What is Exploratory Testing? A complete overview for beginners

What is Exploratory Testing? A complete overview for beginners

In a rapidly evolving world of technology and an agile environment, it is vital to ensure software quality. Therefore, testers usually consider exploratory testing as a crucial methodology that aids this process. 

Unlike traditional, scripted testing, exploratory testing emphasizes discovery, investigation, and learning – essentially, it’s the Sherlock Holmes of software testing.

In this article, we will guide you through what exploratory testing is, why it is important, and its use case for a better understanding. 

Exploratory testing, what is it? 

At its core, exploratory testing is a type of software testing that is all about discovery, investigation, and learning. It emphasizes the personal freedom and responsibility of the individual tester to continually optimize the quality of his/her work.

In other words, testers have the liberty to design and execute tests on the fly rather than strictly following pre-written test scripts. This approach allows continuous learning and immediate response to that knowledge, which in turn feeds the ongoing test design.

Additionally, exploratory testing encourages creativity and spontaneity, it is essentially simultaneous learning, test design, and test execution. Testers must make quick, on-the-spot decisions about what to test next, how deeply to test, and which areas require a more thorough investigation. 

The efficacy of this testing method hinges heavily on the tester’s skills, experience, and innovative thinking.

Why is exploratory testing important?

In an agile development environment, requirements change frequently, and software is developed and delivered in short iterations or “sprints.” As a result, detailed and up-front test planning can become quickly outdated. 

Fortunately, this is where exploratory testing comes to shine as it allows for rapid adaptation to evolving software. Moreover, it can uncover defects that may not have been considered during test planning.

But how can you apply this testing methodology? Don’t worry, we will show you a use case for applying exploratory testing in the next section. 

Use case of exploratory testing in an agile development

Supposing a team is working on an agile project to build a social media application. A new sprint begins, and the team decides to introduce a feature allowing users to tag their friends in posts.

Understanding the new feature

After the feature is developed, unit tested, and ready for testing, the tester, familiar with the requirements and the story details, begins exploratory testing on the feature.

Scenario creation and execution

The tester verifies that the tagging feature works as expected and begins to experiment. What happens when multiple friends are tagged, or the same friend is tagged multiple times? What about tagging non-friends or in different parts of the post? 

The tester even considers edge cases such as the maximum number of tags per post.

Learning and adapting

As the tester explores, they learn more about the feature and its interactivity with the rest of the application. They adapt their tests based on this newly discovered information, refining and expanding their test scenarios.

Identifying and reporting bugs

If the tester discovers a bug—for example, the application crashes when too many friends are tagged—it’s reported to the development team. Once fixed, the tester can then retest the feature to ensure the issue is indeed resolved.

Closing the feedback loop

Exploratory testing facilitates a quick feedback loop. Developers get timely feedback, allowing them to correct any issues before they deviate too far off course.

Final thoughts

Exploratory testing offers a dynamic approach to ensuring software quality in the world of agile development environments. It empowers testers to apply their knowledge, experience, and creative thinking, making testing an exciting exploration rather than a mundane scripted task.

So, the next time you plan your testing strategy, remember to include some room for exploration.

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