The Role of Exploratory Testing in Uncovering Hidden Software Bugs  


Quick summary

Exploratory testing is a unique approach that dynamically uncovers hidden bugs. Unlike traditional testing , it’s more like a detective hunt than a recipe to cook. This method empowers testers to explore the product without being bound by a script or the need to write test cases.


Exploratory testing is a unique approach that dynamically uncovers hidden bugs. Unlike traditional testing , it’s more like a detective hunt than a recipe to cook. This method empowers testers to explore the product without being bound by a script or the need to write test cases. It fosters imaginative thinking, encourages the exploration of new paths, and is particularly effective in uncovering hidden flaws that standard scheduled testing may miss. It’s akin to following hunches and hints to unearth unanticipated problems before they cause issues for consumers.

Why finding bugs in software development is important:

Improves reliability: Bugs can cause unexpected crashes or problems. Finding and resolving issues early on ensures the product runs smoothly and as intended, providing a better user experience.

Saves money: Bug fixes are cheaper earlier than they are completed. Finding them early in development saves money on later or post-launch fixes. This saves companies money overall.

Keeps users happy: Ensuring software performance is not just about fixing bugs; it’s about maintaining user satisfaction. Nobody appreciates software that doesn’t perform correctly. By addressing issues promptly, we can increase users’ trust in the program and the company that created it. This is where exploratory testing plays a vital role in software development.

Protects against attacks: Some bugs can be security flaws that hackers utilize to steal data or inflict damage. Finding and correcting these problems ensures that the software is safe.

Makes it faster: Bugs can slow down software. Fixing them makes it run more smoothly and requires fewer resources.

Delivers what’s required: Software is designed to execute specific tasks. Bugs can prevent it from functioning as intended. Fixing them ensures that the software satisfies user expectations.

Better over time: Learning from bugs is a crucial part of the software development process. It allows developers to enhance their coding, design, and overall development process, leading to the creation of higher-quality software in the future. This continuous improvement cycle is a testament to the importance of exploratory testing in the quest for superior software quality.

In software development, QA’s roles and responsibilities consist of following steps

1. Test planning and strategy: Formulating plans and approaches for conducting tests.

2. Requirement analysis: Make sure the specifications are precise, comprehensive, and verifiable.

3. Test case design and implementation: Developing and carrying out test cases to find flaws.

4. Automation: Automated testing should be put into practice to improve coverage and efficiency.

5. Bug reporting and tracking: Recording, monitoring, and confirming the fixes for defects.

Find defect discovery in software.

6. Continuous improvement: Promoting and executing modifications to processes.

7. Working together: Maintaining quality throughout development by collaborating with stakeholders.

QA ensures software efficiency, dependability, and customer satisfaction.

Scripted testing and its limitations:

  • Scripted testing is constructing a step-by-step strategy, similar to a script, for testers to follow when reviewing software. This allows for thorough testing of fundamental functionalities. However, automated testing can be time-consuming and inflexible in detecting unexpected issues. It’s an excellent tool for basic functionality; however, it may miss out on uncovering unexpected issues.

  • Now is the time to explore! Investigating software is analogous to exploratory testing. Testers analyze the program during intensive sessions using their knowledge and experience—like a gut feeling. They can modify their strategy and create tests without a set blueprint. This interactive approach is ideal for uncovering hidden flaws and thoroughly understanding the software’s operation.

  • They encourage creativity and flexible structure. Testers focus on specific areas but can explore other regions based on their findings. They think creatively to create unique scenarios, relying on intuition to uncover critical bugs. With less emphasis on predefined tests, testers use their experience and domain knowledge to guide their research for more effective results.

Exploratory manual software testing approach: Dynamic test execution

Using dynamic test execution, the software is run to verify that its performance and behavior meet the desired results. This kind of software testing is carried out on a working system, where the program is run with a set of inputs, and the results are observed and examined to ensure the program functions as expected.

Key characteristics of dynamic test execution

1. Execution-based:  The program needs to be runnable.

2. Real-time interaction: Testers interact with the application in real-time to find errors or inconsistencies, providing input and confirming the result.

3. Feedback loop: Provides timely input on the behavior of the software, enabling the prompt identification and resolution of problems.

4. Verification and validation: Verifies that the program meets user requirements and performs according to plan (validation and verification).

Manual software testing techniques used in dynamic testing

Following are the manual software testing techniques that are commonly used:

1. Black-box testing: Testing with a focus on input-output behavior and without understanding the program’s inner workings.

2. Exploratory testing: Unscripted and without writing detailed test cases in the exploratory testing method, in which testers look for bugs in the application by exploring it.

3. Regression testing: Following modifications to the software, retesting is essential to ensure that new code doesn’t negatively impact functionality that already exists. This process is achieved through dynamic test execution, which verifies that the software operates appropriately in real-world scenarios.

