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The test case technique that interests me most these days is the use of mind maps (http://en.wikipedia .org/wiki/ Mind_map). In going to conferences / workshops I've been noticing them creep up on a number of 'influencial' people's machines to the point where I (half) jokingly refer to them as the secret weapon of advanced testers.
 
Some more publically available articles (some from members of this list actually)
- http://www.kohl. ca/blog/archives /000179.html
- http://chrismcmahon sblog.blogspot. com/2006/ 11/mind-maps- for-testing- and-other- things.html
- http://smoothspan. wordpress. com/2007/ 09/09/using- mindmaps- to-explore- user-interaction -and-create- qa-test-plans/
- http://internetduct tape.com/ 2007/08/31/ mind-mapping- user-interface- complexity/
 
Not sure if that qualifies as a 'technique' in your context since it is more of a structure / format than a new way of generating them other than reading use cases.
 
I also use a mnemonic when doing test cases to inspire me to think about a particular topic (a trigger heuristic in RST nomenclature I believe): SLIME (Security, Languages, requIrements, Measurement, Existing). For more information on it, see http://adam. goucher.ca/ ?p=200.

Modeling Test Heuristics

Mike Kelly has created an effective software testing mnemonic based around James Bach's software touring heuristic. It is now burned indelibly on my brain: FCC CUTS VIDS. I think Mike hit a home run with this one - I use it a lot myself. The mnemonic makes more sense when you review Mike's excellent explanation, and when he spells out the mnemonic into a list:

    Feature tour
    Complexity tour
    Claims tour

    Configuration tour
    User tour
    Testability tour
    Scenario tour

    Variability tour
    Interoperability tour
    Data tour
    Structure tour

Like all good mnemonics, it is easy to memorize because it evokes familiarity, imagery, and it has a nice cadence. I should qualify that. It is easy for /me/ to memorize, and of course, as the creator, easy for Mike to memorize. I relate to words and lists, and a nice cadence helps me repeat it silently to myself, in English, the language I tend to think in. My friend Steve, one of the smartest people I know, does not have as much self-talk going on in his brain. He doesn't relate much to lists and words, he relates to images and colors much more than I do. He thinks in pictures more than words. If I were teaching Steve the touring heuristic, and hoped he'd memorize it, I'd take a different tack.

To explore Mike's test heuristic in an alternate form, I created the following image, in the form of a mind map, as an example:

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This image is a model my friends who think more in terms of images and colors might be more comfortable with than a list.

As I look at it, I see some cool side effects. As a mind map, it looks unfinished. This is partly by design; I didn't expand any of the idea points as you normally would, and there is a blank spot at the bottom right hand corner, an area that our eyes are naturally drawn to as we scan an image.

Contrast the image with the list above. In the list, I get a sense of completion - each letter of the mnemonic is spelled out. When I get to the final "S", standing for "Structure Tour", I get a sense of satisfaction. The spelling out of the mnemonic is complete. When I look at the image, I am struck by how unfinished it looks. I want to draw it on a whiteboard and expand each idea bubble. I want to fill in that blank spot at the bottom right-hand corner. I want to explore the heuristic further, and I want my image to be symmetrical so I can easily remember the details by the shape and colors in the model.

My next urge is to re-create the mind map using only images instead of text. That would be an interesting experiment. Next, I want to convert the list into a tree diagram, with all the relevant testing ideas I can fit under each item. A tree diagram is also an effective way to quickly spot areas that need to be expanded. This appeals to my pragmatic testing approach - more analysis can help me be that much more thorough the next time I use the mnemonic when testing.

Different models help us look at problems differently, and they will reveal or obscure different information and ideas. As my father taught me years ago, involving all your senses when learning is effective. I constantly analyze my own models, and try to improve on my technique. If a model is getting stale, all I need to do is change the medium, and something extraordinary usually clicks in my brain as a result.

