We had a seemingly easy feature to test: users should be able to rearrange columns on a grid.  My test approach was to just start rearranging columns at random

My colleague’s test approach was different.  She gave herself a nonsensical user scenario to complete.  Her scenario was to rearrange all the columns to appear in alphabetical order (by column header label) from left to right.   Pretty stupid, I thought to myself.  Will users ever do that? No.  And it seems like a repetitive waste of time.

Since I had flat-lined with my own approach, I tried her nonsensical user scenario myself…figured I’d see how stupid it was.  As I progressed through the completion of the nonsensical user scenario, it started opening test case doors:

  • I’m getting good at this rearranging column thing, maybe I can go faster…wait a minute, what just happened?
  • I’ve done this step so many times, maybe I can pay more attention to other attributes like the mouse cursor…oh, that’s interesting.
  • There’s no confusion about what order I’ve placed the columns in, now I can easily check that they remained in that order.
  • I’m done with letter “E”.  I think I saw a column starting with a letter “F” off the screen on the far right.  I’m going to have to use the horizontal scroll bar to get over there.  What happens when I drag my “F” column from the right to the left and then off the screen?

Now I get it!  The value in her nonsensical user scenario was to discover test cases she may not have otherwise discovered.  And she did.  She found problems placing a column halfway between the left-most and right-most columns.

A nonsensical user scenario gives us a task to go perform on the system under test.  Having this task may open more doors than mere random testing.


  1. Danil said...

    "Random" in a scenario description always makes my inner tester twitchy.

    "Arbitrary", in my experience, is just as effective, but more easily reproducible.

  2. Hashim Salinas said...

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