By Nat Burnett
Only the creativity of the tester limits what or who the tester can be.
Any person performing exploratory testing should be all three of these people at once. Depending on the application you are testing you may have very many or just a few shoes to fill. However, even with something as simple as a calculator you could have hundreds of different personal profiles. Determining who you are while testing and why is very important.
Keeping simplicity in mind, let’s use the basic calculator again. A tester of this tool may benefit from creating a scenario in which a woman is adding up some bills for the past month.
Of course there are certain things that will happen. Most bills have decimals, so she will definitely be using the decimal button. She might want to add them all up and subtract one bill from the total that she has paid already. You can be as creative as you want with this.
I like to create a scenario for the user, with a particular environment and often a current state of mind. For example, in my scenario the woman is in a rush to leave for work but has to add up her bills before leaving. She has experience with the Windows calculating tool and has been comfortable with using it in the past. Depending on relevancy to testing the application, you could add that she attends church every Sunday and has a dog named Spot, but for the calculator this might be a bit much.
When you create a scenario think about what things might be affected by the environment or current situation. She is in a rush, so things such as button size, readability, placement, and overall functionality of the calculator will have an impact on your testing.
Her prior use of the Windows calculator is important technical experience that will influence her use and expectations of our new tool. For example, are the buttons placed in a standard format?
In order to immerse yourself you might have to do some test setup.
If the tester is not familiar with the Windows calculator, he or she must become familiar with it in order to carryout the scenario. Now testing essentially becomes role-playing. You are a tester who has engineered a test around a specific software user.
With this scenario you might notice things you would not normally notice. For example, that the (+) is on the completely opposite side of the keypad, or that the whole key map is different.
And why stop there? You might wonder about other models of calculator so you pull out a TI-82 from your Business Calculus class in college. You may see differences and similarities, you will gain knowledge and be able to draw reasonable conclusions as to why different calculators were designed a certain way.
With this knowledge you have the ability to ask more questions and further reciprocate upon that which you have gained through the act of test and engineering that test as well.