I am about to start testing a social networking website. Have done all my test designs, for a large set of manual tests that cover functionality, privacy settings ,etc. However my main concern is a feature like the news feed, as I have a feeling that a simple manual testing approach, no matter how thorough, just won't be enough. Any ideas on how to test the news feed? All ideas are welcome.
Things like newsfeeds can be tough. I once tested something similar on a website: people in the same company would appear successively. The key thing hear is to recognize that this isn't a determanistic feature so you should not expect to be able to apply a determinstic set of tests to it like you would elsewhere. Start by asking yourself: what is the intention of this feature? What is it meant to do or produce? Use your answers to these questions to guide you in your testing. I put emphasis on the word "guide" here because you really aren't going to be able to come up with a nice, neat, exhaustive list of tests that you can run through and say, "OK, I've executed all the tests. I'm done!" It's more like you will have a couple of general tests in mind that will be a framework for you to refer to while you explore. I would recommend listening to what the Context-Driven Testing Community (e.g. the Bach brothers, Cem Kaner) have to say about exploratory testing. Really good stuff. Good luck!
Thomas is right on the money about the non-deterministic nature of a feature like a news feed. One thing I would suggest, if you are wanting to consider something like automation is this. If you have access to a hermetic test environment, where in you can do a lot of setup through the data source (database), without it harming anything, you could potentially setup a version of the site with specific test data that would have some 'interesting' attributes within your test data, which you might want to test. For example if you want to see how it rendered, However, it is also possible that a feature like this, as much as you want to be complete on the testing, that the new data maybe isn't all that interesting.
If your application has an API, you might also generate some data on the fly to insert and verify against thus giving you a better way to test a feature (just make sure you clean up after yourself!).
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