What Makes a Good QA Documentation (and How to Apply It to Your Own)
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Today’s businesses need to do plenty of different things to function properly. These range from knowing the latest email marketing terms to offering a quality product or service. In the realm of software, that means extensive testing and a proper record of the testing process.
Formal QA documentation can make this testing process more organized and, therefore, more effective. It gives the QA team a roadmap for the task ahead and ensures no issues survive past the software’s official release. By doing this, you’ll ensure your customers are as happy with your work as possible.
Read on for more details about the nature of QA documentation, why it’s so important, and how best to produce it within your business.
What is QA documentation?
QA (quality assurance) documentation allows you to record a software project’s testing process thoroughly. It typically comes into play during software development and allows you to identify any major (or minor) issues before release. Just as data migration can be a large, complicated task, QA documentation requires a thorough approach to be effective.
The specific form factor of QA documentation can vary depending on the situation. The specifics will vary depending on what you need to test and what task your software exists to perform. That said, there are also a few document types you always benefit from including.
Regardless of the task at hand, modern-day software development is a very complicated job. Software developers will inevitably make either minor or major mistakes, which could have significant negative effects if they aren’t spotted in time.
QA documentation gives you a comprehensive method of weeding out these mistakes. Doing so won’t merely help your product work better; it’s likely to encourage a more positive reception amongst your end users. This can, in turn, help your business grow stronger in the short term.
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A good move with QA documentation is to break it down into the individual documents that comprise it. There are several, and it’s important to create (and use) all of them during the QA process.
1. Test plan
A test plan acts as a guide for the entire QA process, containing all the steps you must follow to test a product properly. It’s a major part of QA documentation and therefore requires special attention.
Individual testers and broader teams can break down your test plan. It’s usually assembled by an experienced QA specialist – and approved by a QA manager before use.
A test plan demands a good understanding of your project from the offset. You need to ask what the product being tested is for, and what parts of it need testing. You may need to focus on specific parts or prioritize your workload.
When a test plan is complete, it’ll help you understand some key criteria for your project. These include what an acceptable product looks like, the resources and expertise needed for proper testing, the responsibilities of the testing team, and how long it will take.
Indeed, the finished test plan is typically a comprehensive reference. It contains everything from a project’s name and version, a detailed description of the thing being tested, and the nature of the testing itself.
Other essentials include resources required and specific features to be tested. You should also establish some criteria for success, such as no defects above a specific level by the release date.
While you may not want to think about it, you should consider worst-case scenarios in your test plan. This covers things like malfunctioning components, missing equipment or absent test data. Having a data recovery policy is an excellent idea in this context.
Establish a probability of each scenario happening, who deals with it, and how they do so. Since you obviously can’t anticipate everything, this is definitely something that can grow and evolve as time goes by.
Be sure to consider the human element in other areas of your test plan. Specify how many people should be involved in testing and what skills they require to do so. You may need to make time for a training session to give your team the necessary skills. Conference call services can make planning these a little easier.
2. Test case
Once you’ve created your test plan, it’s time to start testing the product in question. There are two different approaches to doing so, which may or may not overlap.
A test case is created for each part of a piece of software needing testing. Moreover, each test case comes with several specific features.
A unique number is attached to every test case, as is a name that details the module and action being checked. This specification is linked to the relevant software part of the test plan.
Next, you need to detail the steps required to properly test the part, as well as the result you expect to get. Once testing has been carried out, you should say if the part has passed or failed the test and share more details on the outcome. You should also be able to leave additional notes if you think they’re important.
Testing steps should be written out concisely, and each should detail a single action. You should mention anything that needs to be done before this specific testing activity can proceed.
More broadly, a test case should be written using simple, easy-to-understand language. Avoid any special terminology and complex sentences to ensure everyone can comprehend what you’ve done.
Checklists are shorter and more straightforward than other testing documents. They briefly describe the functionality of a piece of software for someone to test that it’s working properly.
Even so, there is some detail to be considered here. Checklists contain testing scenarios, which are, in turn, grouped into modules.
This checklist usually replaces a test case, reducing the time needed to prepare for testing. Checking off completed tests also allows you to use your time effectively. This is because it gives your team a clear record of what’s been tested and prevents work from being re-run pointlessly.
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4. Bug report
This can also be known as a defect report and records any unwanted issues with a piece of software. Since bugs are a major issue in QA, bug reports have a lot of different elements to think about.
Like other testing components, each bug is given a unique ID number to identify it. Once this is in place, you need to explain the bug, where it happened, and what caused it.
This should be followed by a more detailed explanation of the bug’s nature, as well as how to reproduce it. If a bug doesn’t appear every time you carry out a certain action, you can estimate the probability of it occurring. You should also say how damaging the bug is, how important it is to fix it, and the OS or browser affected by it.
It’s good practice to try to reproduce a bug three times before writing about it. Screenshotting a bug (where possible) can also help you or your colleagues identify the problem more easily.
Common mistakes in bug reports include a lack of data, failure to identify how serious it is, and using the wrong terminology. Moreover, while it can sound ludicrous, make sure to check if a bug is actually a bug and not merely a feature you’ve overlooked.
Since information on software bugs may be sensitive (or embarrassing), you may want to consider email security practices if you discuss them online.
QA Documentation is an essential part of today’s software development. You can’t just carry out software testing; you need a comprehensive record of what you’ve done. This means putting some serious effort into all aspects of the process.
Luckily – as we’ve seen – it’s possible to break down the process into more manageable chunks. Once this is done, you’ll have a clear, comprehensive record of each person’s responsibilities. This will help you produce the best possible software you’re capable of.
About the Writer
Yauhen Zaremba is the Director of Demand Generation at PandaDoc. He’s been a marketer for 10+ years, and for the last five years, he’s been entirely focused on how to create electronic signature, proposal, and document management markets. Yauhen has experience speaking at niche conferences where he enjoys sharing his expertise with other curious marketers. And in his spare time, he is an avid fisherman and takes nearly 20 fishing trips every year.
A not-for-profit organization, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) is the world's largest technical professional organization dedicated to advancing technology for the benefit of humanity.