Is this a good question?

Quite possibly the worst question to ask a developer is, “What am I testing?” Some other really bad questions are: What does the app do? How does this work? Am I supposed to be able to do this?

These are unhelpful questions. Asking questions is good, but only questions you can’t figure out by trying the software yourself. Asking how something works can be a good question, but only when you are asking what calls a client makes to an API. Being more specific lets you use the information to test in a particular way.

Understanding the software like it is your own is important. You want to know why things are happening but you also don’t want to draw the wrong conclusions. After all, the developer hired you to find the bug, not fix it.

For example, if someone starts typing on their keyboard when they get to the office and nothing is showing up on the screen, they are going to assume the keyboard is broken. They may go to the local Best Buy, buy a new keyboard, and plug it in quickly figuring out the keyboard wasn’t broken at all. In conclusion, the USB port was broken not the keyboard.

A tester needs to know what to try and when to try it. If 10 people use an app, it may not ever break but if 10,000 people use an app, it will for one of them. Someone is going to have an iPhone from 2008 that doesn’t like the mobile version of the website. It is the testers job to ask the questions that give them the insight into whether the app can handle certain things.

You need to make sure the questions you ask can be answered incorrectly. As explained in Monday’s post, the developer is going to assume that his code works. It is your job to figure out what can and will be wrong and prove it to be true or false. You want to ask a question like, “What happens when I enter 3,000 characters into the username EditText with special characters, letters, and numbers?” or “What happens when I tap ‘Pay’ 10 times in one second for this in-app purchase?”

Being a tester is about finding the areas of the app that need to be fine tuned. Sometimes, you need to test functionality but most of the time it is all about finding the features that don’t work when you do something the developer didn’t account for.

“Is this a good question?” is in fact not a good question. You want to think more along the lines of, “What does a good question look like?”

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