QA testing requires a combination of aptitudes that you’re either born with or develop over time. It requires technical skills you can achieve by studying. It also requires that you be a good observer, pay attention to details, and are eager to understand how things work. A good QA tester is a person who likes to see the end-to-end functionalities of a product, while also thinking of ways to improve them.
But how do you become a great QA tester?
In this article, we’ll walk through 14 QA best practices that you can follow in order to achieve great quality assurance. As we walk through these QA best practices, keep in mind that your commitment and effort will ultimately determine how successfully you grow in the ever-changing world of quality assurance and software testing.
QA best practices
1. Promote an environment where QA is a team responsibility
Creating a quality product depends on the entire development team, not just QA. Everyone involved in the delivery process is accountable for creating the best possible product or service. Quality assurance is about mitigating risks, so the QA tester(s) on the development team should promote the idea of creating a high-quality product from the very beginning.
As a QA best practice, start by making sure that all requirements and acceptance criteria necessary are on every story or item that the team will be working on. Encourage the developers to create good unit cases for their code and incentivize peer programming and peer reviews.
2. Test early and often
The earlier the better, means the sooner the cheaper. Fixing an issue in the early stages of software development saves a lot of effort and resources for an organization. As a QA best practice, make sure you organize your work in a way that enables you to anticipate potential issues, and, once again, incentivize the team to incorporate activities that will ensure quality at every stage of development. This will help you bring awareness to how individual actions can help achieve the team’s overall goals. Soon, you will see yourself with the bandwidth to enhance your project deliverables, or even start new ones.
3. Track your work with project or iteration planning tools like Jira and Rally
Keep in mind that working on a team translates to working within other people’s timelines and delivering your work under reasonable deadlines. It’s hard to predict when a problem might arise, so staying on schedule can require strong time management skills.
Jira and Rally are two well-known planning tools in the IT industry. These are not the only options but are great ones to reference in terms of how tools like these can be very handy for organizing your deliverables. Planning tools can often also integrate with other tools for tracking your executions.
Tracking your work will provide visibility to your stakeholders and teammates, and can serve as a great point of reference for you of the work completed and the effort required to accomplish your goals within the iteration.
4. Get involved in pull requests testing
Another notable QA best practice is to get involved in PR reviews. Doing so will ensure the QA team has a better understanding of the product. Even after going through the review process, it’s a good idea to go to the PR and check on the files changed section.
An extra pair of eyes will always come handy for spotting issues in the code itself and will help you get better acquainted with the code written and changes implemented on every section. Especially during Integration Testing, knowing where the changes were made can speed up and ease the process of finding bugs.
5. Build trust
A good relationship is built on trust. To gain trust as a QA Tester, you need to facilitate optimal communication, such as admitting when you don’t know something and asking for help when needed. Sometimes your team will be comprised of people with different backgrounds, nationalities, and even time zones, so another best practice is to try to communicate as clearly as possible to avoid misinterpretation. Give others the chance to speak and practice active listening with your peers. Remember that trust can be easily damaged by miscommunication.
Make sure to complete all of your tasks and, when necessary, communicate the times and reasons why you couldn’t accomplish your goals. Nobody is perfect and to speak the truth will demonstrate that you’re humble and aware enough to recognize an area of improvement or an extraordinary effort.
6. Utilize communication channels like Slack and Microsoft Teams
Accurate and clear written and verbal communication is a must for a QA tester. Part of your job as a QA will be to let other professionals know that they’ve done something that caused the program or app they’ve put time, money, and effort into creating to fail. That’s usually something nobody likes to hear…
Presenting negative news is an art, and is also a best practice for QA testers. Find ways of delivering this news so that the other person sees it as constructive and positive, instead of critical and negative. This can become even more difficult when communicating with remote teams.
Tools like Slack and Microsoft Teams can ease the balance of communication and uninterrupted concentration a QA Tester needs to continue the testing activities and achieve the team’s goals. It is very important and up to one’s discretion to determine which messages could be better communicated over email, and which could be expedited by a quick direct message in order to maximize productivity.
7. Build community within your QA practice
No matter if it’s inside your larger organization or inside your project, being in touch with your QA colleagues is always a great idea to stay up-to-date with the latest news, techniques, and technologies in the Quality Assurance engineering world. This also helps when you are looking for answers to certain QA-related questions or for a ways to improve your career in general.
