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Saturday, September 7, 2019

Your Test Cases Are Slowing You Down

One of the first QA jobs I had was a position at a company that made software that could be used to create mobile applications.  It was a very complex application, with so many features that it was often hard to keep track of them all.  Shortly before I started working there, the company had adopted a test tracking system to keep track of all of the possible manual tests the team might want to run.  This amounted to thousands of test cases.

Many of the test cases weren't written well, leaving those of us who were new to the team confused about how to execute them.  The solution to this problem was to assign everyone the task of revising the tests as they were run.  This helped a bit, but slowed us down tremendously.  Adding to the slowdown was the fact that every time we had a software release, our manager had to comb through all the tests and decide which ones should be run.  Then there was the added confusion of deciding which mobile devices should be used for each test.

We were trying to transition to an Agile development style, but the number of test cases and the amount of overhead needed to select, run, and update the tests meant that we just couldn't adapt to the pace of Agile testing.


You might be thinking at this point, "Why didn't they automate their testing?"  Keep in mind that this was back when mobile test automation was in its infancy.  One of our team had developed a prototype for an automated test framework, but we didn't have the resources to implement it because we were so busy trying to keep up with our gigantic manual test case library.

Even when you have a robust set of automated tests in place, you'll still want to do some manual testing.  Having a pair of eyes and hands on an application is a great way to discover odd behavior that you'll want to investigate further.  But trying to maintain a vast library of manual tests is so time consuming that you may find that you don't have time to do anything else!

In my opinion, the easiest and most efficient way to keep a record of what manual tests should be executed is through using simple spreadsheets.  If I were to go back in time to that mobile app company, I would toss out the test case management system and set up some spreadsheets.  I would have one smoke test spreadsheet; and one regression test spreadsheet for each major feature of the application.  Each time a new feature was added, I'd create a test plan on a spreadsheet, and once the feature was released, I'd either add a few test cases to a regression test spreadsheet (if the feature was minor), or I'd adapt my test plan into a new regression test spreadsheet for that feature.

This is probably a bit hard to imagine, so I'll illustrate with an example.  Let's say we have a mobile application called OrganizeIt!  Its major features are a To-Do List and a Calendar.  Currently the smoke test for the app looks like this:

TestiOS phoneiOS tabletAndroid phoneAndroid tablet
Log in with incorrect credentials
Log in with correct credentials
Add an event
Edit an event
Delete an event
Add a To-Do item
Edit a To-Do item
Complete a To-Do item
Mark a complete item as incomplete
Delete a To-Do item
Log out

And then we also have a regression test for the major features: Login, Calendar, and To-Do List.  Here's an example of what the regression test for the To-Do List might look like:

TestExpected result
Add an item to the list with too many charactersError message
Add an item to the list with invalid charactersError message
Add a blank item to the listError message
Add an item to the list with a correct number of valid charactersItem is added
Close and reopen the applicationItem still exists
Edit the item with too many charactersError message, and original item still exists
Edit the item with invalid charactersError message, and original item still exists
Edit the item so it is blankError message, and original item still exists
Mark an item as completedItem appears checked off
Close and reopen the applicationItem still appears checked off
Mark a completed item as completed againNo change
Mark a completed item as incompleteItem appears unchecked
Mark an incomplete item as incomplete againNo change
Close and reopen the applicationItem still appears unchecked
Delete the itemItem disappears
Close and reopen the applicationItem is still gone

This test would also be run on a variety of devices, but I've left that off the chart to make it more readable in this post.

Now let's imagine that our developers have created a new feature for the To-Do List, which is that items on the list can now be marked as Important, and Important items will move to the top of the list.  In the interest of simplicity, let's not worry about the order of the items other than the fact that the Important items will be on the top of the list.  We'll want to create a test plan for that feature, and it might look like this:

TestExpected result
Item at the top of the list is marked ImportantItem is now in bold, and remains at the top of the list
Close and reopen the applicationThe item is still in bold and on the top of the list
Item at the middle of the list is marked ImportantItem is now in bold, and moves to the top of the list
Item at the bottom of the list is marked ImportantItem is now in bold, and moves to the top of the list
Close and reopen the applicationAll important items are still in bold and at the top of the list
Every item in the list is marked ImportantAll items are in bold
Close and reopen the applicationAll items are still in bold
Item at the top of the list is marked as normalThe item returns to plain text, and moves below the Important items
Close and reopen the applicationThe item is still in plain text, and below the Important items
Item in the middle of the Important list is marked as normalThe item returns to plain text and moves below the Important items
Item at the bottom of Important list is marked as normalThe item returns to plain text and is below the Important items
Close and reopen the applicationAll important items are still in bold, and normal items are still in plain text
Delete an important itemItem is deleted
Close and reopen the applicationItem is still gone
Add an item and mark it as importantThe item is added as important, and is added to the top of the list
Add an item and mark it as normalThe item is added as normal, and is added to the bottom of the list
Close and reopen the applicationThe added items appear correctly in the list
Mark an important item as completedThe item is checked, and remains in bold and at the top of the list
Close and reopen the applicationThe item remains checked, in bold, and at the top of the list
Mark an important completed item as incompleteThe item is unchecked, and remains in bold and at the top of the list

We would again test this on a variety of devices, but I've left that off the chart to save space.  

