Thursday, May 10, 2012

One For and Two Against Test Scripts

The following is a follow-up to my own Technical Documentation as Reference Material as well as David Greenlees' "Idiot Scripts".

Several thoughts come to my mind when I think about test scripts written for others to use.

I have at times, even recently, asked other people to write test scripts. Not because I want to use them or have them ready to distribute to someone else but because I wanted to use it as a tool to give me insight their approach to testing. It probably isn't the most efficient method but it was what seemed to be the best solution for the circumstances.

To me the intent of scripts for use by business users or during UAT is basically the same: happy path/positive testing that shows that the system works as expected.

The problem I have with writing scripts for business users is that I expect them to know how the system works and test scripts are a horribly inefficient form of user documentation. Besides it leaves the intent of each step in obscurity. It makes more sense to me to teach the business user how to use the system and then let them use it, whether it's taught through a full blown manual, a help file, a training seminar, or a phone call. If the system is complicated enough that it isn't readily apparent to the average user how to use it they you're going to need some sort of training program regardless so why duplicate effort by writing test scripts?

The problem I have with writing scripts for UAT is the same as I mentioned above but it goes deeper. Some, perhaps most people, might not agree with me. When I think about writing UAT scripts, it gives my heart ethical palpitations! UAT isn't just verifying functionality, it's verifying that it's acceptable. Determining whether the software/website is acceptable is a judgement call that only the client can make. Granted acceptance criteria can be written out and those criteria can be negotiated between the client and the agency but it's still a subjective evaluation when it comes down to it. The specific problem then that I have with UAT scripts is that I, as the script writer, am determining whether the deliverable is or is not acceptable. If the client wants to write an objective set of steps that define acceptability they can do that but that's on them. And if they want to go through some sort of approval process then it just becomes a dog and pony show.

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