The Little Black Book on Test Design Rikard Edgren

The Little Black Book on Test Design
During my first paternity leave I learned sourdough baking. During the second I couldn’t help writing an ambitious paper, or a small book, about people-oriented test design, about things beyond test design techniques, close to the exploratory testing tradition.

It can be downloaded here.

It contains collections of knowledge, and generalizations of my ten years of testing the same product suite. I think it can be useful for ambitious testers that want to find any problems that might be important.

It probably is too much, theoretical, irrelevant or condense for many of you, but if you want to give it a shot I recommend the following:

* Download The Little Black Book on Test Design
* Print as double-sided A5 Booklet
* Find a quiet, comfortable place
* Read and relate to your test reality

Comments are welcome, especially additions to the collection of one hundred and three test design heuristics.

Shrini September 6th, 2011

Great Job ….Rickard… Keep it up

Jonas Persson September 7th, 2011

The book looks brilliant, I will start reading it today. When I’m finished I will leave my comments and feedback to you.

Becky September 8th, 2011


I just skimmed your book and was thrilled to see you pursue the social science aspects of testing. I’ve been looking at software through the Cultural Historical Activity Theory (CHAT) framework for a few years now. In contrast to Grounded Theory which lets you build a theory about what you are seeing, CHAT is an analytical framework that helps organize the systems-level thinking needed for the style of software testing you’re writing about. Kf you’d like more info about CHAT, I can recommend some specific papers for you to read. Just send me an email.

Andrew Prentice September 9th, 2011

Wow. This is very impressive and the tremendous respect for testing demonstrated throughout is inspiring. Thank you.

Rikard Edgren September 9th, 2011

Thanks for all support!

To boost my ego (Yes, a Neubauten reference) I must share some other feedback:
Michael Bolton: Holy cats!
Ben Kelly: looks like one I will be making a must read for my new testers.
BBST Test Design: included as recommended reading (this is the highest thing to accomplish for a publication like this, apart from being required reading…)

Henrik Emilsson September 12th, 2011

Thanks for sharing this Rikard!
This is in many ways brilliant!

I have read it two times now and it is really thought-provoking. I like that it’s a thorough description, yet it raises so many questions and urges me to think for myself.

I’ll get back with feedback in person when you move up here soon! 🙂

David Greenlees September 15th, 2011

Rikard – Wow! What more to say…

Dot point 3 in Drawbacks is unfortunately the closest thing to reality for me. A definite shame, but we can work on that. ;0)

I agree with Henrik in that the level of detail is great, but still leaves it wide open for your own personal thoughts, ideas, and interpretations.

Congratulations on an outstanding little book. It’s going straight to my library alone side some of the gems you reference within.

Well done!

Rikard Edgren September 15th, 2011

Looking forward to those discussions, Henrik.

Thanks, David. The feedback is better than what I hoped for.
It seems like it became a nice balance of a lot of information, but not too much about each thing.
And the piece is humble, but not at all…

Gert Tjörnebro September 19th, 2011

Downloaded it and will read it with great interest this week. I’ll comeback with a little comment later.

Andreas Stansvik September 21st, 2011

Looks very impressive! Looking forward to read it when I have some time over.

[…] The Little Black Book on Test Design is meant for exploratory testing, but I bet there is stuff one could pull out of it for automation purposes as well. […]

Magnus Holmqvist May 8th, 2012


(If I don´t see you today at Let´s Test I put my question here as well)

I attended your Let´s Test session about exploratory test design session yesterday and this morning I read the little black book on test design. I suggest that you elaborate more on the software potato picture, perhaps include the original blog post, to explain it. For a while I thought you meant that one should only test the important things and leave out/ignore most of “everything”, but after reading the original blog post I realize that all the “cat scratch marks” in the picture are tests outside the important potato.
Also I get the impression that the meaning of the picture has changed from showing where all the bugs are to showing a map of test coverage when I compare the blog post and the book.

The little black book on test design is a very interesting piece of inspiration for test design and test ideas. Keep up the good work!


Rikard Edgren May 10th, 2012

Magnus, thanks for your comment and the discussion at Let’s Test (publishing my answer if someone else is interested.)

Yes, the meaning of the potato has changed over time, from bugs more to “potential usage”.
Yes, it is a simplification (as all models) that doesn’t really describe reality. But it is a visualization that explains my core idea, and it sticks.
Yes, elaborations should be made, for instance there might be many potatos, some of them being small and very difficult to find, some of them being slippery and difficult to get hold of.

Also, at Let’s Test tutorial I handed out version 1.1 of the booklet, this is now also uploaded to this web site –

Aaron Hodder April 17th, 2013

Hi Rikard

Just letting you know that since this was first published, I printed it out, and my printed copy of The Little Black Book On Test Design has been following me around ever since, and I link it to as many people as I can think of. It is the closest we have to a Testers operating manual; a distillation of what we (as a community) have learnt so far. Just wondering, have you considered a section on oracles?

Rikard Edgren April 17th, 2013

Aaron, thanks for your kind words!
Yes, I have considered oracles, they are mentioned in Interpretation section, and many of your actual oracles can be found here and there in 37 Sources for Test Ideas.
The book has more focus on what to test, than how to interpret the results.
Plus, Bach/Bolton and Kaner already have written good stuff on this.
If there ever is a “big black book on test design”, it should elaborate on oracles.