Exploratory Testing

Exploratory Testing in Software Testing :  A Comprehensive Guide

Exploratory Testing is a software testing approach that involves creatively exploring the software to identify potential defects that may go undetected by standardized testing methods. It is particularly useful for testing complex software systems, where it is essential to use one’s experience and intuition to uncover potential issues. In this blog, we will delve deeper into Exploratory Testing and examine its benefits.

What Exactly is Exploratory Testing?

What Exactly is Exploratory Testing?

Exploratory Testing also known as Investigative testing is an agile method that involves probing software applications to uncover problems. This approach entails traversing a website, application, or system to pinpoint potential difficulties related to usability, browser compatibility, security, and other factors that may be challenging to identify using traditional testing techniques.

For example, when a tester examines an e-commerce website, they navigate the site to find flaws that might have been missed during structured testing procedures. Investigative testing helps in revealing issues that could have slipped past formal testing methods.

Why Exploratory Testing is Important?

Exploratory Testing also known as Investigative testing encompasses a method where testers execute tests based on their background, proficiency, and understanding. Utilizing this technique, flaws can be detected rapidly, and insightful feedback concerning the product or app can be gathered. Testers have the liberty to employ their inventiveness and resourcefulness to uncover distinct problems during this examination. Through investigative testing, testers can modify their strategy as they delve into the software.

What are the Techniques Used in Exploratory Testing

If you are new to exploratory testing, there are several techniques that you can implement to enhance your testing process. Here are five recommended methods:

  1. A method to refine your testing procedure is by crafting user scenarios or narratives that direct your testing. This involves generating in-depth accounts of user workflows and pinpointing potential issues to enhance the app’s overall quality and usability.
  2. Develop a testing strategy that delves into diverse edge cases and situations beyond the ideal path. By examining various edge cases and contexts, you can uncover unanticipated behavior and detect potential concerns that might have been missed during the development phase.
  3. Concentrate on discovering defects, rather than merely validating functionality. As an investigative tester, it is your duty to rigorously examine the software and spot potential problems by actively seeking out flaws and areas for improvement.
  4. One efficient investigative testing method is to scrutinize the software’s capabilities for any discrepancies, identifying absent requirements before they transform into problematic defects or necessitate extra development tasks. This approach can proactively avert potential issues from emerging in the software.
  5. To enrich your investigative testing procedure, consider employing a mind map to design and implement your testing plan. Mind maps can aid testers in organizing their thoughts and concepts and offer multiple avenues for identifying defects, making them a valuable asset in investigative testing.

For instance, while examining a restaurant’s delivery ordering app, a QA expert should assess all menu choices and their various combinations, taking into account different user workflows. During investigative testing, they could outline possible situations, such as the app’s response to unsaved order modifications or the outcome if the payment procedure fails.

Elementary documentation tools like Google Docs, Microsoft Word, or Apple Pages can be utilized to generate basic mind maps that aid in organizing thoughts and concepts. By selecting the most suitable tool for your needs, you can develop a well-defined and succinct mind map to enhance your investigative testing approach.

How to Perform Exploratory Testing?

How to Perform Exploratory Testing

Exploratory testing can be performed by following these steps:

Step 1: Establish a classification system for software defects

To organize defects detected during investigative testing, it is advised that testers devise a bug classification system, grouping them into categories like usability issues, functionality defects, performance problems, and security risks. The classification system can also arrange defects by severity, impact, or frequency of occurrence. An effective bug classification system should offer adaptability and flexibility to accommodate changing project requirements while granting a deeper comprehension of defect root causes.

Step 2: Draft a test charter

A document describing the objectives, scope, and limitations of an investigative testing session is commonly referred to as a test charter. It should delineate the aim, scope, constraints, test environment, test data, test execution, and test coverage.

Step 3: Timebox the testing

Setting a specific time frame for testing enables testers to prioritize their efforts and carry out a structured testing process. This method allows testers to optimize their efforts within the given time frame, resulting in the identification of critical defects and areas needing improvement.

Step 4: Assess the outcomes

Evaluating testing metrics, such as customer feedback, usage statistics, and system performance data, can empower testers to appraise their testing endeavors and detect system defects. The analysis can offer valuable insights into the product’s strengths and weaknesses, as well as any gaps in the testing procedure. This information can aid managers and stakeholders in making informed decisions about the software development lifecycle and its progression.

Step 5: Debrief the team

Debriefing is a process that allows testers to examine and evaluate their testing activities and present their findings to concerned parties. It involves gathering a group of testers to discuss their perceptions, insights, and suggestions for improving testing methods in future projects or cycles. The debriefing session presents an opportunity for testers to exchange ideas and information on enhancing testing processes. The feedback collected during the debriefing may encompass a summary of the most significant bugs discovered, details of the most effective testing techniques employed, and an assessment of the overall progress made towards test goals.

What are the Best Practices in Exploratory Testing?

