Checklist-Based Testing: An In-Depth Guide For QA Engineers

Igor K. by Igor K. on 08/4/2022

Checklist-Based Testing: An In-Depth Guide For QA Engineers

Checklist-based testing is not a completely new trend in software testing, but lately, more and more people are discovering its benefits. Today we want you to get to know this type of testing better, understand its uses, benefits, and challenges, and see a real-life example of a testing checklist. Let’s start with the basics!

Checklist-based testing definition

Checklist-based testing is a method of software testing that is based on the testing engineer’s experience and requires a checklist to be created as the tests progress. This is essentially a test design technique that is used by QA engineers to create testing checklists while testing a product or to add useful information about the product and its behavior to an already existing checklist. With the help of this technique, QA engineers can design, create, and run tests to cover every test condition included in the checklist.

Checklist-based testing requirements

While analyzing the functionality of the product that is about to be tested, the engineers either create a new testing checklist or expand an existing one. Typically, these checklists are created based on the engineer’s experience, knowledge of the product and the industry (specifically, how the product and its surroundings function and what can get the product to stop functioning properly), as well as an understanding of the importance of the product for the end user.

Checklists can be created to support various types of testing, including both functional and non-functional tests. To perform checklist-based testing, an experienced QA engineer can use the product itself, as well as the complete range of the available product documentation, including:

  • Software product requirements (BRS, SRS);
  • Acceptance criteria, which are described in functional stories;
  • High-level checklists;
  • ISO and IEEE standards.

The next step is combining the discovered artifacts with the engineer’s experience and knowledge about the way software products operate, and converting them into a new checklist or adding them to an existing one.

Example of checklist-based testing

Example of checklist-based testing

Even for many seasoned QA engineers, checklist-based testing is still a relatively new concept, and what better way to get a deeper understanding of it than with the help of an example? For the purpose of this example, let’s create a checklist from scratch to test our company website, https://qarea.com/.

The first thing to do here is to identify the main components, the so-called modules and submodules, based on their benefits for the business and for the end user.

Besides the standard elements such as Header, Homepage, and Footer on the https://qarea.com/ website, there are also some main elements — these are coincidentally our modules, which have their own submodules. Another noteworthy element are the multiple contact forms placed around the website: they are meant to attract new potential customers for the company, which means they need to be tested with particular attention to detail.

Given everything we’ve said above, a high-level testing checklist for https://qarea.com/ can look like this:

ID Name/Idea Test Result
Environment1 Environment2
1 Header
2 Homepage
3 Company
3.1 Pricing
3.2 Career
3.3 About Us
4 Services
4.1 Design
4.2 Development
4.3 Testing & QA
5 Team Extension
5.1 Front-End
5.2 Back-End
5.3 Mobile
6 Industries
6.1 eCommerce
6.2 Healthcare
6.3 Finance & Banking
7 Portfolio
8 Footer

 

It’s also possible to expand this checklist to a low-level one, depending on the requirements and the available resources. For example, we can take the Homepage component and create the following checklist based on this element, adding supplementary elements, such as Additional information, to it if necessary.

ID Name/Idea Additional information Test Result
Environment1 Environment2
2 Homepage
2.1 The “Hire now” button
2.1.1 Verify that the “Hire now” button changes color while you hover over it. 1. The “Hire now” button should become black. 

2. Text should become red.

2.1.1 The “Tell us about your project” contact form should open after you click the “Hire now” button.
2.2 “We Help With” block
2.2.1 Verify that the “We Help With” block consists of 3 tabs:

  • Services;
  • Technologies;
  • Industries.
2.2.2 Verify that the “Technologies” link is underlined by default. Underlining should be indicated with a red line.
2.3 The “Get in Touch” button
2.3.1 Verify that the “Get in Touch” button changes color when you hover over it. 1. The “Get in Touch” button should become red. 

