When I learned how to test, or more accurately, how to prepare to do testing, it was in a large organization that held onto classic test design ideas. Tests were thought out ahead of time, broken down step-by-step, entered into a system, and then approved by an analyst. Modifications to these tests had to be requested and were infrequent. After that, moving to the fast-paced world of a startup was quite the shock. Change was constant, as was a lack of time available to maintain this sort of detailed script, and I veered toward the complete lack of documentation end of the scale.

Then I started going to testing conferences and noticed that the top testers I respected were all taking notes and organizing their thoughts with a technique I had last used in high school: mindmaps. A couple of years have passed since that epiphany, and mindmaps have quickly become my secret weapon in test efficiency.

A mindmap is a traditional brainstorming tool where ideas branch out from a central idea, getting more and more specific the farther out from the center they are. If you consider the process of traditional test idea generation, it is the same, except that the traditional method is usually captured in a hierarchical manner. The big problem with those structures is that they typically show just the name of the test and not what they are testing. Mindmaps only show what is being tested, which is much more useful information for both testers and their stakeholders.

Since mindmaps are a visual ...

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