Exploratory testing is an unscripted and open-ended form of quality testing where a tester explores an application to uncover any hidden issues. It helps to have more testers working in focused bursts, hunting the web and mobile app for defects. The more hands-on-deck means better results, and a better, more stable product.

In today’s version of crowd testing, a tester is often part of a larger on-demand team – a group of testers per run who cooperate for work distribution, collaborative problem solving, and rapid reproducibility checks. Each tester is either assigned a specific feature to test or a series of test cases to execute. In both instances, the crowd tester must approach structured exploratory testing with a specific mindset to identify usability and other issues missed by prescribed automated and regression testing.

Related: 5 common misconceptions about exploratory testing

The testing mindset

Exploratory testing is a quest for bugs where the ultimate goal is creating a stable product. To that end, it is important for all testers within a team to approach an exploratory testing expedition with the same mindset. 

Each tester must have a good understanding of what the product does, its functionality and usage. This doesn’t mean that crowd testers must all think alike, rather they must understand the philosophy and market need behind the product – and approach testing with that level of maturity.

Bugs, design, and expected behaviour 

During an exploratory test, the only thing that is black and white is what is in scope and what is out of scope for testing. Beyond that, a tester must know the difference between a critical and minor bug. This allows the collective bugs reported in an exploratory cycle to be triaged more easily by the development team. The feedback from such a cycle is more useful since the tester has been able to filter what is critical and what isn’t. It shows an understanding of the product and over time, it helps testers gain better insight into the philosophy of the app (which in turn helps perform better testing in subsequent cycles).

A testing strategy 

Because of its wide scope, exploratory testing is generally conducted within a longer time frame than other testing cycles, but there are still budget and time constraints to consider. For that reason, it’s imperative to put in place an effective crowd testing strategy that will allow testers to truly focus on exploring the app.

A sound testing strategy will run a feature through its basic requirements and then look for anything out of the ordinary. The testing and the test cases must still remain within the scope of what the product is intended for. 

Many companies prefer quick test results delivered during openings in the engineering team’s work. This means exploratory testing often happens overnight and/or on weekends—in relation to primary engineering team time zones. To optimize this approach, a multi-time zone team of crowd testers is often optimal.

Related: 4 steps for managing exploratory testing

Dealing with unexpected behaviour

Exploratory testing is where some of the most unique bugs are discovered. A crowd tester should be able to understand when a product isn’t working as it should. Unusual behaviour in a web or mobile app might be a divergence from its intended use, or it might be an unconventional design practice that needs to be fixed because end-users will struggle with its usage. 

A crowd tester should be able to guess what a feature is meant to do, identify where it falls short, or where it completely fails in its intended purpose. A good tester will also be able to give suggestions to fix or improve issues. 

Working independently 

Generally speaking, a crowd tester is part of a larger group working within specific time frames and short guidelines. Beyond these guidelines, there isn’t much direction – with fast-paced development and even faster release cycles, product and development teams don’t always have time to explain in detail what a new feature is, and how it ties in with the rest of the product. Therefore, crowd testers must develop a broad understanding of the product that allows them to work with limited guidance but still test the product thoroughly. Testers need to be experienced and agile to figure out how to test a feature, come up with different scenarios to test and explore them.

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This post has been written by Testlio Network Tester Fatima. Fatima is a movie junkie and technology enthusiast who aspires to be a published author.