2. Text should become white.

2.3.1 The “Tell us about your project” contact form should open after you click the “Get in Touch” button.

 

And that is far from all the tests you can run all over the website to test its performance, UI, and other metrics. Creating a detailed testing checklist is going to come in handy multiple times and in more than one way for the whole team:

  • QA engineers will be able to reuse it at the next stages of the testing process as it is or after expanding it according to their experience, as well as after the redesign of the whole website or its elements.
  • Checklist-based testing is a far less time-consuming process than creating checklists and separately running tests based on them, given that you spend most of your time and effort on the setup stage of this test design technique. The only time you’ll need to invest more time and money into the same testing checklist is when the product undergoes significant changes.
  • Testing checklists can be a great way to introduce junior QA engineers both to the testing process and the product itself. The company gets to save resources on training and can get the new engineers to work on real-life projects faster.
Benefits of using checklist-based testing

Benefits of using checklist-based testing

Even though checklist-based testing is meant to make the testing process more efficient, it still means an extra step in your routine, so you need some strong reasons to do it. These are the three biggest benefits of introducing checklist-based testing to your established QA procedure.

  • Checklist-based testing proves to be very effective when you need to perform end-to-end testing to cover the entire functionality of the product following the guidelines by QA experts.
  • Using this test design technique after running the main test suite helps locate potentially critical bugs and minimize the probability of missing important tests.
  • Checklists help new QA engineers approach testing new products more confidently and more efficiently since they already have a set of tools for that first crucial stage of the testing process.

Possible challenges of checklist-based testing

We’ve already talked about the many benefits of checklist-based testing, but like any testing technique, it comes with a set of potential pitfalls. When you are thinking about upgrading your QA processes, consider the following challenges:

  • Modern software products require regular improvements and updates. That is why, in order to be able to fully cover the newly introduced software features, testing checklists also need to be regularly updated.
  • QA engineers interpret checklists using their own experience and knowledge, which is why there can potentially be different approaches to running the tests indicated in the same checklist. A complex, advanced testing checklist can also produce different outcomes in terms of repeatability.
  • This test design technique is not always usable in software testing and not always appropriate in every single stage of the software development life cycle.

Common myths about checklist-based testing

There are several definitions of checklist-based testing and even more approaches to performing these tests, which can only add to the confusion among QA engineers. The confusion can sometimes lead to several myths and misconceptions forming around this type of testing. Below we uncover the four most common myths and whether they have anything to do with reality.

Myth #1: Checklist-based testing is the same as exploratory testing

There are definitely some similarities between the nature of these two types of testing. However, unlike checklist-based testing, exploratory testing is not documented. Moreover, these two types of testing have different goals and approaches. For example, exploratory testing uses testing tours for maximum effectiveness, whereas checklist-based testing does not.

Myth #2: When using checklist-based testing, you need to create user stories for the functionality that is being tested

In reality, testing checklists typically do not give you much space to document the detailed results of testing. Moreover, user stories are usually created before the product is created, while the checklist-based testing technique is commonly used after the product is released.

Myth #3: Documenting the tests under checklist-based testing should be structured according to the test case attributes

The checklist test design technique is based either on creating a checklist from scratch or on updating an existing one. The job of the QA engineer is to keep its structure close to the original one without altering it too much, and it definitely should not expand to a test case.

Myth #4: Anyone can do checklist-based testing on any given product

The QA engineer’s experience with a specific software product is more important than their experience with software testing in general. Because of that, an essential requirement for a successful outcome of checklist-based testing is the engineer’s familiarity with the product’s specifications and requirements. It’s also vital to know when and where it’s best to use checklist-based testing, although the same can be said about every type of software testing.

To sum up

Checklist-based testing should be viewed as a supplementary testing technique, not a standalone testing method. Like any other test design technique, it has its own advantages and drawbacks. This is why a QA engineer should start by preparing all the available test criteria if they want to make the most of this technique.

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Written by
Igor K., QA Team Lead

QA Team Lead. An experienced QA engineer with deep knowledge and broad technical background in the financial and banking sector. Igor started as a software tester, but his professionalism, dedication to personal growth, and great people skills quickly led him to become one of the best QA Team Leads in the company. In his free time, Igor enjoys reading psychological books, swimming, and ballroom dancing.

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