Once the feature is released, we won't need to test it as extensively, unless there's some change to the feature.  So we can add a few test cases to our To-Do List regression test, like this:

TestExpected result
Add an item to the list with too many charactersError message
Add an item to the list with invalid charactersError message
Add a blank item to the listError message
Add an item to the list with a correct number of valid charactersItem is added
Close and reopen the applicationItem still exists
Add an important item to the listItem is in bold, and is added to the top of the list
Edit the item with too many charactersError message, and original item still exists
Edit the item with invalid charactersError message, and original item still exists
Edit the item so it is blankError message, and original item still exists
Mark an important item as normalItem returns to plain text and is moved to the bottom of the list
Mark an item as completedItem appears checked off
Mark an important item as completedItem remains in bold text and appears checked off
Close and reopen the applicationItem still appears checked off
Mark a completed item as completed againNo change
Mark a completed item as incompleteItem appears unchecked
Mark an incomplete item as incomplete againNo change
Close and reopen the applicationItem still appears unchecked
Delete the itemItem disappears
Close and reopen the applicationItem is still gone
Delete an important itemItem disappears

The new test cases are marked in red, but they wouldn't be in the actual test plan.  

Finally, we'd want to add one test to the smoke test to check for this new functionality:

TestiOS phoneiOS tabletAndroid phoneAndroid tablet
Log in with incorrect credentials
Log in with correct credentials
Add an event
Edit an event
Delete an event
Add a To-Do item
Add an important To-Do item
Edit a To-Do item
Complete a To-Do item
Mark a complete item as incomplete
Delete a To-Do item
Log out

With spreadsheets like these, you can see how it is easy to keep track of a huge amount of tests in a small amount of space.  Adding or removing tests is also easy, because it's just a matter of adding or removing a line to the table.  

Spreadsheets like this can be shared among a team, using a product like Google Sheets or Confluence.  Each time a smoke or regression test needs to be run, the test can be copied and named with a new date or release number (for example, "1.5 Release" or "September 2019"), and the individual tests can be divided among the test team.  For example, each team member could do a complete test pass with a different mobile device.  Passing tests can be marked with a check mark or filled in green, and failing tests can be marked with an X or filled in red.

And there you have it!  An easy to read, easy to maintain manual test case management system.  Instead of taking hours of time maintaining test cases, you can use your time to automate most of your tests, freeing up even more time for manual exploratory testing.  

9 comments:

  1. Why should we "throw-out the baby with the water"...?
    For years people started with spread-sheets then moved on to full ALM systems as spread-sheets did not give the right answer,
    It won't show you traceability, it will be harder to get an automatic on-line status dashboard and more.
    Instead whay i would suggest is - just decide to keep the ALM tool where all requirements and tests are managed,
    BUT reduce the amount of details to minimal as still feasible.
    Remove all these redundant fields marked as a must, and allow testers to save a test case with just a:
    1. Concise Name Header.
    2. Test Level tags (Regression, Sanity)
    3. The feature it is related to (normally already there by test tree)
    4. If you have things you wish to remember - add these to description field, else leave it open.
    5. If you need instructions on How To perform the procedure, or other background knowledge - link to s centralized TXT/Confluence page, in order not to waste time (D.R.Y) of writing these over and over again in many test cases.
    This way you still have a DB based repository, easy to manipulate, track and export - minus all the redundant data which took too much time to write.
    Don't write test steps in general - But do that for a sample of tests per each new feature - it will allow you to better understand the extent of the feature, raise theoretical bugs much earlier as feedback to requirements, and allow you to think of required setups, tools and design for testability.
    As in everything in our world - its the context and right balance which makes a process useful!
    Reducing too much is as bad as Elaborating too much - find the middle point.
    @halperinko Kobi Halperin

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for your comments, Kobi! If you've got a test case management system that's working for you, that's great, and there's no reason to change. I find that spreadsheets on wiki pages work great for my team, and we are able to track what we did because each test pass is a separate copy of the test plan and is labeled with the date or the release number. We don't need dashboards, because any failures are brought up immediately and would cause the release to be canceled. Small bugs found would be logged and tracked through our bug-tracking system. But the main point is to have a system that works for you and your team, and there are lots of ways to do that.

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  2. I've had good results putting the manual tests into the team's online project tracking tool as stories (or I guess those would be "tasks", in Jira?) I created templates for each set of tests, and whenever we needed to do that checklist of test cases, I cloned the template and put the story into the backlog with all the other stories for the feature slice being deployed. That way, it had equal visibility with all the work the team needed to do. It was also easier to get non-testers to pitch in. I could set it up as a checklist and anyone doing one of the test cases could check it off as soon as they started. The progress of testing was visible too. Spreadsheets work fine but whether everyone on the team will be looking at them frequently can be a challenge.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Why does that show "unknown"? This is Lisa Crispin, btw! Thanks for another great post, too!

      Delete
    2. That's a great idea, Lisa! We have used JIRA stories to track particularly tricky testing, such as when there's a lot of risk. Thanks for sharing it!

      Delete
  3. @kristin, great idea.. actually I'm following the same what you have mentioned and that works for my team to easily Handel new release..
    And we are trying to implement automation for mobile app testing. We have little knowledge in python. Shall we get your suggestion for automation. Where shall check for better learning as a beginner's.
    Thanks.

    ReplyDelete
  4. This is Mahesh.. jmahesh17@gmail.com

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Mahesh! I'm glad you enjoyed this post. Mobile test automation can be tricky- I'd recommend using Selenium with Appium. There is lots of good documentation to help you get started. Have fun!

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  5. Very nice. Sometimes the simplest solution is the best.

    As much as I like Jira (and many other of the modern tools), I long for the days at my last company where we had a cork board and note cards stuck in with pushpins to track our progress.

    Good for you for being willing to find the "best" solution for you.

    ReplyDelete

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