Lots of test strategy Rikard Edgren No Comments

I have been doing lots on test strategy the last year. Some talks, a EuroSTAR tutorial, blog entries, a small book in Swedish, teaching at higher vocational studies, and of course test strategies in real projects.

The definition I use is more concrete than many others. I want a strategy for a project, not for a department or the future. And I must say it works. It gets more clear to people what we are up to, and discussions get better. The conversations about it might be most important, but I like to also write a test strategy document, it clears up my thinking and is a document to go back to for other reviewers.

Yesterday in the EuroSTAR TestLab I created a test strategy together with other attendants, using James Bach’s Heuristic Test Strategy Model as a mental tool. The documented strategy can be downloaded here, and the content might be less interesting than the format. In this case, I used explicit chapters for Testing Missions, Information Sources and Quality Objectives because I felt those would be easiest to comment on for the product manager and developer.

I have also put my EuroSTAR Test Strategy slides on the Publications page.

Happy strategizing!

Testing Examples Rikard Edgren 8 Comments

I believe we need a lot more examples of software testing. They will be key in transferring tacit knowledge (they will not be all that is required, but an important part.) They work best when done live, so you can discuss, but that doesn’t scale very well.

So I have created a few examples in video or text format:

Exploratory Testing Session – Spotify Offline

Bug Finding – Spotify Space, Image Galumphing

Scenario Testing – LibreOffice Compatibility

Test Analysis – Screen Pluck

I am very interested in knowing if they are useful to you, and how.

Which other public testing examples are your favorites?

Den Lilla Svarta om Teststrategi Rikard Edgren 4 Comments

I am quite proud to announce a new free e-book about test strategy.

It contains ideas Henrik Emilsson and I have have discussed for years.

It is not a textbook, but it contains many examples and material that hopefully will inspire your own test strategies (the careful reader will recognize stuff from this blog and inspiration from James Bach’s Heuristic Test Strategy Model.)

Reader requirement: Understand Swedish.

Download Den Lilla Svarta om Teststrategi


On ISO 29119 Content Rikard Edgren 4 Comments


The first three parts of ISO 29119 were released in 2013. I was very skeptic, but also interested, so I grabbed an opportunity to teach the basics of the standard, so it would cover the costs of the standard.

I read it properly, and although I am biased against the standard I did a benevolent start, and blogged about it a year ago, http://thetesteye.com/blog/2013/11/iso-29119-a-benevolent-start/

I have not used the standard for real, I think that would be irresponsible and the reasons should be apparent from the following critique. But I have done exercises using the standard and had discussions about the content, and used most of what is included at one time or another.

Here are some scattered thoughts on the content.


World view

I don’t believe the content of the standard matches software testing in reality. It suffers from the same main problem as the ISTQB syllabus: it seems to view testing as a manufacturing discipline, without any focus on the skills and judgments involved in figuring out what is important, observing carefully in diverse ways, and reporting results appropriately. It puts focus on planning, monitoring and control; and not about what is being tested, and how the provided information brings value. It gives an impression that testing follows a straight line, but the reality I have been in is much more complicated and messy.

Examples: Test strategy and test plan is so chopped up that it is difficult to do something good with it. Using the document templates will probably give the same tendency as following IEEE 829 documentation: You have a document with many sections that looks good to non-testers, but doesn’t say anything about the most important things (what are you trying to test, and how.)

For such an important area as “test basis” – the information sources you use – they only include specifications and “undocumented understanding”, where they could have mentioned things like capabilities, failure modes, models, data, surroundings, white box, product history, rumors, actual software, technologies, competitors, purpose, business objectives, product image, business knowledge, legal aspects, creative ideas, internal collections, you, project background, information objectives, project risks, test artifacts, debt, conversations, context analysis, many deliverables, tools, quality characteristics, product fears, usage scenarios, field information, users, public collections, standards, references, searching.



The standard includes many documentation things and rules that are reasonable in some situations, but often will be just a waste of time. Good, useful documentation is good and useful, but following the standard will lead to documentation for its own sake.

Examples: If you realize you want to change your test strategy or plan, you need to go back in the process chain and redo all steps, including approvals (I hope most testers adjust often to reality, and only communicate major changes in conversation.)

