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General testingHow ToQa

How to perform exploratory testing, what to expect

4 Mins read

How do you know what to test and how to perform exploratory testing. If this is one of your more frequent questions, then you might be interested in exploratory testing. Exploratory testing is one of the most powerful tools in any testers’ toolbox. It’s not for everyone, but there are many advantages to adopting it as part of your testing strategy.

Exploratory testing is a form of software testing used by software developers to test new features before release to customers and the public. Exploratory testing is often viewed as the opposite of scripted testing, in which the tester follows a detailed test plan to execute specific tests.

The key difference between exploratory testing and scripted testing is that, with exploratory testing, the tester has no specific plan on how to test a new product or feature. Scripted tests often have a high pass/fail rate and can lead to issues not being discovered until late in development.

It differs from scripted tests in that it is more open-ended and less prescriptive in terms of what can be tested👀. Testers use it to gain insight into what is going on under the hood of software, but don’t necessarily rely on the results they obtain to report bugs, fix problems or make recommendations.

Exploratory testing is often used to automate tests or to create tests that otherwise wouldn’t exist naturally. Exploratory testers may find new test cases as they develop software, or use actual user interactions for the purpose of creating an automated test. All these techniques reduce the effort spent on manual testing but do not eliminate it entirely.

How to perform exploratory testing

Step I: Plan your testing ✅

This can be done by writing down the general items to be tested and their associated risks to the system.

Step II: Perform exploratory testing and note down any new bugs🐛

Start exploring by visiting each page and step until you gain a broad view of the system. Sometimes this may mean starting from scratch and exploring each page in isolation.

Step III: Document your exploratory testing📝

Write down the bugs that occur during your exploratory testing session and try to find out the root cause for them. Raise any concerns with the development team as issues may not be discovered until later in development or when the product is released.

Step IV: Report over bugs, get new features and fixes implemented🛠

As bugs are reported, the developer may be able to fix them and add a new feature. In some cases, the development team may acknowledge having already fixed the bug but forget to update the relevant documents.

The benefits of exploratory testing are that it can highlight errors that otherwise would have gone unnoticed, and it can reduce the cost of testing if conducted on a small scale before larger releases of software.

When is exploratory testing used?

Exploratory testing is used to find bugs and vulnerabilities in software before they become major issues. For example, it is used to detect the type of error that leads to a crash or any other security issue.

Exploratory testing can also be used to test the feasibility and risks involved with a certain system. Testers can also use exploratory testing on a new feature or even a whole new application, but most often they look to check historical data or system logs for clues that may reveal errors under the hood or problems related to how the software works🥸.

Tests are performed using all sorts of techniques, including manual debugging, code-sniffing and debugging tools such as unit tests and integration tests. It is important to remember that exploratory testing can be as simple or as complex as the tester wishes to make it.

Advantages of exploratory testing👍

1.) As exploratory testing is unstructured, it allows a tester to use his/her creativity and keep an open mind. They are able to find bugs that other forms of testing may not have found.
2.) Exploratory testing can be done in parallel with any other type of testing. It doesn’t interfere with script-driven or automated testing because it is not scripted or automated.
3.) A good tester can keep track of what has and hasn’t been tested, making it easy for him/her to go back through the same code if a bug is reported by the customer.

4) Exploratory testing is focused on quality, not just finding bugs. It involves analyzing how the code works and understanding the system being tested.

Drawbacks of exploratory testing👎

1.) A tester needs to have good programming knowledge/knowledge about the application under test in order to perform exploratory testing well. For example, if a test is going to be performed on a particular section of code, the tester needs to have a clear understanding of how that code works in order to know what new things might be able to be discovered by looking at it in an exploratory way.
2.) As this method is unstructured and exploratory, a tester may not be able to come up with enough tests or even at all in some cases. This leads to sub-par testing or not enough testing, which can lead to a greater chance of product failure in the future.
3.) As exploratory testing is unstructured, it can be difficult to use this method in an efficient way. It requires a good tester and sufficient time. This approach may not be successful if used by an inexperienced tester or over a long period of time.
4.) It is difficult to identify the test points with exploratory testing.

Conclusion

Exploratory testing is an excellent tool that can be used as part of a consistent and thorough software testing plan.

Before embarking on an exploratory testing strategy, however, it’s important to know what to test and exactly how to go about it. A good tester can leverage his/her experience with development methods and the culture of the company he or she works with to design a detailed test plan that effectively covers all possible areas of a new piece of code after performing exploratory testing.

Read more on common automation testing challenges.

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