Struggling with focused software testing? “These are troublesome times” is one of the biggest clichés someone can use at this moment. You are working at home and you are surrounded by family 100% of the time. Family being in close quarters has a major impact on your work as software tester. There can be major distraction with family members, especially if they are not capable of doing something for themselves. Your colleagues can also cause distraction, as they are interrupting you constantly on digital, via slack, telephone, WhatsApp.
How can you ever deliver all the testing you had planned to do for that day?
A good question that gets a lot of attention on social media, with all kinds of well-meant advice. I’d like to add one piece of advice, and this time from the specific angle of testing.
Testing on a high level demands a lot of concentration. You are not only looking for the confirmation that the software works, because that is easy: you click around, do some walk trough the screens and everything works!? If you are looking for confirmation if the software works, you will find this confirmation and there is a word for “confirmation bias”.
No, as a tester you are not only looking for confirmation, you are mainly looking for the unknown, the thing that no one knows about that application. This information is very relevant because you want to have this information before that your customer finds it in production. Because before you know it, the name of your company is in the newspaper the next day, and the majority of the time, that is not a good sign.
You are metaphorically looking for a black cat in a dark room, without knowing if the cat is even in the room!
The search for the unknown takes a lot of concentration and every interruption means that it will take at least 10 to 15 minutes to go back to the right level of concentration. How can you stick to that high level of concentration?
5 Tips for Focused Software Testing
Tip 1 is ‘easy’: when you are testing, get rid of all the distractions: no e-mail, put your telephone in flight mode, disable notifications on slack. You are just not available. Leave a message for your colleagues, before they think that you are sitting in your garden doing nothing. If it is not possible to get away from young family members, consider working at the quietest family times of the day. In collaboration with your boss, it should be possible to make some arrangements, for example by working mainly during the evening or the early morning.
Tip 2 is about concentration: Someone came up with the idea that we work for 8 hours per day. This doesn’t mean that you can keep your concentration for 8 hours per day. To make it quite clear, you can concentrate for approximately 5 hours every day so use your time wisely. Besides that, for many reasons, it is not possible to work for 5 hours continuously and that brings us to the next tip…
Tip 3: divide your test assignment into smaller parts, what we call test sessions. Define test sessions which last, for example, 45 minutes or 2 hours max. so that you have a clear goal defined in time. A method that resembles this approach is called the Pomodoro technique, where you work for 25 minutes at every task. Be aware that you will need distraction after such a session; but no screens! Screens will occupy your brain, while your brain has to turn ‘off’ (rest): go for a cup of coffee, play with your kids but look for distraction without a screen.
Tip 4 prepare your test session well: take care that there is a clear test assignment you are going to perform. For example, if a new screen or API is built and you want to know if the most important function (determined with your team) not only works correctly but you also want to know if it works correctly in the most unexpected circumstances that you can imagine. You are exploring the functionality. So be prepared with the right software in the right environment, with the correct test assignment and test data that is waiting to be used! Otherwise this will give you an (extra) distraction.
Tip 5: evaluate your test session with a colleague. Do you create a report about what have you seen? What went well? What concerns you? By giving an explanation of what you’ve done, you will find flaws in your story while talking to your colleague. And if the story sounds logical, your colleague probably has some interesting questions that you hadn’t considered before. Input for another session! Besides that, your team wants to know if the software is good enough for the next step or maybe they have to solve some issues.
Also be aware that the following can happen: you are fully focused working on your test session and you will lose the sense of time and you don’t know where you are anymore: then you have reached the flow! I am going to tell you much more about this in my next e-book that will be published and featured here on EuroSTAR Huddle in a few weeks. So keep an eye on the social media (but not too many times 😉)
With these 5 tips -which are also very useful in the post-corona era- if gave you a short introduction in session-based testing. If you wish to to know more, look at articles about session-based from Michael Bolton or James Bach or you can also contact me if you are looking for some distraction between two test sessions.
See more software testing tips on EuroSTAR Huddle.