10 Exploratory Testing Tours You Can Use to Analyze Artifacts


If you find it hard to do a thorough inspection of a document or diagram in a single pass, try looking at one aspect at a time. A concept that can help is using defined tours, an idea from exploratory testing. Inspecting for sets of criteria one by one can help you focus your efforts.

It can be hard—perhaps impossible—to do a thorough inspection of a document or diagram in one pass. Instead of trying to do it all at once, I suggest a different way: focusing on one aspect of the document at a time in multiple passes.

The concept of exploratory testing tours, from the world of exploratory testing, can provide that focus. Approaching testing documents with defined ”tours” can help you chunk the work into small pieces, which enables team members to take a tour when they find they have capacity.

Kinsey Millhone, the fictional private investigator in a series of Sue Grafton novels, writes each clue or bit of information she collects on an index card. When at a loss for leads to pursue, she shuffles the deck and pulls two cards at random to look for previously unseen connections.

I do this sometimes in my job, too, to see what connections I might make, insights I can glean, or what techniques and concepts from one domain might be useful in another.

Exploring Documents with Tours

Recently, as I was looking across a whole documentation set for consistency issues, I realized that by focusing on one element or aspect at a time, I was applying the concept of exploratory testing tours to analyze artifacts, looking for reflections of craftsmanship.

It’s up to the team to decide which of the tours offer value or in their context or at that moment in time. Some may be less important during analysis work, as we produce big, visible artifacts for short-term or internal use only, to gain and share understanding; others may be more important when the artifacts are part of the whole product, especially for commercial software products.

Some teams are using tools and practices that automate their tours or make them routine practice. You also might consider including these items in acceptance criteria for a story, or in your definition of “done,” as appropriate.

Below are ten tours I used recently in my testing.

Do we have everything?

When we are getting ready to leave on a trip, we go through a checklist: Do we have the keys? Do we have the tickets? Do we have the phone charger?

For every task an Actor is to perform, do your swim lanes show provisioning that person with what they need to accomplish it successfully? Tools, data, work instructions? Are you cataloging these assets? Are they under version control?

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