In traditional test design, testers are forced to create scores of documents. A lot of time is wasted documenting detailed tests that are neither needed nor useful with the exception of mission-critical applications or unless you are testing for compliances and regulations in which heavy documentation is necessary.
Lean Test Documentation
When I say lean test documentation, I am referring to any test documentation that is optimal and capable of conveying the same information using fewer details. It is less verbose, less bulky in terms of number of pages and “lean.”
Traditional test documents are heavy in size, shape, and magnitude. They are detailed, consume a lot of time to write, and yet testers don’t have enough patience to gobble it up during testing.
As James Bach wrote in one of his blog posts on Test Documentation, “A lot of people I teach seem to be under pressure to create more documents to describe their test process. But documenting is not testing. It is one of the chief distractions to testing.”
Heavy documentation can be reduced by using smart techniques like mindmapping, outlines, checklists, and matrices. I have compared and contrasted these techniques below.
A mindmap is a visual representation of ideas, concepts, or tasks encompassed within a central theme. It can be used for visual tracking of test coverage, testing sessions, feature priorities, and status reports.
Mindmaps prevent extensive and useless documentation by displaying content that is succinct and brief. For example, a tester can write many pages about product exploration and learning that can be transformed into a simple mindmap below.
Figure 1. Example Mindmap
Mindmaps can simplify test approaches by crunching scores of pages into a worksheet, as this mindmap on Claims Testing shows.
This other example of a mindmap posted on the Moolya blog summarizes a list of heuristics used for mobile application testing. This demonstrates how even lengthy documents can take the form of self-explanatory visuals.
- Flexible and easy to use
- Triggers creativity
- Facilitates Quick Updates in the world of changing requirements
- Reduces test documentation time saving time for real testing
- Mindmaps cannot be converted to direct excel reports
- Unsuitable on metrics-crazy projects
- Unfit for detailed documentation
A checklist is a master list of items that needs to be checked against before, during, or after performing some action. For example, when a pilot refers to a pre-flight checklist to confirm if everything is in place.
Atul Gawande, author of The Checklist Manifesto says, “Checklists provide a cognitive net. They catch mental flaws inherent in all of us—flaws of memory and attention and thoroughness.”