What is Exploratory Testing? Learn with a real world example

What is Exploratory Testing? Learn with a real world exampleWhat is Exploratory Testing? Learn with a real world example

Understanding the complexities of software testing processes is crucial for any enterprise that does software development.

Exploratory Testing is one such process that offers invaluable insights and helps improve your software output.

This guide delves into the concept of exploratory testing, its benefits, unique features, and versatile uses.

What is Exploratory Testing?

Exploratory testing is a dynamic testing approach where test designs and test executions happen simultaneously.

It offers testers the flexibility to adapt their test strategies based on their observations of system behaviors and user interactions.

This testing technique is significant because it uncovers issues that might go unnoticed with rigid and traditional testing practices.

Exploratory Testing Vs. Scripted Testing

Unlike scripted testing, exploratory testing allows for an adaptable approach.

Meaning, unlike traditional methods where specific scripts dictate the testing pathway, exploratory testing enables testers to modify their methods in real-time, ensuring comprehensive coverage and effective problem-resolution.

Core Principles and Techniques

The Agile Connection

Within agile frameworks (opens in a new tab), exploratory testing is not just beneficial; it’s essential.

It complements structured testing by injecting an element of spontaneity and adaptation that rigid testing protocols may overlook, ensuring that applications are not only functional but also user-friendly and responsive to real-world conditions.

Techniques Employed

Key techniques in exploratory testing include session-based testing, where sessions are time-boxed, and charters are used to guide the testing process without prescribing specific test steps.

This approach allows testers to explore the application systematically while maintaining the flexibility to adapt their approach as needed.

Timing of Exploratory Testing

Exploratory testing is best implemented at certain strategic stages:

  • When critical test cases are already executed.
  • When exploratory testing has proven more effective in identifying bugs compared to other methods.
  • In cases where the product heavily relies on repetitive test cases, and concerns arise about their ability to detect all potential bugs.
  • When exploring 'edge cases' within software, or user inputs that might result in unexpected behavior.

How to conduct Exploratory Testing?

Exploratory testing typically involves the following steps:

  • Product Learning: Testers must first familiarize themselves with the application before any successful exploratory testing can occur.
  • Outcome Learning: Clear understanding of the desired outcomes is crucial, whether it's identifying flaws in early iterations or ensuring the absence of previously addressed bugs.
  • Execution: As soon as the tests are written or requested, testers execute them, probing the application or website by observing, exploring, compiling, and reporting results.
  • Reiteration: Each round aims to improve the testing cycle, with new data collected from accepted or rejected bugs, and their severity tags.

Overcoming Common Challenges with Exploratory Testing

Navigating Common Hurdles

Testers often face obstacles such as time constraints and the cognitive load of keeping track of their discoveries and thought processes.

Effective strategies to overcome these include structured debrief sessions and the use of lightweight documentation to capture critical information without burdening the tester.

Best Practices for Effective Testing

To maximize the outcomes of exploratory testing, testers should focus on areas of the application that are changed frequently or are complex by nature.

They should also prioritize communication with developers to enhance their understanding of the application's intent, which aids in more targeted and effective testing.

Real-World Example: Exploratory Testing on a Fitness Tracking App

Real-World Example: Exploratory Testing on a Fitness Tracking AppReal-World Example: Exploratory Testing on a Fitness Tracking App

Project Overview:

A development team is tasked with creating a fitness tracking app that integrates with multiple wearable devices to monitor health metrics such as steps taken, heart rate, and sleep patterns.

The app also offers personalized workout plans and nutrition tracking features.

Goal of Exploratory Testing:

The primary aim of exploratory testing in this project is to ensure the app delivers a seamless and intuitive user experience across different devices and platforms while accurately tracking and analyzing user health data.

Exploratory Testing Setup:

  • Team Composition: The testing team includes members with diverse backgrounds: a software tester, a UX designer, and a developer. This diversity helps uncover more issues from different perspectives.
  • Tools Used: The team uses a combination of mobile testing tools and real-time collaboration software to document findings and share insights instantly. Tools like TestRail for test management and Slack for communication are employed.
  • Test Charters: Each session is guided by a charter, but testers have the freedom to diverge based on their findings. Example charters include:
    • Evaluate the synchronization of data between the wearable device and the app.
    • Assess the app’s responsiveness to different user inputs under varied conditions.
    • Explore the accuracy of the health metrics displayed in dynamic conditions, such as during intense physical activities.

Execution of Exploratory Testing:

  • Session-Based Approach: Testers conduct time-boxed testing sessions focusing on specific areas of the app. Each session lasts for about 90 minutes, ensuring focused and intensive testing.
  • Scenario Testing: Testers create real-world user scenarios to mimic typical user behaviors, such as starting a workout session on the app while simultaneously monitoring heart rate changes on the wearable.
  • Interoperability Testing: Part of the exploratory testing is dedicated to testing the app’s integration with various wearable devices to ensure data is accurately captured and transmitted across devices without loss.
  • Usability Testing: Testers also focus on the app’s user interface and user experience, ensuring that navigation is intuitive and that features are easily accessible even during physical activities.

Outcomes and Adaptations:

  • Immediate Feedback and Iteration: Findings from the exploratory testing sessions are immediately shared with developers and designers to initiate quick fixes and design adjustments.
  • Unscripted Discoveries: During one session, a tester discovered that the app failed to record data when the device was in 'Do Not Disturb' mode, a scenario that had not been considered in scripted testing.
  • Adaptive Testing: As new features were added to the app, such as a hydration tracker, additional exploratory testing sessions were scheduled to cover these enhancements comprehensively.

Benefits Realized:

  • Enhanced Quality: The exploratory testing approach helped identify usability issues that were not captured during standard testing procedures, such as data sync delays during simultaneous operations.
  • Increased Coverage: Exploratory testing allowed testers to cover more scenarios and device combinations than would have been possible with scripted testing alone.
  • User-Centric Focus: Continuous feedback from the testing team helped shape the app into a more user-friendly product, directly reflecting real user needs and behaviors.

This example demonstrates how exploratory testing can be an effective approach in agile projects, especially for applications like a fitness tracker where user interaction and real-time data processing play critical roles in the product's success.


As software development continues to evolve, exploratory testing will remain a critical component, particularly in agile and DevOps practices.

Its flexibility and adaptability make it indispensable for teams aiming to improve product quality and customer satisfaction continually.

Exploratory Testing MotivationExploratory Testing Motivation

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) / People Also Ask (PAA)

What strategies are effective for conducting exploratory testing?

How different is exploratory testing from black-box testing?

What skills or knowledge should a tester possess to effectively carry out exploratory testing?

Are there any specific tools or software that aid in exploratory testing?

Can exploratory testing be automated or is it strictly a manual process?

How can the outcome of exploratory testing be measured or evaluated?

Can exploratory testing be implemented in an Agile environment?

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