Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Looking for Test Tools?

Are you looking for tools to help you in your testing?

You are probably in one of two situations.

Situation One

You have a problem for which you hope there is a tool to make your life easier. This is usual, and fine, and I wish you well in your journey. The way I usually do this is to identify the problem I have, and search Google for potential solutions, and you're probably not even reading this.

Situation Two

You are perusing a page of tools used by, and suggested by, other people. There is nothing intrinsically wrong with this, but here is where you need to be wary, and there are two main reasons that I believe you should:

Your context is not their context

What works for one person doesn't work for all others. This is fairly obvious, but you shouldn't confuse the process of testing with the tools of testing - if you try to save effort by changing the way you work to fit in with a tool then you're allowing the tool to potentially reduce how well you can work. You need to temper your lust for "smarter working" with a stoic judgement of the benefit the tool is going to provide.

Tools don't do any work

If I went out and bought a trowel and bricks and cement mixer and so on all I would end up with is well-prepared ingredients for a brick construction, because I do not know how to lay bricks. Anything I made would be slanted, unbalanced, weak and possibly dangerous. The tools we have to help us perform tasks are not replacements for a complete job but a short-cut to save time, effort or frustration in reaching our goal. If you seek, or use, a tool to try to do your testing for you ensure that you are comfortable with the fact that you are no longer testing. When you use a tool to help you you are taking yourself out of that part of the equation. This, on balance, may be an acceptable loss given the constraints on your time or sanity, or the lack of need for your personal touch for the task, but it is a loss nonetheless.

So, in conclusion, if you want to use a tool to help you do your testing then you need to balance the negative with the positive. The tasks you are replacing, your newly found lack of attention, your assumption the tool is doing the job, if the tool will work for your context, the maintenance costs and so on versus the time, effort and frustration you will save by using it. Don't confuse tools with processes.