Mind Maps are diagrams used to visually organize information. You may recognize them from brainstorming activities you have done in school, that was my first exposure. As part of learning to write essays we started out by brainstorming ideas. We’d put a cloud in the center of our page and in it place the topic of the project then jot our ideas and their relationships down. It’s pretty much the same, but now we have tools to help us organize the ideas.
Why A Stapler
A common question in tester interviews is “How would you test ‘X’?” Sometimes its software related, like how would test a simple search page similar to googles. Other times its not really got anything to do with software, it seems to be inspired by whatever the interviewer might have on their desk like pens and staplers.
This seemed like a good starting place, relatively straightforward in usage but possibly some unexpected depth. Plus, it might help people prepping for an interview.
It’s a bit of a challenge for me because my first reaction to these types of questions is just to draw a blank. It’s not that I can’t think of test cases, its more that I need a little time to get started, so I usually start with a little exploring to get the test juices flowing. That’s great and all but as a tester we need to be able to effectively communicate our ideas and process as well as perform on demand. It’s also a matter of practice, sharpening general testing skills helps to eliminate that initial pause when being presented with something completely random to test.
In practice, the BBST Foundations course has really helped. I get started by thinking of consistency issues using the Few Hiccups mnemonic. That’s where claims, comparisons and usability branches stem from. After that ideas are flowing. I start thinking of performance and boundaries for pages and the effects of the stapler on them. This gets me questioning who is using the stapler and in what context. There are a variety of types of staplers and not all are used only for paper. Just like software we need to think about who our users are and how they will expected the product to behave.
Enough Already, Lets See It
Most of my experience documenting tests has been using spreadsheets. They are fine and all, but I often found I was battling to fit my tests into Excel. Time was spent merging and shifting cells, adding colors, etc. just to try and include the details I wanted and try and keep everything readable. Sure, I could leverage built-in formulas but if I need to insert rows or columns I often needed to make changes other places. Even if I got it done, I’m not sure the value. To borrow the term from automated tests, the test documents were brittle. Easily broken and not necessarily representative of the actual state of quality.
I think the mind map process is more effective. Anyone can pick it up and while looking it over get an understanding of what is being tested. It may not be the most prescriptive take on the tests, but if I were new to a project I think the mind map would help me get up to speed quicker than the spreadsheets I’ve seen used.
I used XMind, (which is a free) and it seemed a little cumbersome at first. Once I got the keyboard short cuts down I was rocking and rolling. It was faster to use the tool than to write the ideas manually and it manages the relationships for you. Basically, its just press enter to add a new topic, and tab to add a sub topic.