Exploratory Testing: The 10 Most Common Mistakes and How To Avoid Them

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The quality of an application has become the main differentiating factor in the past decade. The higher the quality of the application, the larger the user base. To ensure the quality of the application, the importance of the quality assurance process has significantly increased for the organization. There are various types of application testing methods and the most prominent one is exploratory testing.

In exploratory testing, the tester explores the application in order to understand the requirements.

In this article, we will get familiar with what exploratory testing is, why it is performed, and how it is performed. We will also learn what are the most common mistakes that usually happen in this testing and how to overcome those mistakes. So without any delay let’s get started.

Exploratory Testing

Exploratory Testing is a testing approach where testers explore the application, to find out what the application does, what it doesn’t do, what worked well, and what doesn’t. This testing doesn’t have a fixed set of methodologies that a tester has to follow. It depends more on the experience of the tester, they have personal freedom and responsibility to utilize their skills and knowledge to optimize the quality of their work and identify potential bugs. In this testing, there is less of a structure and a specified process. The test cases are not created in advance; testers have minimal dependency on pre-designed steps rather they design and execute the test simultaneously and check the application on the fly.

In simple words, exploratory testing is a detailed series of testing to understand the application, identify all possible scenarios, (like how each and every feature works), document the strategies by exploring the platform, designing the test cases, executing the test cases immediately based on the understanding and testing experience and lastly maintaining the results. To improve the quality of the application under test the testers emphasize mirroring the user experience of the application and try to uncover issues that are unanticipated.

The focus of exploratory testing is on minimum planning and maximum execution so that the tester gets exact functionality. Exploratory testing is well-suited for the agile development approach as it is all about discovery, investigation, and learning and also is more adaptable to changes.

Why do we need to perform Exploratory Testing?

  • It helps to uncover many unknown and undetected bugs that are normally very hard to find through other testing strategies.
  • When the testing time is limited or there is no requirement documentation performing Exploratory Testing is a must.
  • It helps to improve productivity as it covers almost all the normal testing types and scenarios in scripted testing as well as non-scripted ones.
  • It is a learning and work type of testing activity. It enables the testers to learn new methods, and test strategies, and also think out of the box, understand and execute more and more test cases, and finally improve creativity and productivity.

How to do Exploratory Testing

Just because this type of testing approach is done on the fly doesn’t mean it is not structured. The following exploratory test management needs to be followed to perform this.

  • Establishing a clear purpose of the test. That is understanding the application and entering all the possible inputs for each and every component.
  • Exploring the application and taking thorough notes to understand what needs to be tested, how each and every feature works, and assessing the quality of the application.
  • Test the data flow between each module.
  • Assessing the defects and analyzing the coverage areas.
  • Compiling and comparing the end test results and checking the needed additional testing.

Common mistakes in exploratory testing and how to overcome them

With efficient exploratory testing, organizations will be able to know that their application is competent and there are no flaws. It is perfect enough to detect flaws and bugs in the shortest time. However, there are some common mistakes that take place during this testing. If not taken care of, they might affect the release of superior-quality applications.

Inadequate resources

Exploratory testing is a testing approach where testers are the ones who decide, alone, where and how to test. It stresses the tester’s individual freedom as well as engagement and responsibility. They have the freedom to focus on the functionalities and paths of the application that they consider important.

If the testers are not multi-skilled, creative, inquisitive, and autonomous they won’t be able to analyze and improvise the application being tested. The inability to have a thorough bug-hunting experience may risk the application providing a passage for the bugs to reside in.

Therefore it is essential to have adequate resources to proceed with the exploratory testing phase. Testers should be able to sense and guess where risks can reside as it will allow them to understand and analyze the application. They should also have a keen sense of observation so that they will be able to know which new tests they want to carry out based on their findings as their inquiry progresses.

Performing exploratory testing without keeping real users in mind

When the applications are used by real users, that time they don’t usually have any supervisor or manual guide that gives them the best way to use an application. Based on their intuition and experience of using other similar applications, they may use the same feature of the application in multiple ways.

Usually, testers are equipped with scripts and other automation tools to test the applications. When performing exploratory testing, it’s important for the testers to think like a user and try to use the application in ways the end-users might use them not rather than depending on tools. Therefore it is imperative for the testers to target real users in mind while performing this testing.

Incomplete bug report

Creating proper bug reporting is an art that needs to be performed with carefulness and concentration. A proper bug report simplifies both the developer’s and tester’s life during future test execution. A poorly created bug report severely affects the functionality of the application. Therefore testers must pay special attention to communication in order to explain the idea behind the tests performed, the steps taken, the conditions under which the tests were carried out, the areas covered, and the results in a complete and detailed manner.

Testers must also enlist all the details of the incidents that were encountered during the testing phases. The report should provide a relevant title to the bug for easy identification with the steps to reproduce.

Test cycle with insufficient time window

Exploratory testing involves jumping into the unknown and trying to discover faults that might get missed by scripts and other traditional forms of testing. However, it is important to keep a note that this testing can be a time-consuming process because testers need to perform several rounds of exploratory testing. Sometimes this might often lead to long spells of no information regarding the testing progress.