What do you see in the image and list above? Do they evoke different reactions in your mind? How would you model Mike's mnemonic? What tools would you use, and what would you learn about testing and thinking by employing them? How many of you would write a song to accompany it? There's only one way to find out. Model away.

*Thanks to Sherry Heinze for reawakening my interest in mind maps.

Posted by jonathankohl at December 14, 2006 06:26 PM

mind maps for testing and other things

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Better Software magazine feature article for November is about using mind maps for test cases.

I learned about mind maps at Thoughtworks, where they had been in use for test case management (and lots of other things) long before I arrived. The key advantage of mind maps, as Robert Sabourin points out in the article, is that "...misunderstandings and ambiguities are exposed and resolved in real time as you build the mind map".


That sounds too good to be true, but it really does work like that. They are also readable, easy to construct, portable, and attractive.


Here are two other ways I used mind maps that were very, very effective:


Accounting and coverage:
The project involved a re-write of an existing system. All of the (very complex) features of the existing system had to be accounted for in the new system, under the (very complex) new architecture. I used a mind map to relate existing features on the left side to new features on the right side. It was SO MUCH BETTER THAN A SPREADSHEET.


Architecture:
My former colleague Dragos Manolescu uses mind maps when designing systems. He's produced some spectacular work. One I remember had to be printed on a plotter, and was about 6 feet high and 3 feet wide-- but quite readable. It was SO MUCH BETTER THAN A DESIGN DOCUMENT.


Although mind-mapping works just fine with colored pencils and paper, I really recommend FreeMind, it's a very east to use, very popular, open-source mind-mapping tool that will save the diagrams in an number of formats, including jpeg.



Using Mindmaps to Explore User Interaction and Create QA Test Plans

Posted by smoothspan on September 9, 2007

Using Mindmaps to Explore User Interaction is a cool idea.  Basically, you depict the flow through the UI as a visual map:

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Doing so can give you an instant idea of how hard or easy it is to navigate the UI to key functionality.  I would venture to add that studying the “traffic patterns” along the mindmap’s highways and optimizing them the way you would a web site is probably a good way to tune up a UI.

Now here is a newsflash:  you can buy a piece of software that will automatically generate these mindmaps.  It’s called Rational Test Factory.  Here is a UI Map from Test Factory:

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Same principle, with each UI object called out inside its container (window) and links showing how you navigate.  Test Factor is a product I built once upon a time at a startup I founded that was called Integrity QA Software.  There were a number of unique aspects to the product.  First was its ability to “spider” or crawl a user interface and produce these maps.  Second, it had the ability to automatically create test suites by using the map as a template to generate tests.

QA people take note, because these maps are good for a lot besides UI design and optimization.  A mind map like this of a UI is exactly the map you need to plan your testing campaign!  I could see putting a big map up on a wall and using it to cross reference your test plans and see that you were getting proper coverage across the whole UI.

A third thing we did that was very powerful was we defined behaviours at each node.  A button is obvious, but menus and type-ins are more interesting.  For example, we made it easy to cycle through a bunch of test files.  The type-in for the file name would be given a property that was a list of test files.  Push a button, and a script got generated to crank through all those files.  Being able to define allowable inputs (for example, what is the range of valid numbers) is hugely powerful for testers.  But it would also be hugely powerful for UI and even program design.  This tool was aimed at testing, but at some point we planned to use it as a UI design tool and do code generation to create a UI from one of these maps.  Never got to it.

The fourth really cool thing this product did was to use Genetic Algorithms to generate optimal test scripts.  This was some seriously cutting edge stuff.  The UI maps gave us templates and made it easy to generate test scripts.  The role of the Genetic Algorithm was to evolve better and better scripts.  “Better” was defined by a fitness function.  We used code coverage and script length.  The shortest script that tested the most code was deemed the best script.  QA people loved this thing.  If the developer’s changed the UI, they could just remap and regenerate new scripts.  Add new code?  Regenerate scripts to test the new code.

