Checklists vs test cases and the importance of gut feeling

Published on June 1, 2015 by Kieren

Posted in Technology

John Hopkin

“To support my memory, I create checklists, not test cases. The checklists enable to create a map or hierarchy of things and their connections, and recall vast amounts of information. It’s like building a product specific heuristic that helps me recognize patterns. People are pattern recognition machines, and this plays well with the implicit knowledge that I’ve acquired as a tester in this application for the last three years.”

This is from a blog post that caught my attention, relating to testing:

This blog struck a chord with me, as I too have a fairly good memory and as much as it pains me, it has failed me on occasions. However, as this blog states the gut reaction of “something isn’t quite right” is something that should never be underestimated.

I would like to state that the gut feeling about something not being quite right is, in my experience, something that mainly happens when navigating to an area of the product that is actually to be tested or watching someone else run through the software. There have been a number of times where a nagging feeling that something isn’t quite right has yielded an issue that needed to be resolved.

The author states she uses checklists more regularly than actual test cases and this is something I too tend to use. Test cases are useful and have their place in the testing process, but often a checklist with a couple of notes is more appropriate, they are also quicker and for me personally less disruptive to actual testing. The layout of a checklist for me is also important as it helps to be aware of interdependencies as well as additional testing routes that may be taken from any particular point in the software.

It may turn out that looking into what the gut feeling was about turns out to be nothing, but investigating that instinct will, if nothing else, refresh the memory and create the perfect opportunity to amend the checklist and its notes.

Our memory fails all of us from time to time, but spending the time to follow our hunches when we think something is wrong is rarely a waste of time.