Mind maps are awesome at allowing you to visualise complex/abstract concepts and link the relationships between them in a very simple format.
A few weeks back I was browsing through James Bach’s website and came across an article about rapid testing (heuristics are a central component of the rapid testing approach). A few days prior, one of the testers at work spoke about using mind maps to capture testing notes. So I decided to combine the two ideas and create a resource that would, at a glance, highlight the tools and techniques available to me as well as remind me of the testing skills I need to improve.
The Mind Map
I used Coggle to create the below mind map. It’s a free, easy to use tool that I highly recommend you try out.
How it works
After I’ve read the acceptance criteria of a story I’m about to pick up, I quickly open up my testing heuristics mind map and scan over each item on it. If anything on the mind map seems relevant to the story, then I’ll add a few extra checks to my test session notes. Depending on the size of the story, I might briefly review the mind map again before I show the story to my product owner.
The mind map allows me to quickly visualise what tools and testing constructs I have at my disposal and cherry pick the most appropriate ones for the job. It also serves as a sounding board for generating test ideas. This tool should become a living document that is regularly updated as and when you become more aware your own testing strengths and weaknesses. I find listing the testing areas/skills I need to improve in, far more valuable than anything else on there.
Every project will have its own unique constraints and requirements. For example with mobile testing, I need to test receiving phone calls and locking the screen while using the app. Testers working on a database or API project wouldn’t face such issues. Sometimes I forget to test device related scenarios because I get so caught up what I am doing. Listing project specific scenarios/constraints serves as a reminder for me to always think of the context of where I am and what I’m testing.
I also use the mind map as a kind of personal ‘retro’ board. Each time I make a significant error in judgement, I add a new branch to the mind map. Mistakes are fine as long as you learn from them. If we aren’t 100% honest with ourselves and our own testing capabilities, how will we ever improve as testers!
I try to keep the number of branches and words to a minimum. This makes it quicker to read and faster to digest. I imagine a lot of the items on my mind map wouldn’t make sense to somebody else but I find that, in itself, becomes part of the tool’s appeal. The more personalised I make it, the more value I derive from it. As long as the labels make sense to you; that’s all that matters.
Categories of Branches
I’ve broken the mind map into 3 distinct categories but, as this should be a personalised tool, you can break it down in whatever way makes the most sense for you. I have put the 5 primary branches( from the above mind map picture) into the following categories:
- Test ideas
- Variations branch (pink)
- Interferences branch (blue)
- Extremity identity (green)
- Tools/Techniques branch (orange)
- Lessons (currently called Bias) branch (yellow)
The process of drafting your mind map should force you to reflect on your own skills and help you recognise your own strengths and weaknesses. Remember to tailor it to your project’s unique needs, review and update regularly but most importantly, make it personal!