It is not enough with Test Design Specification and Test Cases, they have also added a Test Procedure step, where you in advance write down in which order you will run the test cases. I wonder which organizations really want to read and approve all of these… (They do allow exploratory testing, but beware that the charter should be documented and approved first.)


Good testing?

A purpose of the standard is that testing should be better. I can’t really say that this is the case or not, but with all the paper work there are a lot of opportunity cost, time that could have been spent on testing. On the other hand, this might be somewhat accounted for by approvals from stakeholders.

At the same time, I could imagine a more flexible standard that would have much better chances of encouraging better testing. A standard that could ask questions like “Have you really not changed your test strategy as the project evolved?” A standard that would encourage the skills and judgment involved in testing.

The biggest risk with the standard is that it will lead to less testing, because you don’t want to go through all steps required.



It is apparent that they really tried to bend in Agile in the standard. The sequentiality in the standard makes this very unrealistic in reality.

But they do allow bug reports not being documented, which probably is covered by allowing partial compliance with ISO 29119 (this is unclear though, together with students I could not be certain what actually was needed in order to follow the standard with regards to incident reporting.)

The whole aura of the standard don’t fit the agile mindset.



There is a momentum right now against the standard, including a petition to stop it http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/stop29119 which I have signed.

I think you should make up your own mind and consider signing it; it might help if the standard starts being used.



Stuart Reid, ISO/IEC/IEEE 29119 The New International Software Testing Standards, http://www.bcs.org/upload/pdf/sreid-120913.pdf

Rikard Edgren, ISO 29119 – a benevolent start, http://thetesteye.com/blog/2013/11/iso-29119-a-benevolent-start/

ISO 29119 web site, http://www.softwaretestingstandard.org/

The Notepad and Visualize Heuristics Rikard Edgren 1 Comment

I was at Nordic Testing Days and had a great time meeting new and old friends. During my presentation about serendipity I showed two heuristics I wanted to share here as well. They both concern observing from different angles, to learn something new, and increase chances of serendipity.

The Notepad Heuristic

Years ago I worked with translations, and once we translated software that wasn’t fully internationalized. Some parts needed to be changed in binary files; meaning we should take great care that the string length was exactly the same.

Maybe this is why I now and then open many kinds of files in a text editor. In the start of image files, you can see which format it actually is, you can search for password strings, and above all, you might learn something new that will be useful.

.bmp has png content...

.bmp has png content…

Works wonders for text files as well, and it’s as fast as you can expect from a quicktest:

The Notepad Heuristic – open any file in a text editor, to see and learn more.

Visualize Heuristic

I worked several years for a company producing software for interactive data analysis. We used our software internally, e.g. by looking at the bug system or log files visually. This is not only fun, it also can show you things and it suggests areas to learn even more about.

Not that long ago, we tested an application that calculated driving times and risk coverage for fires in Sweden. It was a huge database with numbers, so we had a look at the data visually, where it showed Sweden with colored dots. We could see that there were holes in the data for a couple of municipalities, which was something we knew we were looking for. But when filtering for bigger fire risks, we found something we didn’t know we were looking for, a squared pattern that in no way can be correct (underlying data had to be rebuilt.)

fire risk data is skewed...

fire risk data is skewed…

This is a good serendipity example, you look for something, but you find something else that is valuable.

Visualize Heuristic – look at data visually, to see patterns, trends and outliers.

Charisma Testing Rikard Edgren 4 Comments

Why do you prefer a product even if it has equal functionality to a competitor?
What is it that makes one product stand out amongst the other?
Maybe you have had thoughts about what makes a product feel special?
We all know that this happens in some way, but how do you test for the quality characteristic we like to call Charisma?

Charisma Definition

Charisma. Does the product have “it”?

  • Uniqueness: the product is distinguishable and has something no one else has.
  • Satisfaction: how do you feel after using the product?
  • Professionalism: does the product have the appropriate flair of professionalism and feel fit for purpose?
  • Attractiveness: are all types of aspects of the product appealing to eyes and other senses?
  • Curiosity: will users get interested and try out what they can do with the product?
  • Entrancement: do users get hooked, have fun, in a flow, and fully engaged when using the product?
  • Hype: does the product use too much or too little of the latest and greatest technologies/ideas/trends?
  • Expectancy: the product exceeds expectations and meets the needs you didn’t know you had.
  • Attitude: do the product and its information have the right attitude and speak to you with the right language and style?
  • Directness: are (first) impressions impressive?
  • Story: are there compelling stories about the product’s inception, construction or usage?

