Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Mind Map Testing: Where are the test steps?

As you can tell in previous posts, mind maps do not give exact steps for test cases. This is one potential problem with writing test cases in this method (I will list pros and cons in a future post). I have thought about it in detail, and have come to this conclusion. Step by step instructions are not needed. Yes there are some test cases where very precise information is needed but that information can be added as a Note to a node on the map.

I have several reasons why you do not need to include steps:

  • When a tester gets comfortable with doing test cases they will often see the title of the test case, and simply run the test by heart. 
  • If a tester follows exact steps every time the test case is run, you get into a situation where you will not find bugs in the code. Think of a minefield. If you walk the same path all the time, what are your chances with finding a new mine? The same goes with testing.
  • I have also been asked "If there are no steps, how will a new tester know what to do?" This is a legitimate question. My answers to this are:
    • We work in an Agile environment and team members (I am trying to get away from using Testers and Developers) should be talking and working with one another. It is a great opportunity for a new team member to ask questions about how the product works and how they should test this feature. This will give a fresh prospective to the product as well.
    • If a professional person working in high tech as a Tester is unable to figure out how a test case works, does that not mean that it is too difficult for the customer to use as well?
  • By not giving exact steps it allows testers freedom to explore and build in ad-hoc testing. Not every tester is going to "Create a bookmark" in the same way. To get better coverage rotate who is tests what Area.
Mind map testing may not work for everyone, but I would like to hear your thoughts and experiences. What do you think works well? What can be improved?

Some topics still to cover are:
- Pros and cons
- Setting priority
- Test case execution
- Reporting on results
- Formatting
- Test case review
- Whole team approach


  1. Good thoughts Nolan, I'm looking forward to the rest in the series. The last one you've mention "Whole team approach" sounds very interesting, keep them coming, and thanks for sharing.

  2. "If there are no steps, how will a new tester know what to do?"

    If there are no steps, how will a new user know what to do?

    A new user will learn actively how to use the product. A new tester will learn actively how to test the product. If the new tester (or user) doesn't know what to do without a specific, step-by-step set of instructions, isn't there some problem in the relationship between the tester (user) and the product?

    ---Michael B.

  3. Thank you Michael for the post. This reaffirms what I have felt for a while.

    I am hoping that using maps will encourage the testers to actually think more like a user and ask questions. I am finding though that the testers on my team are wanting more step by step directions. That is why I have gone to the Given, When, Then template. But I am still stressing to keep steps at a minimum. This complicates the maps as well and therefore makes updating more difficult.

    I'm trying to balance of using Agile, with their past experiences. I will strive further to encourage the team to learn about the product they are using.

    Thank you,