WTANZ 20 – Heuristics in Exploratory Testing

WTANZ 20 – Heuristics in Exploratory Testing

Date: Saturday 26th April, 2014

Time: 2:00 PM AEST (click here to check time in your timezone)

Facilitator: Dean Mackenzie

Attendees: Mauri Edo, David Gaetjens, David Minogue, Alessandra Moreira, Ambika Rajagopalan, Jyothi Rangaiah

Experience Report

Continuing the theme of WTANZ 19 of looking at different aspects of exploratory testing, WTANZ 20 dug into the use of heuristics in software testing.

Heuristics can be thought of as “rules of thumb” – that is, techniques that may help us solve a problem or make a decision. As Ben Simo points out, heuristics may not provide definitive answers but they “can guide us to the important things to test”. This session’s mission explored the popular note-taking application EverNote, using a heuristic each participant selected to guide their activities and tests.

After a brief introduction to clarify what heuristics were (as they were a new concept to several of the attendees), the participants paired up to explore EverNote, in one or more of its various forms.

Upon everyone’s return, the heuristics and elements of their use was heavily discussed.

The heuristics used in the session included:-

  • SFDIPOT (see Product Elements) – the expanded and evolved “San Francisco Depot”
  • FCC CUTS VID – an application touring heuristic
  • FEWHICCUPS – a set of consistency heuristics

Other resources used in the session included:-

While the discussion covered some of the testing and interesting problems and observations found during testing, most of the conversation was naturally directed towards how people used the heuristics. Some of the interesting discussion points included:-

  • Most of the participants found the heuristics helped them focus and move fast (making them ideal for a weekend testing session!)
  • Testers use heuristics differently, whether as a starting point for testing or using one to query potential problems
  • The complexity of a heuristic (and one’s familiarity with it) can play a factor in deciding whether to use it in a particular situation
  • The experience of using heuristics for the first time
  • Exploring the many existing heuristics or devising your own (including two bug-reporting heuristics created by the participants – Mauri Edo’s Dude, Pen! and Jyothi Rangaiah’s DISSCOH)

The idea of heuristics and using them as testing was a new concept to some of the participants. Once they had seen how they could work first-hand and discussed the various aspects of how heuristics can work, they were interested to explore the topic further.

The full transcript for this session can be found here.

About the Author

Dean is a software tester living in sunny Brisbane, Australia. Having fallen into testing around seven years ago, he subsequently fell into the context-driving approach several years later. He enjoys studying new ideas (especially around testing or learning), and finds there just isn't enough time to look at all of the good ones. Dean blogs intermittently at www.yesbroken.com and can be found under @deanamackenzie on Twitter.