It should be noted that charisma is different for every product; only some of the above characteristics will be relevant for you. And most of them will need more details to provide value in your situation.
For specific solutions for specific customers, it might not be worth spending time on charisma testing at all.

Charisma Examples

If a product has charisma or not is primarily a subjective judgment. This is most probably the reason why it hasn’t been focused within software testing. But end users are subjective, so why shouldn’t testers be?

So forgive us if you disagree, but we think the iPhone has Charisma, primarily the sub-characteristics Uniqueness, Attractiveness, Satisfaction, Entrancement and Hype. It doesn’t have any unique feature, but, when introduced on market, it had a unique combination of features. The way you slide your finger when unlocking the phone has so much attractiveness that it has been mimicked by competitors, perhaps without success since their touch-sensitivity isn’t equally good.
Satisfaction is common with an iPhone, until it breaks (but this article isn’t about Reliability…) The entrancement is seen for people that picks up the phone to do something with it, when the amount of available time can be counted in seconds. The hype was created by the very same product. The other sub-characteristics are not irrelevant, but not as dominant, in our opinion.

So how can you test for these things when developing a product?

Charisma Violations

If you are aware of charisma while performing manual testing, you can watch out for violations against the characteristics. You have a lot of  heuristics for this, here are some examples:

  • Applications shouldn’t distract me with information I’m not interested in (Entrancement)
  • After a demo, I should remember some of the features (Directness)
  • User Interface feels right for this kind of task and user (Professionalism)
  • I shall not be upset with a product after using it (Satisfaction)
  • I don’t react negatively to any language (Attitude)
  • There should be something to write home about (Hype)

You can also try to notice overall charisma violations, when the product is bland.

Unorthodox Test Methods

If Charisma is important in your project, you might need to do some unorthodox test activities.

  • deep interviews – ask users why they are hooked, what they love (also talk to those that didn’t start using the product!)
  • diverse focus groups – investigate reactions and non-reactions.
  • observations by proxies – manage bias by letting others observe and interpret the product.
  • uncontrolled users/environments – let people try the software in whatever way they want; analyze results.
  • trying many versions – look and feel dozens of alternative designs.
  • competitor comparison – helps you find market-specific charisma drivers.

You can find inspiration by searching for “software desirability”, but for software testers there is not much written; a few remarks at http://thetesteye.com/blog/tag/charisma/ and a welcome addition in James Bach’s Heuristic Test Strategy Model

Subjective bug reports

There are (as far as we know) no appropriate measurements or ways to specify charisma in detail. So when reporting areas with room for improvements, you will have to make a case, or just hope that other people agree. If several people think the same, you can claim inter-subjectivity, and have a better chance.

There won’t be any Charisma standards to adhere to, but subjective comments like “if we change this, it feels better” can make the product more pleasant to use, and thereby better.

In our experience, a conversation with the designer is the best way to communicate good and bad things, and by using our list of characteristics, it might be easier to communicate compelling reasons to fix problems.

Who should test for Charisma?

Many don’t think charisma is something testers should bother with. This is understandable if you see testing as a technical verification that should result in an objective Pass or Fail. But many see testing as an investigation for important quality-related information, so how come charisma isn’t used more often?
Maybe it needs the same journey as usability; 20 years ago it wasn’t a major concern for testers, today many testers provide a lot of value in this area.

It is not evident that testers are the primary interpreters of Charisma. But at the same time, manual testers might be the ones that has the best experience and knowledge about the product as a whole, which might be key for some Charisma aspects. For some sub-characteristics, you might need to use people without product knowledge, especially when first impressions or surprise factors are important.

At the very least, you want the daily testers, who are one of few that know diverse details, to be aware of your product’s unique charisma.


Some might say that it would be superficial to test for things like this; it is what the product can accomplish that provides true value. We agree with this in theory, but in practice, this is the way the world is right now…

Most important is to be aware of this product attribute, to know how important it is for the success of products.
We are confident that most of you agree that many of these characteristics are important aspects for the users’ perception of your product.

Then how come you don’t test charisma??

