Be Joe Schmoe

By Nat Burnett

When a person heads to Best Buy and purchases a brand new software application they take it home and set it on the kitchen table, make some lunch, and then carefully open the box.They then spend 4 hours reading the documentation, making sure they know how to operate it most efficiently and that they have the necessary Operating System, RAM, CPU, video card, etc.

Okay, okay you got me. This never happens!

Most likely they would rush home, install the software on their computer and start fiddling with it right away, no matter how much or how little they knew about the application.Most people learn due to action, instead of exercising action as a result of learning.While some people may take the time to read the manual first or as they go along, many, if not the majority of people, will use exploration as their learning tool and only when exploration leads them to a dead end will they resort to reading the manual.

These types of users are becoming more prevalent in the technological world as more and more people expect applications to be intuitive and accommodating for the inexperienced user.

This is why exploratory testing is so important.Strive to explore your application because you can guarantee the users will do the same. Scripted tests may be suitable to exercise scenarios that involve people who follow the guidelines of the manual and spend those 4 hours before firing up the application.

Questions like, “Following this route, can I get from one end of an application to the other?” are questions easily answered by a scripted test.

On the other hand, exploratory testing caters to those users who like to dig in and learn as they go.Exploratory test may fabricate a question such as, “How can I get there and what might happen along the way?”

The great thing about exploratory testing is that while it can not be entirely scripted, it can be recorded and reused for both tracking reasons as well as overall testing efficiency (Session Based Test Management is designed to record, organize, and track exploratory testing, See Jon Bach’swhitepaper on the subject in our Articles and Whitepapers section).