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Home Guide Exploratory Testing: A Detailed Guide

Exploratory Testing: A Detailed Guide

By Shreya Bose, Community Contributor -

In exploratory testing, testers do not work based on previously created test cases. They check a system without a plan to discover bugs that users may face when navigating a website or app without a specific aim or direction.

What is Exploratory Testing?

Essentially, exploratory testing tries to mimic individual end-users’ personal freedom and choices. It is all about discovery, investigation, and curiosity. It is a simultaneous process in which testers go through the software of their own accord to get a sense of the quality of the user experience it provides.

Exploratory testing involves minimal planning. Testers create a test idea to understand what they are looking for and start exploring the software. Testers make spontaneous decisions about what features and actions to test, thus reflecting the individual interests of end-users. This type of testing will more likely find more issues and edge cases than you would through traditional test cases.

Exploratory Testing Example

For example, developers of a shopping website know what it is meant to do. Let users select products of their choice, move them to the cart, pay, and confirm their order. The team would approach the testing more freely, without a rigid plan in exploratory testing.

Exploratory testing helps verify that the system works as expected and is an easy and pleasant user process. It lets testers ensure that extra features (payment through rewards points, ordering products for trial purposes) work flawlessly. They would try to break the elements/features by testing the boundaries with unexpected scenarios. This way, QA can find bugs that was not part of the test case and work around to fix it.

Stages of Exploratory Testing in Software Testing

1. Classify the Bugs

  • Categorize the commonly detected bugs in similar software. Use Bug Severity and Bug Priority for categorization.
  • Analyze and record the root cause of such bugs.

Pro Tip: Use real devices for testing to consider real user conditions. These might seem trivial, and tests might pass in Emulators, but it impacts the overall user experience in the real world.

2. Create a Test Charter

The Test Charter should include:

3. Time Box

The point of the Time Box is for testers to test and respond to system responses. It involves the following steps in a particular slot.

  • Testers work on the tests outlined above for a specific time (usually 90 minutes).
  • This time should be without interruptions.
  • The timebox can be extended or reduced (depending on test progression).

4. Review Results

5. Debriefing

  • Compile the output results.
  • Compare actual results with expected results in the test charter.
  • Decide whether additional testing is required using a test summary report.

Tips for Exploratory Testing in Software Testing

  • Divide the software into modules for easier testing and more effective test coverage.
  • Make a checklist of all features to be tested so that none are missed. Read the top 5 questions in a software testing checklist.
  • Start with testing basic user scenarios. Expand it as testing progresses by adding more features to the test.
  • Check the GUI against the standards in the test charter.
  • The mission of an exploratory test session should be clear.
  • Record what needs to be tested, why, and how to assess its quality.
  • Keep a record of issues raised during the tests.
  • Pair up testers for effective testing.
  • Create as much documentation as possible.
  • Run multiple tests, if possible, for maximum test coverage.

Types of Exploratory Testing

1. Freestyle Exploratory Testing

Think of this as exploratory testing with an ad-hoc approach. In this format, there are no rules, structure, or organization. Testers go through the application quickly, mainly to verify the work of other testers, investigate a particular bug defect, or do a quick smoke test.

2. Scenario-based Exploratory Testing

This form of exploratory testing is based on real user scenarios. Testers take each scenario and then explore the software in all possible ways to match that scenario. The point is to test as many scenarios as possible to provide maximum test coverage.

3. Strategy-based Exploratory Testing

This is usually assigned to testers already familiar with the software being tested. It includes boundary value analysis, equivalence technique, and risk-based technique to identify more challenging bugs.

Advantages of Exploratory Testing in Agile Development

  • It provides quick and early feedback at the early stages of development.
  • It helps to uncover a wide variety of bugs.
  • Developers, testers, designers, and any other stakeholders in a project can perform exploratory testing since it does not require a script.
  • During the Iterative coding of an application, exploratory testing is ideal for testing new features, while automation testing focuses on regression testing and backward compatibility testing.
  • If project requirements are unstable, exploratory testing is perfect for testing new requirements within limited timeframes. This is because the emphasis here is on quick and usable results.

Qualities of an Exploratory Tester

Every exploratory tester should possess the following qualities:

  • Should have the intuition to realize how end-users think and explore software from that perspective.
  • Remember, exploratory tests have no scripts. The tester should have significant domain experience, so they don’t need to have every step outlined for them.
  • Should be active at expanding test coverage. This means they should proactively keep testing more features with every round of testing.
  • Should be able to review and express ideas logically. Exploratory testing requires critical thinking and significant domain expertise.

Best Practices for Exploratory Testing

  • Understand the customer: All software testing is about checking a product’s quality to provide maximum user satisfaction. For effective exploratory testing, understanding the customer’s viewpoint is integral. Exploratory testing only makes sense if done from the customer’s perspective.
    But remember, it is not one customer’s viewpoint that needs to be understood. It is multiple. End-users navigate the same software differently based on age, gender, economic status, preferences, and other factors. Testers must be able to approach the software from all those users’ mindsets.
  • Use real browsers and devices: Customers will use the software on real devices. So, run exploratory tests on real devices. No emulator or simulator can provide real user conditions to test on. If testers cannot access an in-house lab (which usually involves a high financial investment to create and maintain), opt for a cloud-based testing service.
    BrowserStack provides exactly that in the form of 3000+ real browsers and devices hosted on the cloud for manual and automated testing. This cloud Selenium grid can be accessed from anywhere, anytime. Simply sign up and start testing for free.

Test on Real Device Cloud

  • Know the competitors: By knowing what works and what doesn’t work for competitors, testers will know which bugs to look out for. Of course, this needs to begin from the development stages. When a tester knows that users of a particular competing app often complain about the clunky design of the cart function, they can be mindful to test the cart and ensure the same problem does not occur in the app they are trying.

Exploratory Testing is a significant part of every software testing process. It is best done manually since it intends to judge software based on the user’s outlook. When done correctly, every step becomes instrumental in ensuring that a website or app is at par with users’ expectations. Factor it into the test lifecycle, and roll out software that gives users exactly what they want.

Exploratory Testing Tools

Test automation tools: Although exploratory testing is primarily a manual process, test automation tools can help automate repetitive or time-consuming tasks, freeing up testers to focus on more experimental work. For example, automated regression tests can be run in the background while testers focus on exploratory testing. Some popular test automation tools include Selenium, Appium, and TestComplete.

Debugging tools: Debugging tools can help testers identify and isolate defects more quickly and effectively during exploratory testing.

Recording and playback: These tools allow testers to record actions or interactions with an application and then play them back to replicate the same behavior. This can be useful for automated regression testing or for creating reproducible test cases.

Automation Testing Manual Testing Types of Testing

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