[co-authored with Henrik Emilsson]

Acting On Answers Rikard Edgren 1 Comment

Asking questions is rightly regarded as important for testers. But I seldom here anything about what we should do with the answers. Not that I believe anyone would ask the question, then not listen to the result, but I think we take for granted that we will understand the answers, and that we can use them straight away for our testing purposes. In my experience, this is often not the case. Of course it can happen that you ask: “What about performance?” and get a “Sure, we have these performance objectives, didn’t you get them?”


But more often you have to do quite a bit of interpretation:
One stakeholder said “fast in, fast out”, which when tied together with other understanding gave three sub-strategies:

  • User testing to see typical users will find the information they are looking for.
  • Heuristic usability evaluation with focus on operability (default focus, few click, fast-read.)
  • Evaluate perceived performance when system has normal high load.


And sometimes guessing:
A developer said “In last release many users helped with testing, so I can’t think of anything specifically that could be tested.”

It seems like the team believes they have a perfect program that don’t need testing. And they assume the testing is good enough if you involve users. Their underlying test strategy probably focus on platforms, new/common functionality and charisma (that they like the new version.) The product’s slogan includes “easy to use”, which can mean many things:

  • easy for first timers
  • fast for power users
  • accessibility for functional disabilities
  • good Help
  • etc.

So we could focus on testing towards usability for the shy or non-technical users. We could look at resource utilization, complex situations; and that’s a good start at least. We’ll figure out more when we get to know the software.


So how do we learn to interpret and act on answers? Most people already know it, it is part of being human, but I would assume that your skill in this will increase with your experience. So the best way of teaching this I know is to tell stories, and put learner in situations where they have to do this themselves.

As my grandmother says: “If you don’t ask you won’t get any answers.”
And the answer is only the beginning.

Using Quality Characteristics Rikard Edgren 3 Comments

More than 3 years have passed since we published the first version of our Software Quality Characteristics. It is quite popular, and it is now translated to 8 languages by testing enthusiasts. But it’s about time to talk a bit more about how to use the list, where there are at least three typical scenarios:

Test Idea Triggers

This is the most common usage: read relevant parts of the list, and use it as inspiration for things to test in your product, or feature. Suitable when you have run out of ideas and need new inspiration. Don’t try to test all of them, because all of them won’t be important. But don’t discard any top category to easily either, the right testability suggestion might be your biggest time-savers.

It can be difficult to transform a generic description to actual test execution, so have a look at Lightweight Characteristics Testing for fast ways to get going. If you use the list many times, it is the right time to create your own customized list, with the appropriate characteristics for your situation; your own specific non-functional checklist.

(This is actually the origin of our poster; the print-out of Bach’s Quality Criteria became too cluttered with things we often wanted to test.)

Quality objectives/Non-functional requirements

The list can also be useful to understand what quality means for your software. This should probably involve other people than testers, so you get a good understanding from many perspectives. But the advice is to start without the list; define what quality means to you, and use your own words, because those will better describe what you want to accomplish. When you run out of ideas, then pick up the list of quality characteristics to see if you missed something relevant, or if you get ideas that can make your first ideas even better.

An important part is to try to make the quality statements really useful is to make them specific for the situation. “Easy to use” is very generic, so better examples are:

  • First-time users should have no problems creating their first mind map
  • Power users should very quickly be able to create complex mind maps (keyboard + mouse navigation)
  • Product should adhere to 508 accessibility guidelines

As a tester, I don’t need these to be objectively measurable, they can still guide my testing effort, and help me focus and observe more broadly. Many other people want these to be easy to measure, and my guess is that’s why people don’t have time to inform about what we actually want to achieve.

Review of Test Strategy or Results

If you are in a situation where you should review a test strategy, or test results, the quality characteristics can be very handy to spot holes in the testing. Use the same thought process as above: “What does this mean to us, is it important?

If you find that performance aspects are missing, ask if they just forgot to mention it, or if they should revise the strategy. Or even better, do this test on your own work, so you can improve immediately.

Lateral Tester Exercise V: FizzBuzz Rikard Edgren 12 Comments

I am always at the lookout for new testing exercises, since I teach a lot. Today I found a programming exercise at http://imranontech.com/2007/01/24/using-fizzbuzz-to-find-developers-who-grok-coding/ that I thought could be turned into something for testers. Since it doesn’t fit any of my current teaching schemes, I blog about it instead of putting it in the closet.


