How do you big up exploratory testing beyond the testing community?

DHH – the influential technologist and creator of Ruby on Rails – recently shared a brilliant post on the value of human, exploratory testing.

So great to see someone outside of the testing community hoping to see other teams buck the “automate all the things” trend.

It got me thinking, how might we help spread the value of exploratory testing beyond the testing community?


I had a tech fail the last time I went to the supermarket. I hadn’t had any loyalty scheme vouchers come through, so I thought I’d use the supermarket’s in-house customer terminal to print them off, as advertised. Twenty minutes and numerous attempts to use the terminal later, I gave up because the UI was riddled with faults that would have got through automated tests but which rendered the device almost unusable. (The final straw was when it refused to recognise me because the first line of my address I was required to type in to validate the transaction didn’t match the misspelling of my address in their database…)

I wrote to the CEO to complain, enclosing my test report on the terminal and indicating what my normal daily rate was for a freelance consulting gig. I got a reply, but all that said was “We recognise that our in-store terminals are obsolete and they will be replaced shortly.” No mention of money - not even a token amount :face_with_raised_eyebrow:


My point being that I took a Real World opportunity to promote the value of exploratory testing to someone senior in a big company. My last role came to an end because the senior management of the company’s owners saw no value in testing of any sort, let alone exploratory testing. Only when testing shortfalls result in poor customer experience that might just impact the bottom line will very senior people begin to understand the value of keeping manual testing in the mix.


Create and write things in a very usable and useful way, that is easy to find. So simple, yet so hard. I feel the testing community goes into too much depth, when really we need to step back and create a simpler picture.

Great that DHH did write about exploratory software testing, but I was disappointed about the lack of depth they went into.

Something like this? …

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lol, yes.

Reminds be of the iceberg analogy, where DHH post would be the tip of it.

Googles ‘iceberg analogy’ images then quickly closes window.

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One thing I did that worked well and got ppl engaged in talking and thinking about testing in this way was to organise a round table as part of a company meet-up.

Each person around the table was given a card with an explorer personality on it - Tom Crean, Emilia Eirheart, Matthew Henson etc. They were then assigned an associated testing personality “type” based on their explorer card. So we had a lone shark techie, a collaborative empathic tester, a social “talk a lot” tester and an analytical “modelling” tester.

We had a senior tester who explained what a charter and helped the new testers to come up with their perspective on testing. They were also there to nudge the team on and try to quell the volume of chatter and laughter!

We had an internally developed app which they all executed their test charter against once they had spent some time discussing it in the context of their personality types.

As a springboard for engagement and conversation it worked really well it “adjusted” the perception held by some of the business that exploratory testing was just making it up or winging it.

Having started small and seeing that this worked in terms of a friendly immediate team, it would be something I would happily take to a client site as a learning exercise to see if the idea scaled.

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