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How exploratory testing can drive innovation and increase your product value on MVP stage?

Building an MVP project often involves careful budgeting, and sadly, this can results in restrictions or cuts at the quality assurance stage of the project. It is a way to save money in the moment, but it can also turn into a very costly mistake. A lack of proper QA process is sure to influence product launch - in the worst case scenario, users will find your product so flawed they’ll see it as worthless. This is why QA specialist, alongside UX specialists, should always be involved to bring a human-centered design perspective to every project. Let’s take a look at how they can do so through exploratory testing.

What is exploratory testing, and how it can help your business

Exploratory testing is a technique that can prevent your initial userbase from being discouraged and help you build customer loyalty. Its main characteristic are test cases that are created during testing, rather than in advance. Teams come up with ideas what to test ahead of time, but once they start they take an investigative, exploratory approach.

You might think that’s just like scripted testing, only more chaotic, but that’s not the case. Exploratory testing gives each tester personal freedom to follow up on the things they pick up during the process. It can be managed easily, because testing is still focused on specific areas and functionalities, with a specific purpose. It’s also an efficient approach, because test design and execution happen at the same time.

Exploratory testing also doesn’t replace scripted testing. If a test can be automated, it means that it doesn’t require cognitive skills. Test automation is still often necessary for top QA efficiency.

How exploratory testing influences product development

The first important benefit of exploratory testing is that it can help you discover new user segments, market niches, opportunities and threats. Let’s take a looks at two examples:

1. A QA specialist reports that users with RTL scripted native languages found parts of the UI challenging, because buttons overlay each other on particular screens. Fixing this issue allows you to avoid alienating those users.

2. A QA specialist reports cases in which large quantities of operations are causing the software to fail. If you’re building a tool targeting corporate office workers, effective bulk operations on hundreds of documents may be a requirement, and discovering such a problem early can save you a lot of hassle.

Secondly, exploratory testing is a way to discover the strengths and weaknesses of your product. For example, your QA team may report that email notifications or browser alerts are malfunctioning in some edge cases, making the feature unusable. Knowing this allows you to decide how important the problem is, what resources you can spare to fix it, and so on. Your development plan will be better informed and comprehensive.

Moving towards human-centered design

Exploratory testing can be used as a “mechanism” for early detection of users’ problems. Doing so is a way to prevent high churn rates (the ratio of customers who abandon the app to all onboarded customers). This is an element of human-centered design, which means addressing actual user requirements, giving value to users, and solving theirs problems. One element of this approach is paying attention to the flow of user scenarios. They can be used to make sure that the app allows users to achieve their goals - or, on a micro scale, to finish their tasks within the app.

To achieve human-centered design, close cooperation between the Product Manager, UX designers, and the QA team is necessary. Together, they can co-create the perceived value of the app by:

  • improving features,
  • creating unique selling points,
  • bringing features to users’ attention.

Exploratory testing in practice

How, then, do QA specialists interact with the product and development team to achieve more creative and human-centered testing practices? Let’s take a look at a few common tactics.

Session-based test management

QA experts set aside time slots (e.g. 2 hours) for testing, each dedicated to a specific objective (such as exploring a certain feature or user behavior). They look for defects and document their findings. This is called a test session, and the goal for each session is known as the test charter.

Using test management tools that support exploratory testing

PractiTest is one such tool. It allows QA teams to keep information (testing sessions, goals, findings, etc.) in one place and communicate more easily.

Pairing the Agile approach with exploratory testing

It’s probably no surprise that Agile development works really well with exploratory testing. It supports rapid development, because it prioritises results over documentation and allows the team to respond to change quickly.

Depending on team structure, project requirements, and other variables, exploratory testing in an Agile environment can take one of two main forms:

  • Unstructured,
  • Managed and defined by test sessions and charters.

In general, exploratory testing should follow automated tests, to focus QA experts’ attention on the bugs that can only be caught by human testers. Because there’s no need to pre-prepare test cases, exploratory testing can be conducted at almost any time - usually when an issue becomes apparent or when a part of the app reaches a certain stage of development.

Sharing the QA team’s findings in a structured manner

It’s important that QA specialists relay the information they gathered efficiently, especially in an Agile environment. They can do so through user stories or test cases, or during retrospective meetings at the end of a sprint. These methods should usually be supplemented by clear documentation.

Is exploratory testing for you?

If you’re using the Agile approach to develop your product, the answer is most likely yes. Exploratory testing works for large and small teams, and for projects of any scale, when done right. It can be particularly beneficial for projects with a tight budget.

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