Great Expectations

As a software tester, I have great expectations.

  • I expect that as I test a feature that the functionality will match my understanding of the user story and related discussions
  • I expect that the software will have an intuitive user interface
  • I expect that the software will be consistent with itself, with other similar applications we’ve developed, and with industry standards

Sometimes my expectations are met. Sometimes I find that the software behaves differently than (I) expected.

When behavior differs from expectations, have I found a bug? Perhaps. Or perhaps my expectations were wrong.

Conversation Starters

When software behavior differs from my expectation as a tester, more often than not it can be a conversation starter[1] for further discussion. It often means it’s time for a conversation either with the product owner to see if my expectations are in line with his expectations as to the functionality of the system. Maybe it’s time for a conversation with the developer to figure out if her expectations differed when she wrote the code that’s not behaving as I expected.

Some scenarios:

  • I expected the client list screen to be sorted by last name, because hey, that makes sense, right? But perhaps the product owner told the developer that they wanted it sorted by last activity date instead.
  • Perhaps the data field on the screen is allowing for a different sort of input than was noted in the user story. Rather than assuming the developer is incompetent, I can ask if the desired behavior changed beyond a (non-updated) user story.
  • Often, especially with the non-standard use case, I run into an error situation that’s handled in what seems like a strange way. Developers on my team have learned what’s usually coming when I start a conversation with “What would you expect to happen when…” and lay out the scenario. Often I’ve discovered a workflow or use case that hadn’t been foreseen, so my expectation was based on something the developer hadn’t even considered.

Sometimes my expectations are “correct.” Sometimes the desired behavior is different than my expectations.

Expectations lead to revelations which lead to conversations, which may or may not lead to work to change software behavior. News flash: I’m not always right.

Related reading: the Huh? Really? So? section of my notes from James Bach’s workshop at STARWEST last year.


  1. Yes, there will always be the “it’s blatantly broken” bugs, but these aren’t the ones that usually cause process or personality grief.  ↩
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One thought on “Great Expectations

  1. Pingback: Five Blogs – 20 August 2014 | 5blogs

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