The Do’s and Don’ts of Exploratory Testing

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Exploratory testing is a testing approach that includes simultaneously learning from/about the system, documenting the steps, executing the test, and reflecting on the results. Since exploratory testing is unstructured and not constrained to a specified collection of test cases, it differs from scripted testing. Instead, using their expertise, creativity, and intuition, testers execute tests that may reveal defects or other issues in the product.

Exploratory testing may be highly helpful for usability testing and other types of testing that require a more ad hoc approach, as well as for uncovering bugs that scripted tests would have missed.

In this article, we will cover the do's and don'ts of exploratory testing, including errors to avoid and recommended practices.

Xray Exploratory App for exploratory testing


Errors to avoid in Exploratory Testing

  • Ignore testing coverage

It's crucial to make sure that testing coverage is sufficient even though exploratory testing is unstructured and doesn't adhere to a predetermined set of test cases. This can be achieved by monitoring testing coverage and locating places that require additional testing. By connecting exploratory tests to requirements, use cases, and user stories using traceability matrices, test coverage can also be increased.


  • Neglect to document ideas, test cases and defects

Despite the fact that exploratory testing is not structured, it is nevertheless crucial to record all ideas, test cases and defects that are found. This can ensure that the testing is thorough enough and that the bugs are monitored and communicated appropriately. Any observations or thoughts that would be helpful for upcoming testing or development activities should also be recorded by testers.


  • Rely solely on exploratory testing

Even though exploratory testing can be a useful testing strategy, it's important not to rely on it exclusively. Exploratory testing may not always find all bugs and can be very reliant on the tester's knowledge and experience. It is more likely that defects will be found if exploratory testing is combined with other testing techniques like manual testing and test automation.


  • Perform exploratory testing without a goal

Having a mission is still essential. The tester should know what he is aiming to achieve in every exploratory session. For this reason, using test charters is highly recommended. Inside the charter the tester can define specific areas of the software to test, use heuristics and other techniques to uncover defects, or decide a time limit allocated to the session. This can support ensuring enough testing coverage as well as focused and effective exploratory testing


  • Get stuck in requirements

When testing against requirements or acceptance criteria it can be easy to get blindsided. Oftentimes you ignore to see outside scenarios, or you may not consider defects you discover just because they are not connected to the requirements. See requirements as a starting point in your exploration journey, and use them to guide and trigger ideas. 


  • Forget to use risks to guide your exploratory testing

Risks in testing are potential problems or vulnerabilities that could affect the quality, functionality, or usability of the software. By identifying and prioritizing risks, you can focus your exploratory testing efforts on areas that are most likely to have issues. Risks can come from various sources such as requirements, design, technology, user expectations, or business impact. Engage with stakeholders, review documentation, and gather insights to uncover risks relevant to the project.


Best practices for Exploratory Testing

  • Use exploratory testing to supplement scripted testing

Testing ideas from exploratory testing can also be converted into scripted testing. Exploratory testing should be used in addition to scripted testing, not as a replacement for it. Exploratory testing involves conducting ad hoc testing to uncover issues that the scripted tests might not have caught. Scripted testing entails running a preset set of test cases. Combining exploratory testing with scripted testing can assist improve test coverage and identify defects that scripted tests might have overlooked.


  • Use exploratory testing for usability testing

Usability testing can benefit greatly from exploratory testing. Exploratory testing can assist and identify usability defects that scripted tests might not have caught because it involves experimenting with the product. Using usability principles, imagination and intuition to guide them through their exploratory sessions testers will find usability limitations that are not found in another way.


  • Continuously improve exploratory testing

Exploratory testing is an ever-evolving process that continually refines testers' skills and knowledge. In this dynamic landscape, each exploratory session presents an opportunity for growth, while every product update demands a fresh round of exploration. Therefore, it is vital for testers to proactively delve into investigations, staying up-to-date with the latest best practices, testing techniques, resources, and training. By doing so, they not only enhance their abilities but also ensure they are well-equipped to navigate the ever-changing testing landscape with confidence.


  • Use automation to help with exploratory testing

In its essence, exploratory testing is using the skills, tools and techniques we have available, to discover defects. We should not separate test automation from exploratory testing, but use them together to test smarter. By leveraging automation alongside our exploratory efforts, we can optimize the efficiency of our sessions, freeing up valuable time typically spent on manual tasks such as generating user data and reports. Automation can have an important role in what is called contemporary exploratory testing.


  • Involve everyone in exploratory testing sessions

By teaching exploratory testing to your entire team, you promote the idea that quality is everybody's responsibility. Share your skills in workshops, and organize bug bashes to create an environment where everyone can participate in identifying and addressing issues. Additionally, seek out opportunities for pair testing, collaborating with teammates to uncover potential defects together.


  • Debrief your sessions

During exploratory testing you are not only finding defects, you are also gaining information about your product. Following each exploratory testing session, it’s helpful to conduct a debrief. The debrief serves as a platform for you and your extended team to dive deeper into the information and faults you found. It’s a shared learning experience of gaining insights into the analyzed system and making collaborative decisions on the behavior you want to see


  • Use tools to assist you in exploratory testing

While exploratory testing primarily relies on your skills and expertise, there are several benefits of using exploratory testing tools to support and enhance the process. Tools will help you be more efficient and cover quality aspects that otherwise would be hard or even impossible to tackle. In exploratory testing, tools should augment your capabilities and allow you to focus more on testing rather than gathering evidence and writing documentation. Looking inside an exploratory tester’s toolbox, you will find tools for screenshots and screen recording, notepads, mind mapping and API request apps


Elevate your testing strategy with Exploratory Testing

When carried out properly, exploratory testing is a very powerful testing approach. Testers can raise the probability of finding bugs and enhancing software quality by employing exploratory testing to supplement scripted testing, choosing sections of the software to target, making sure testing coverage is sufficient, and continuously improving testing techniques. It's crucial to remember not to exclude testing coverage, rely entirely on exploratory testing, or carry out exploratory testing without a strategy.

By following the dos and don'ts of exploratory testing, testers ensure that their testing efforts are successful and efficient and that the product meets users' needs. Try our Xray Exploratory App and enhance your testing experience.


Xray Exploratory App for exploratory testing


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