Therefore, organizations must provide the testers required freedom in terms of time implementation strategy so that they can ensure a thorough check on the application and discover critical hidden bugs.

Missing the recording of the test process

Exploration means that there will be no fixed path to come across while testing an application. This makes the testing an open-ended problem with countless paths to identify bugs and vulnerabilities within the system.

Hence the solution to this is to record the entire testing process with great detail; this saves the testers’ time by not repeating the same process again. This also enables the testers and the developers in the future to understand what was performed earlier and what the outcome was.

Picking the wrong testing technique

There are various testing techniques to perform exploratory testing. Selecting the wrong one makes it difficult and problematic for the tester to perform the tests and the stakeholders to interpret the consequences and end results.

Therefore testers should pick the best suitable testing technique based on the testing needs, resource availability, convenience, etc. This factor in the accessibility of time, resources, and the test tools to execute the test cycles.

Mistaking Exploratory Testing with Ad Hoc testing

Another mistake in exploratory testing is getting it confused with Ad Hoc testing. Ad-hoc testing is a very informal, unplanned, unstructured, and random approach to testing that doesn’t specify any strategy for testing. It focuses on first learning the background processes of an application and then performing the testing. generally, it is performed later in the development lifecycle.

Exploratory testing is used to gain insight into the application and to get more information while exploring and testing. It can be performed much earlier even when the UI is not yet developed, testers can explore the API, or even explore the specification or requirements by using techniques such as mind mapping to create visual learning notes. Therefore before proceeding testers should have a fair understanding of each of these tests. If done properly, the exploratory testing approach can prove to be flexible and yet structured at the same time.

Not preparing the test charter

Ignoring preparing the test charter may result in testers Spending too much or too little time on planning exploratory testing sessions which can even be time-consuming.

Therefore it is important to create a test charter to keep the testing process on track.
The charter clearly outlines a detailed test plan (the aim of the test), what areas or features need to be tested, and how they will be tested. Also, important metrics to get a mental picture of the segment of the application intended to focus on while testing. This will provide a sign of how robust the session was and allow the testers to optimize the test method in the future.

Non-cooperative test surrounding

A short feedback loop during application test cycles will empower the testers with the right and fast feedback they need to fix flaws and defects. However, a non-cooperative test surrounding may hamper the performance, test coverage, and release cycle of the application.

Thus to overcome this organizations must provide a collaborative environment to enhance collaboration and communication throughout the development and deployment life cycle. This allows testers to work concurrently with developers which results in assisting in sharing test outcomes and information faster which in turn aids the team in fixing flaws and improving the application quality with a faster release time

Not utilizing automated tests along with exploratory testing

Yes, success in testing can be achieved with a combination of exploratory testing and test automation. Though test automation is scripted to analyze the accuracy of projected behavior or pattern in the application, exploratory testing helps to explore the critical concerns hidden in scripted tests that could potentially break the application. Hence encompassing exploratory testing as well as automated testing helps better bug reproduction, regression test execution, evidence gathering, etc. Also attaining adequate coverage and gaining end-user insights on the application quality.

Performing Exploratory Testing on the LambdaTest platform

The purpose of all the different types of testing is to check the quality of an application so that it provides maximum user satisfaction. For effective exploratory testing, understanding the user’s viewpoint is integral. End-users will navigate the application in different ways based on their age, gender, preferences, and other factors. The application will also be used by the users on real devices.

Hence testers must be able to approach the application keeping all these in mind. For that, running exploratory tests on real devices is essential. No emulator or simulator can provide real user conditions to test on. If testers cannot create and manage an in-house lab due to higher investment they can opt for a cloud-based testing service provider like LambdaTest. By performing exploratory testing on the LambdaTest cloud of real devices, testers can monitor exactly how their application functions in real user conditions.

Exploratory Testing is a significant part of every application testing process. It is best done manually since it intends to judge applications based on the user’s viewpoint. When done correctly it ensures that the application is functioning as per the user’s expectations. LambdaTest provides more than 3000 real devices, browsers, and operating systems with their respective versions hosted on the cloud for both manual and automated testing for iOS and Android.

This cloud-based cross-browser compatibility testing platform also provides a cloud Selenium grid that can be accessed from anywhere, anytime just by signing up. Using the cloud Selenium grid testers can also run UI tests and get quick and accurate results without hosting any on-premise devices.

Conclusion

In conclusion, it can be said that Exploratory testing is a useful and efficient approach to performing application testing. It brings out the creativity of a tester as it gives them the freedom to test in their ways. This in turn increases their knowledge and thinking which improves the application quality in the end.

I started my journey as a Photoshop & HTML designer, my hunger takes me to the next step for PHP, Java, angular, CMS, Python, etc. Till now, I have worked on many software, mobile, web development & design projects. I want to inspire others, that's the only reason I am here to share my experience & knowledge. Let's connect on LinkedIn.