Software Testing Documentation Best Practices
You’ve probably never heard of software development documentation best practices before. But that’s about to change. This is a fascinating topic and it has many facets and important information you should know about. The most important part of this is that testing documentation is an essential part of every organization’s IT infrastructure, no matter what industry you operate in.
Why not just rely on your memory? Oh, you do? Good. And it’s working out well for you? Perfect! But taking notes or screengrabs of the screens you’re working on could save you time and prevent the need to check back with your client if a feature or functionality needs changing later. Software documentation is part of best practices in software engineering for documenting testing. This helps everyone else on the team understand how the software works, and helps make creating new features easier too!
Did you know that software testing is the most expensive phase of a software project? Did you know that one of the best ways to help improve the quality of your software is by testing as much as possible before you even start writing your first line of code? There are numerous reasons why proper documentation is so important for all types of software projects but that’s not what this article is about. We aren’t going to discuss why, but instead we’re going to talk about how.
Test documentation includes all files that contain information on the testing team’s strategy, progress, metrics, and achieved results. The combination of all available data serves to measure the testing effort, control test coverage, and track future project requirements.
What is the Goal of Software Testing Documentation?
QA documents collect information on test design, execution, responsible team members, metrics, and results. It provides a complex vision of the project, and offers many practical benefits.
- Removes the uncertainties of any testing activities — testing documentation stores detailed specifications of all planned tests, making it easy for team members and product owners to keep track of the products.
- Helps set up the testing environment — testing documentation stores data on used hardware, automated tools, frameworks, and describes product functionality in detail. The team can reuse this information for future text cases or give it to a newly onboarded member.
- Offers stakeholders more insight into the testing process — detailed real-time reports allow checking of tangible testing’s result anytime. A product owner, business founder, or CTO gets an insider view of the team’s progress and can make suggestions.
- Documentation helps analyze the efficiency of the testing — after analyzing the testing’s results and progress, the team can optimize the process. If the team didn’t meet their KPIs, the problem can be caught early, and testing practices can be revisited early on.
Most importantly, software test documents allow product owners and business managers to save time and money by reusing old successful practices and avoiding the ones that didn’t meet KPIs. It’s a long-term investment that not only improves the current testing outcomes but also can be reused for future testing tasks.
The Role of QA Documentation in Software Development
Quality Assurance Documentation increases management efficiency and decreases possible risks. Let’s take a look at other benefits of this type of documentation in software development.
Making testing transparent to all involved in the project
Software documentation solves all of the following collaboration issues:
- Sliced teams: when software development and testers work remotely or as a dedicated team, there is a chance that a QA documentation specialist will face communication differences, potentially miss updates, and even dislike each other. Team documentation, with its focus on the end result, helps team members to remember that they work towards a united goal, which is to make a better product.
- Missed negative feedback: if there is no clear report, a development team can lose track of some key product issues. If the product has multiple bugs, developers quickly get overwhelmed and don’t know where to start. With real-time QA process documentation, developers can take a step back and adjust their plans according to the new feedback at any stage.
- Hindered visibility: development and testing teams often can’t clearly understand what the other team is working on, especially if there is no detailed summary. Documentation quickly solves this issue by providing transparent overviews on each member’s current work scope and objectives.
Testing documentation is beneficial to product owners, testers, and developers. Whenever there is a shadow of misunderstanding, stakeholders and participants can come back to records and sort these problems out.
Possibilities to create unified methodologies to use for other projects
Software testing is not a one-time event, and it’s never fully finished. With every new release, testers check to see if there are functionality or interface issues. It’s a regular assessment that assures the update’s quality.
Clarifying all system requirements
Documentation testing files also list all crucial business processes and describe how these are implemented.
Let’s take a look at what information is usually covered by document testing.
- Business objectives — this section records business goals and KPIs. The driver section describes how the project makes profits and what technologies are used to obtain these desired outcomes.
- Business model — this section describes the product from the customer’s point of view — including the desired experience, needs, goals, and benefits from using the software. Usually, such documentation consists of diagrams, statistics, and flow graphs.
- Technical conditions — here, testers keep track of the functionality of the technical environment of the project, devices, operating systems, hardware requirements, and more, and check whether the product’s functionality works well under these conditions. This way, the product can make the most out of users’ hardware, delivering the optimal experience.
- System characteristics — these reports define the product’s usability, security, availability, cross-platform support. Testers grade the existing functionality and interface on these criteria and devise strategies on how to improve the situation.
System Requirements Specification simplifies project maintenance — business owners can introduce a new team or switch to another service provider without being tied to a single team. It’s only enough to present recorded requirements to a new team so they can understand the current state of the product.
Test Documentation Types
Test documentation serves two main purposes. First, it provides testers with reliable data to plan and execute. Secondly, it updates connected project participants (the development team, designers, marketing) and product owners on the progress. To serve these two key purposes, test documentation comprises of both internal and external files.