The last way cool thing was that this was the first product I build with a grid architecture.  We had a demo room with a rack of 4 by 4 (16) PC’s and two really comfortable chairs set in front of the rack.  On a table between the chairs was the 17th PC that served as a control console.  We’d sit a customer down in one chair and the demoer in the other.  The customer’s software would be loaded.  Hit a button and all 16 machines started mapping the UI in parallel.  The customer’s eyes would literally bug out watching all that activity on their familiar product.  Then testing would begin.  Bugs would start being reported on the console.

I haven’t kept up with Rational’s doing with the product, but at the time it wasn’t suited to testing web applications because it was built before there were many.

It certainly is a fabulous example of how to use multicore to solve a hard problem.  The graphical programming aspect is also intriguing.  It begs for that UI design and code generation tool we never built.

Using Mind Maps to Explore User Interaction

I’m “fortunate” to work at one of those companies where meetings are a way of life. Not only do meetings happen daily, but everyone and their dog is invited. Well, until one of the dogs bit an intern. Now the dogs are free to keep working on their projects, but everyone else is still stuck in needless meetings. The only good thing that has ever come out of these meetings is that I’ve developed a passing familiarity with mind mapping software.

Mind mapping is a technique for taking notes. You start with a central keyword or idea and then build up an ever expanding structure from around that starting point. I might have learned this before in grade three, but the Internet seems convinced that it’s the latest and greatest new thing. Note to self: go through kindergarten notebooks and search for ideas that haven’t been copyrighted. Mrs. Nelson, you will be my goldmine. Now I feel bad for falling asleep during story time.

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You can do mind maps easily by hand, but you can also use free or pay software to build them. It is a great technique for capturing the minutes and action items in a meeting because it is so freeform yet structured. But you don’t have to take my word for it, LifeHacker has given examples of writing mind maps for meetings, and Kathy Sierra has given mind maps a big thumbs up.

Back to the meeting.

I’m putting an appointment on my smartphone that I hate, and as usual I’m frustrated by how needlessly complicated their user interface is. Sell stock in Nokia and buy stock in Apple — you won’t go wrong. That’s when I remembered something I wrote in a blog post about how their UI design wouldn’t have hit the ground if someone had just drawn it out and realized that it takes 10 user interactions to place a phone call. I looked up at the projected mind map on the wall and I realized that I was looking at the perfect software for doing something like that.

Mind mapping begins with a central keyword, but instead you can think of that as the first screen in your application. Each depth in the mind map will represent a user action. One you have mapped out all the actions you can see the overall cogitative load of your program clear as day. Take a second to look at a mind map I did of the WordPress.com blog interface.

mind mapping a user interface

Once the big blob of your UI is mapped you can at a glance look at the most common actions a user would have to perform and see how many interactions it takes to get there. You could even use a mind map to design how content is linked on your blog and how hard it is to use. Admittedly, drawing out a UI like this is nothing new, but using mind mapping software for it is so damned convenient.

Key Points

  • Mind mapping software is not just for note taking and meetings
  • It can be used for mapping user actions
  • The finished diagram can be used to optimize the most important actions and clearly see what actions are redundant or unnecessary
  • The finished diagram makes a great 1 page tear sheet to help users remember where everything is

More Information About Mind Maps


댓글
  • 프로필사진 지나가던 죄송하지만 원문 링크를 부탁드립니다 2007.11.23 13:53
  • 프로필사진 BlogIcon techbard 죄송하지만 이건 원문이 없고,
    메일 내용에 있는 링크를 일일이 붙여다 넣은 겁니다.
    원래 원문 URL이 없어서 기재를 못했습니다.
    Modeling Test Heuristics 앞부분까지가
    메일 내용입니다. 지송합니다. ^^
    2007.11.23 20:57 신고
  • 프로필사진 지나가던 원문 싸이트에 좋은 내용이 많을 것 같아서 부탁드린건데 아쉽습니다 ㅎㅎ 2007.11.26 12:37
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