How did you get on?