This program is an exercise for software testers. As input it takes an integer between 1 and 1000, and repeats it as output. But if the number is a multiple of three, it should print “Fizz” instead of the number and for the multiples of five print “Buzz”. For numbers which are multiples of both three and five it should give “FizzBuzz” as output.

Test as much as you want, and answer these questions:

1. What would be a good test strategy?

2. What is your test coverage?

3. What are the results from your testing?

4. If you would use this exercise as a teacher, what would you talk about in the debrief?


Ruby file: FizzBuzz.rb

Executable (Windows): FizzBuzz.exe

Winning or losing in gamified test situations Martin Jansson 2 Comments

Games are not always about winning or losing. Each game can have different objectives. In my early youth I started with role playing games and later on story telling games. At the time, people who knew little about it sometimes asked us, “Who is winning?”. Being 7 years old, I didn’t really know what to say, in a good way, to explain to this grown-up that winning or losing is not always the objective. Instead, when we were role playing we worked as a group to go on with the story, to gain experience, to improve the character with skills and items and, probably above all, to have fun.

35 years later, I still hear the same question popping up in role playing situations, but also in similar situation such as when having to do with gamification. When we talk about gamification of testing, I feel it really demotivating if we were to compete against each other within the team or organization at a regular basis. I have already seen and experienced instances in my past when we had leader boards counting bugs in various fashion. We had really destructive discussions, as I see it, about if those who reported the least bugs really provided value to the group.

In a recent article [1] by Shrini Kulkarni approaches gamification of testing with the mindset of competition. I will look at a few of his arguments.

“This definition is provisional one – I might not be considering types of games that do not falling in this category. I wonder if there is any game where there is notion of victory or defeat.”

Yes, there are many different types of games. Believing that there is only games about winning and losing is too narrow. Some games are for introducing people to each other, others for passing time, others such as role playing and story telling games can be about solving puzzles/mysteries as a group, where you act as a different persona than your own you. The list is infinite.

“How about goals or objectives of a player or team playing games in the first place? Winning of course!”

Richard Bartle [2] investigated the objective behind different play styles in Massive Multiplayer Online Games (MMO) and Multi-User Dungeons (MUD) and discovered that only a fraction of the players had the objective of winning. Instead, there were other aspects, such as socializing, that were more interesting and in focus.

“How many times you heard the statement “it is not important to win or lose, participation and competing with ones best ability is important”. So if you lose do not feel bad – there is always another chance.”

In a testing context, working against others by competition would, as I see it, harm the organisation and the teams. As I stated in my previous article [3], when considering gamification you need to consider the regular traps of testing in order to work on areas that provide value. But you also need to consider how to get a good working environment. A competetive environment might not be the best solution? I do not see it fruitful to compete on many of our test activities such as information gathering. How do you weigh one type of information over another? Would you in order to win choose to not share valuable information to others in the team?

“A good test strategy in testing is same as winning strategy in games. But then – what is the meaning of winning the game of testing? Against who?”

We really do not have an opponent in our test strategy, as I see it. Still we can use many aspects from strategies of games and war in our reasoning. I often look for inspiration in the writing of Sun Tzu, Carl von Clausewitz and other strategists. Still, when considering strategy for testing I see it rather as meeting different objectives or goals for retrieving information, instead of winning.

Jonathan Kohl has taken elements from MMO-type-of-gaming and considered quests and adventuring [4]. I believe this is an excellent area to look at. In most situations in role playing, the group cooperates working towards a set of goals or objectives, just like you would as a tester in teams.

So, for those of you who start to dig into the world of gamification in testing… do look beyond the regular winning/losing concept. There are more aspects at play here. Instead, see gamification itself as a complex system, which you in turn apply to other systems in order to enhance cooperation, motivation, feedback and learning among many things.


[1] http://shrinik.blogspot.se/2013/10/questions-about-gamification-of-testing.html

[2] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bartle_Test

[3] http://thetesteye.com/blog/2013/10/using-gamification-to-explain-and-model-testing/

[4] http://www.kohl.ca/2013/test-quests-gamification-applied-to-software-test-execution/