Here are some suggestions for carrying out successful investigative testing:

  • Fully understand the software application and its requirements before starting tests.
  • Ascertain the scope and specific segments of the system that need testing.
  • Establish clear and concise testing objectives.
  • Focus on conducting exploratory testing in complex and high-risk parts of the software.
  • Utilize available testing tools to achieve optimal results.
  • Consider boundary value analysis and equivalence class partitioning for input testing.
  • Swiftly document and report any issues, insights, or observations.
  • Adjust the testing approach as new information emerges.
  • Obtain input from other testing professionals through peer reviews.
  • Collaborate with software developers to pinpoint potential system vulnerabilities.
  • Use key performance indicators to measure the effectiveness and efficiency of exploratory testing.
  • Develop and enhance your testing skills and knowledge to improve your testing methods.

Some Example of Exploratory Testing

Exploratory Testing is a versatile method applicable across numerous software applications. For instance, consider being tasked with testing a mobile banking app featuring bill payments and money transfers. In this approach, you would examine the application to uncover potential usability concerns, interface anomalies, and possible risks.

During this process, you would experiment with the app’s functionalities, such as executing money transfers and bill payments, and exploring menus, screens, and buttons. Furthermore, you would test various values and scenarios, like overdrawing an account or entering invalid information, to evaluate the input validation mechanisms.

Through this exploratory approach, you may identify significant issues like security vulnerabilities or minor problems like improper labeling, data truncation, and formatting challenges. The main goal of Exploratory Testing is to detect potential defects that could have been overlooked during formal testing, provide better insights into the app’s capabilities, and enhance its overall quality.

What are the Pros and Cons of Exploratory Testing

Below are the advantages and disadvantages of Exploratory Testing:


  • Fosters inventive and imaginative thought processes
  • Assists in revealing issues that might be missed with structured testing approaches
  • Offers an in-depth insight into the software’s capabilities and performance
  • Boosts software quality, resulting in increased satisfaction for end-users
  • Demands less preparatory work in comparison to traditional testing methods
  • Effective and enables rapid detection of flaws


  • Poses difficulty in monitoring and managing due to the lack of a structured test plan
  • Necessitates experienced testers capable of promptly detecting flaws
  • Might lead to discrepancies if various testers utilize divergent methods
  • Challenging to reproduce and automate the outcomes of investigative testing
  • Risk of overlooking crucial testing prerequisites or not achieving sufficient coverage
  • Potentially time-intensive when discovering trivial concerns that don’t impact software functionality.

When you Should Perform Exploratory Testing?

  • Exploratory Testing is beneficial for ambiguous, incomplete, or frequently evolving software requirements lacking adequate formal test cases.
  • It can detect flaws in intricate, high-risk software sections that demand unconventional testing strategies.
  • This testing aids in bridging the gaps in formal testing processes and offers valuable insights into software usability, efficiency, and capabilities.
  • It is optimal for uncovering new and unexpected defects that might elude structured testing techniques.
  • Investigative Testing demands less time and preparation compared to traditional testing procedures, making it a suitable option when testing resources are limited and deadlines are tight.
  • It assists in pinpointing potential flaws that could adversely affect end-user satisfaction and guarantees a thorough understanding of the software product’s features and benefits.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is Exploratory testing white box testing?

No, Investigative Testing is a form of black box testing technique in which testers lack access to the inner mechanics of the software under examination. Consequently, they can only assess the software externally, without any pre-existing understanding of its internal composition.

What are the different types of Exploratory Testing?

Types of Exploratory Testing:

  1. Unrestricted Investigative Testing: Testers possess the liberty to examine any part of the application without pre-established guidelines or criteria. This approach is effective for promptly detecting critical issues.
  2. Situation-Based Investigative Testing: Testers assess specific scenarios and functionalities to pinpoint defects or problems related to desired functionality. This approach aids in verifying the system’s behavior in multiple usage contexts and circumstances. 
  3. Tactic-Based Investigative Testing: Testers employ a variety of testing tactics, such as boundary value analysis, risk-focused, equivalence partitioning, and other methods to scrutinize the system’s distinct elements. This approach assists in identifying flaws that might arise under varying conditions or inputs.

Is Exploratory Testing manual or automated?

Exploratory Testing is a type of manual testing that depends on the expertise of a skilled tester to detect defects promptly. This testing approach highlights innovation, adaptability, and instinct, making it impossible to automate entirely. Nevertheless, bug-tracking tools and issue-management systems can be helpful in facilitating the process of Exploratory Testing.


Exploratory Testing is a useful approach that allows testers to detect issues that formalized testing may miss, leading to better software quality and end-user satisfaction. Proper planning, tracking, and training can help overcome potential challenges, such as the lack of documentation and metrics. Incorporating Exploratory Testing into the testing strategy can help ensure the software meets high standards of quality and usability.

Rahnuma Tasnim

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