As a QA testers, wou may find yourself talking about things that your family and friends don’t know about, so there is nothing better than sharing your thoughts about technologies with peers and colleagues who know your struggle. Your insight/advice could make a huge difference in someone else’s day and project. There are many ways to take care of a particular situation, and sharing is caring.
8. Adapt to change
For a QA Tester, it is vital to stay updated on new techniques, tools, and certifications related to the QA practice, so that you can always be adapting your approach. Facing new territory will contribute to expanding your comfort zone and building confidence. Soon you will see that tasks that seemed difficult at the beginning really just needed dedication. Be close to people who are committed to the same outcomes, as they will challenge and support you and be open and eager to see change and innovation.
Being unprepared and resistant to change will leave you without control or choice as to how you want to manage your career. Your actions toward change will be reactionary rather than activities that will promote change and growth.
9. Write good test cases
Grooming team stories is key for identifying all of the requirements, acceptance criteria, and test data necessary for you and others to execute your test cases in the future. The importance of writing clear steps and providing details will be evident as you and others have to go back to the test cases after some time to execute them again for a regression test run, for example.
In other words, poorly written test cases waste resources that are translated into time, effort, and uncertainty, and could lead to major issues when executing a test run.
10. Choose a QA management tool
There are many reasons why using a QA management tool is a best practice. First, management tools can help you keep track of your work so your coworkers, colleagues, and managers can have visibility of what you’re working on. They also help keep your test cases documented properly and categorized for the future. By doing this, you can foresee which of those test cases could be executed during regression testing, and which could be automated, updated, or even deprecated as the functionality of the product changes.
11. Combine test automation and manual testing
In the QA Practice, there will be times when the tests will have to be executed by a human without the use of any other tools. In these cases, even though the QA Tester won’t be programming, the need to be accurate in describing the steps followed and saving the evidence of the outcome is very important. This is known as manual testing.
Combining both manual and automated testing is key for project sanity. It is true that automated testing saves time and budget, but we need to keep in mind the “Pesticide Paradox,” which states that executing the same set of test cases again and again over time will not be sufficient enough to identify new defects in the system.
12. Use continuous integration and continuous delivery (CI/CD)
In some older models like the Waterfall Development Model, activities are focused around the idea of a hand off; when one team completes its tasks, the project is then handed off to the next team, keeping responsibilities and activities isolated.
When increasing development speeds became more important, this older model was no longer viable. Organizations needed ways of developing and delivering to their clients faster. This gave way to a new development model, Agile, designed to address this increasing demand for development velocity. This model introduced more incremental activities performed continuously in a faster pace. Continuous testing is a best practice for ensuring this continuous delivery.
By using continuous integration, the code is kept in a central repository and developers work on making small changes to the code and upload small sections of code to the central repository regularly. QA testing is introduced into this methodology by performing a series of tests every time the code is updated. New segments need to be tested and regression testing needs to happen in order to see how changes affect the main features of the product.
Testing is one process that can and should be automated within the CI/CD pipeline to ensure continuous testing and find bugs early on in the development process. The idea is to find defects as soon as possible, since it’s much easier to fix a bug when it’s found early because it typically hasn’t traveled too far or changed hands, making it less costly to fix.
13. Keep good evidence of the bugs found in the software
While you can find many defects when testing software, keep in mind that documenting them correctly is one of the most important things to work on. There are many ways to track evidence of bugs found, such as taking screenshots and taking screen recordings using QuickTime Player on your computer. There are many tools you can even add as browser extensions that can make your life as a QA Tester easier.
Make sure to assign a unique identifier to your bugs such as a bug number, clear description, and detailed steps to reproduce.
14. Be resilient
Resilience is your ability to face difficult times, bounce back, and move forward. Resilient people do experience setbacks and stress, but they tap into their strengths and seek help to overcome challenges and work through problems. As a QA tester, you can utilize your resilience to accept and adapt to a situation and move forward.
Behind every failure is a lesson learned. If you accept the things you can’t change or control, you’re free to put your effort into the things you can change and control. This way, you can keep learning and growing.
This list of QA best practices is not finite, but I hope you find them helpful as you continue your journey as a QA. Just remember to always promote an environment where everybody on your team is accountable for quality, not just you. Let’s keep the QA community growing, so that every QA Engineer can have support from each other.