Test planning – the quest for success
Lessons from an ex travel agent
My previous career as a travel agent taught me an unlikely, but highly transferable lesson.
It's one that I use every day in my role as a QA tester now - simply; always put yourself in the customers’ shoes. Sounds obvious, but there are numerous ways that even the most basic of digital experiences could be used. My job is to ensure that each and every journey is considered, and works well. Achieving that is really about effective planning.
Planning is essential to successful testing. A large part of my job is to write test plans based on information gathered from client requirements and functional/technical specifications - sounds dull right, but actually, it is anything but. This is my opportunity to put myself into the mind of a user and map out the many journeys that I will need to replicate during the testing phase. This also serves as an opportunity to highlight any potential concerns about missing elements based on a thorough interrogation of the requirements and specifications. It’s so much better to iron out any issues at this point of our process rather than once the code is written, and time and cost challenges are multiplied.
In the 90s I was a fan of those fantasy adventure books, where the reader played an intrepid adventurer who tried to navigate their way through a labyrinth to get to an end goal with the aid of a couple of dice, some decision-making and a lot of luck. There were numerous paths that could be taken, some were straightforward and uneventful, whereas others would see you fighting ghouls and goblins at every turn. More often than not the adventurer would meet his fate due to an unlucky role of the dice or a wrong turn. I see the test plan creation for a project in the same light. Imagine reading one of those books with the aid of a map which highlights all the safe passages to the goal and making the user aware of any pitfalls or dead-ends to avoid. That's exactly what the result of your test plan should achieve : a fail safe map for all users where all routes lead to a successful goal.
The perfect itinerary
Back to my days as a travel agent, when you are booking a holiday for someone, you literally have to become that person (the 'end user'). You need to realise that what is your ideal holiday is not necessarily going to be everybody else's and that there are many routes that the user can take to get to the end goal - the holiday of a lifetime for example. Each one of these routes needs to be researched, recommended and matched to the customers’ requirements and planned out in detail to ensure that the whole journey is seamless. We are doing the same thing when we test our projects, the test plan is the 'Itinerary' for all our journeys through to the end goal and it is essential that every care is taken to ensure that no dead-ends (or goblins) are met!
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