Internal software testing documentation
According to PracticeTest’s research, the most popular testing documentation files are test reports, plans, and checklists. These documents are used to outline the team’s workload and keep track of the process. Let’s take a look at the key requirements for these files and see how they contribute to the process.
- Test strategy. An outline of the full approach to product testing. As the project moves along, developers, designers, product owners can come back to the document and see if the actual performance corresponds to the planned activities.
- Test data. The data that testers enter into the software to verify certain features and their outputs. Examples of such data can be fake user profiles, statistics, media content, similar to files that would be uploaded by an end-user in a ready solution.
- Test plans. A file that describes the strategy, resources, environment, limitations, and schedule of the testing process. It’s the fullest testing document, essential for informed planning. Such a document is distributed between team members and shared with all stakeholders.
- Test scenarios. In scenarios, testers break down the product’s functionality and interface by modules and provide real-time status updates at all testing stages. A module can be described by a single statement, or require hundreds of statuses, depending on its size and scope.
- Test cases. If the test scenario describes the object of testing (what), a scenario describes a procedure (how). These files cover step-by-step guidance, detailed conditions, and current inputs of a testing task. Test cases have their own kinds that depend on the type of testing — functional, UI, physical, logical cases, etc. Test cases compare available resources and current conditions with desired outcomes and determine if the functionality can be released or not.
- Traceability Matrix. This software testing documentation maps test cases and their requirements. All entries have their custom IDs — team members and stakeholders can track the progress of any tasks by simply entering its ID to the search.
Well-written and organized software testing documentation allows clear and timely management of all test cases.
External testing documentation
External documentation collects information from inner documentation but also emphasize on providing a visual data representation — graphs, diagrams, etc.
- External reports — these documents collect information on test results and can describe an entire project or a particular piece of functionality.
- Test summary report — the file with final test results and findings, presented to stakeholders.
- Bug reports — such files keep track of newly encountered bugs and their fixes. We prefer to keep our bug documentation numbered, so it’s easier to mention them in further documentation. Reports are concise and focus on offering tangible solutions. Sometimes, bug reports can only include issue description, if the team hasn’t yet found the best approach to fixing the problem.
The combination of internal and external documentation is the key to a deep understanding of all testing processes. Although stakeholders typically have access to the majority of documentation, they mostly work with external files, since they are more concise and tackle tangible issues and results. Internal files, on the other hand, are used by team members to optimize the testing process.
Advantages of Software Testing Documentation
Now that we’ve reviewed the types of test documentation in software testing, let’s sum up how they help to advance the project and reduce end costs of software development and testing.
- Improves internal coordination within the team: business owners should be able to check the code’s quality anytime as well as check whether the team meets estimated requirements on deadlines and workload.
- Increases the acceptance of the project: team members define the requirements to the final product version at the beginning of the process — as soon as these requirements are met, the team and stakeholders know that the product “passed” evaluation successfully.
- Improves team member interchangeability: without records, the software testing team would have to familiarize themselves with the environment and re-learn the functionality. However, if the team kept documentation after their first testing round, they can simply refer to old files and refresh the key aspects of the project.
- Speeds up employee onboarding: there is no need to assign a personal mentor who would share project details to a new tester — all data is available in a single database.
- Provides feedback on the planning cycle: the team approves documented plans early on to avoid misunderstanding at the later testing stages.
- A reference point for future projects: whenever a feature doesn’t work as intended, testers can turn to previously recorded cases and improve customer satisfaction by offering a quick fix.
Successful software testing management highly depends on documentation. Maintaining clean code is almost an impossible task if the team doesn’t have a clearly structured vision that relies on tangible data.
QA Documents Solution with Performance Lab
At Performance Lab, we learned that the best approach to efficient software testing documentation is automation. By creating a platform that contains all the files, reports, and plans, clients and team members have prompt digital access to projects documentation anytime and anywhere. This is why we provide our clients automated documentation solutions, which can be made available to their testers, developers, and stakeholders.
As experienced DevOps experts, we provide continuous testing to our clients and tech partners, assuring long-term success rather than one-time fixes. For this continuous approach, detailed reports and data organization are a must — after all, a single project can accumulate hundreds of test cases.
Such an approach pays off really well both in the short term and in the long run. Right away, you can track tangible results as well as save best practices for future test cases.
It takes an experienced testing team to collect and organize full testing documentation. Our team is ready to enter your project at any stage — just drop us a line. Our testing experts will get in touch shortly, and together we will come up with the best approach to your product’s testing and documentation.
The field of software testing has evolved and grown in substantial proportions over the years. In today’s technology-driven world, quality assurance and superior testing standards have become prerequisites to companies that want to succeed in their vast business goals, especially when it involves web based businesses.
There’s a lot to learn about software testing and even more to learn about the documentation for your software project or testing program. Most testers aren’t well-versed in the software development world of writing functional requirements, use cases, and other typical documents. Just like you’ve likely learned best practices from your own experience, you can learn more from understanding software development documentation best practices. In fact, much of what you’re doing in software testing is heavily influenced by what others have done in the past.