1. Introduction

Software testing is important for risk reduction, quality assurance, and bug identification throughout the software development lifecycle.

In this tutorial, we’ll discuss exploratory testing, its advantages, and when to use it.

2. Why Exploratory Testing?

In scripted testing, the required documents must be ready and complete before the testing can begin. So, the development team creates test cases to cover each of the system’s functionalities based on the documented requirements. The testing team must create a thorough test strategy before the testing process starts.

On the other hand, in exploratory testing, the tester doesn’t rely solely on predefined test cases but instead adopts a more fluid and adaptive approach to uncover potential issues. The emphasis is on the testers’ intuition, experience, and creativity, allowing them to dynamically design and execute test scenarios on the fly.

Exploratory testing complements other approaches and doesn’t replace them. It can be particularly effective in uncovering issues early in the development lifecycle, promoting a deeper understanding of the system, and providing valuable feedback for iterative improvements.

3. The Definition and Characteristics

Exploratory testing is a testing approach that focuses on simultaneous learning, test design, and execution. It’s a dynamic and unscripted method where testers explore the software system in order to find defects, assess its behavior, and gain a deeper understanding of its strengths and weaknesses:

Exploratory Testing

In this approach, the tester is free to use any testing methodology they see fit. It’s very helpful in an agile environment since it’s consistent with the agile development methodology of flexible and iterative development. In order to verify that the product fulfills a client’s needs, agile teams frequently rely on short feedback loops.

Exploratory testing makes testing easier by enabling testers to spot problems and modify their testing strategy in real-time.

It’s helpful when stakeholders need quick input and there’s not much time to learn about the product or program. Additionally, it’s more context-driven than following a set of predetermined processes.

Here are several key characteristics of exploratory testing.

3.1. Adaptiveness

It encourages testers to use their domain knowledge, intuition, and creativity to design and execute tests on the fly.

Testers have the freedom to explore different scenarios, functionalities, and edge cases that scripted test cases might not cover. This adaptability allows them to uncover unforeseen defects and potential risks.

3.2. Dynamic Nature

In this approach, testers continuously learn from the system under test as they interact with it, identify areas of concern, and design new tests accordingly.

This dynamic nature enables testers to uncover complex issues that scripted tests might miss.

3.3. Rapid Feedback

It also helps testers quickly identify defects and potential issues in the software because they don’t have to wait for scripted test cases to cover specific areas.

3.4. User-Centric Approach

It focuses on mimicking real-world user interactions and scenarios.

Testers simulate user behavior and explore the application in a more natural and unpredictable manner, which can uncover issues that scripted tests might miss.

This also provides insights into usability, user experience, and system behavior under varying conditions.

4. How to Perform Exploratory Testing

There are several steps:

Steps in Exploratory Testing

We classify defects into different groups or categories to create a bug taxonomy. This helps in organizing and classifying defects based on their characteristics, impact, and the affected functions. For example, we may classify them into usability defects, functionality defects, performance issues, and security vulnerabilities.

Then, we create a test charter. A test charter typically includes the outlines of what the test session aims to achieve and defines its scope. It can also involve specifying the features, functions, and components that testers should test, along with identifying any areas that are out of scope.

We also need to specify a time box. It’s a predefined period during which testers engage in exploratory testing activities, exploring the software, uncovering defects, and gaining insights into its behavior.

We review the results by looking at testing parameters. They can estimate the effectiveness of the testing methodology, identify system problems, and generate valuable knowledge about the product’s benefits and drawbacks.

Debriefing refers to the evaluation of testing efforts and communicating the results to stakeholders. In order to help stakeholders make more informed decisions about the direction of the project. Testers discuss their observations and suggestions for ways to make the testing procedures for upcoming projects or cycles better during the debriefing meeting.

5. Benefits

Exploratory testing can help us find software flaws when a rigid testing technique can’t catch all the bugs.

It’s particularly valuable when dealing with unclear, incomplete, or frequently changing requirements. As it doesn’t require extensive test case preparation and documentation, as it’s a more fluid and ad-hoc approach. Testers can quickly start exploring the software without the overhead of creating detailed test scripts in advance. This leads to time and cost savings.

In exploratory testing, we approach the software with the mindset of an end-user, focusing on usability, intuitiveness, and overall user experience. By exploring the software from the user’s standpoint, testers can identify potential usability issues, confusing workflows, or areas that may impact end-user satisfaction.

6. Challenges

Exploratory testing has a lot of benefits, but it also has some pitfalls:

Exploratory testing is often characterized by a reduced emphasis on extensive documentation. Based on free-form exploration and experimentation, testers often do not provide detailed documentation of the test cases and steps followed during testing. This can make it challenging to reproduce issues or track the testing progress over time.

Time constraints are inherent in exploratory testing, as testers engage in dynamic test design and execution, adapting their approach based on emerging information and insights within the available testing timeframe. Testers need to balance their efforts and ensure they allocate sufficient time for critical areas.

Effective exploratory testing requires skilled and experienced testers who possess a deep understanding of the system under test, the domain, and various testing techniques. It can be challenging to find testers with the right expertise, and there may be a learning curve for new testers to become proficient in exploratory testing.

Risk of missing certain areas or functionalities to test, as exploratory testing doesn’t follow a predefined script or test plan. It’s necessary to manage and monitor test coverage to ensure that critical aspects of the software are adequately explored.

7. Summary

Exploratory testing possesses both advantages and disadvantages. Here’s a quick summary.

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8. Conclusion

In this article, we talked about exploratory testing.

It’s best described as testing on the fly, where testers don’t follow predefined testing scripts but design and execute them as they see fit.

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