Dynamic testing involves running the software with various inputs and examining its behavior to ensure functionality, performance, and usability. This approach ultimately contributes to the creation of high-quality software.

What is exploratory testing?

  • Exploratory testing is a session-based software testing methodology focusing on innovation, testing, and real-time learning. Rather than introducing scripts, testers use their intuition, expertise, and flexibility to identify problems and improve the user experience.

  • Testers are encouraged to think creatively, investigate unusual scenarios, and work with team members to exchange findings and thoughts because every testing session is a unique exploration.

  • This less structured method encourages adaptability and agility, enabling testers to focus on software features most likely to produce insightful data.

  • By continuously learning and improving throughout the process, testers acquire more profound insights into the product’s behavior, functionality, and usability, which in turn drives continuous improvement.

Benefits of exploratory testing

  • Scripted testing is proper and reasonable, but sometimes, the most critical bugs can’t be found. Manual software testing helps to highlight hidden issues.

  • The role of QA in software development is to deliver a quality product to the client, so we can’t proceed with this scripted testing approach.

The following are the exploratory testing approaches the QA team should follow for a better-quality product.

1. Think out of the box: Exploratory testing involves breaking free from scripted tests and exploring the testers’ creativity and experience. This testing type helps find bugs that were not expected in planned test cases.

2. User point of view: Testers put themselves on the chairs of users, and they can find uncovered bugs.

3. Adaptability is key: Exploratory testing relies on adapting to new findings. As testers go, they can adjust their process based on what they discover and their expertise, highlighting hidden bugs.

4. The power of intuition: Experienced testers can use intuition and observation to uncover areas not covered in scripted test cases.

5. Agile process flexibility: Exploratory testing is perfectly aligned with Agile techniques. It allows testers to adapt to changing requirements and functionality while also catching bugs in new features early.

6. Learning process: Exploratory testing is a continuous learning process. As testers investigate and uncover defects, they collect helpful information that can be utilized to improve future testing procedures.

7. Improved user experience: Exploratory testing helps create a more refined and accessible end product by uncovering usability issues before consumers encounter them.

8. A source of opportunities for improvement: The exploratory testing method may uncover areas for improvement in the software’s design or functionality, resulting in a more robust and well-rounded solution.

9. Deep dives and insights: Unlike scripted testing, which produces predefined results, exploratory testing encourages a better understanding of the software’s inner function, perhaps discovering hidden faults inside the surface of the application.

10. Knowledge breeds success: A tester’s domain knowledge is a powerful weapon in exploratory testing. The more they understand the system and its purpose, the better equipped they are to identify potential problem areas.

11. Effective time management: When time is of the essence, exploratory testing can provide helpful input rapidly. Testers can prioritize areas based on risk and effect, ensuring that the most crucial aspects of the application are adequately tested in the allotted time.

12. Real-time bug detection: This method improves the effectiveness of identifying and fixing errors since testers can modify their plans in response to immediate feedback. It makes learning and development progressive and continuous, making the testing cycle more responsive and dynamic. Ultimately, it results in quicker development cycles and better software quality.

Exploratory testing procedure: Step-by-step guide to effective exploratory testing

Below are the details of the steps.

1. Understand the application: Learn the basics of what the application does.


Review any user story or any available documentation.

Speak with developers and stakeholders.

Discover the application’s key features and functionalities.

2. Define the scope: Determine which parts of the program to test.


Select a section to focus on.

Write scenarios for the features.

Set clear boundaries to avoid feeling overwhelmed.

3. Effective bug reporting: Plan your report by outlining the test scenarios and expected findings.


Write brief test scenarios or missions, such as “Explore the login functionality to identify any issues.”

Ensure that each test scenario has a defined aim.

Also, perform negative testing.

4. Set time limits to manage your time properly


Set up a time for each testing session, such as 1 hour.

To stay on track, set a timer.

5. Begin testing: Explore the application based on your test technique.


Interact with the program like an end-user would.

Click buttons, enter data, and navigate between screens.

6. Take notes and create a document of your observations


Make a note of any bugs, issues, or anything strange.

Write down the steps you used to identify these problems.

Record your observations, questions, and recommendations for future testing.

7. Perform a testing and analysis to understand the issues and their impact


Try to reproduce the bugs to ensure that they are consistent.

Determine the cause of each problem.

Determine the severity and potential impact of the bugs.

8. Communicate with the team


Write a report or log detailing the issues discovered, including methods to recreate and any relevant screenshots or logs.

Report your findings to developers, testers, and other stakeholders.

9. Review and reflect: Improve your testing technique.


Evaluate what you have done and discovered.

Consider what went well and what went wrong

Adjust your approach for the next testing session accordingly based on your reflections.

10. Repeat: Ensure comprehensive testing.


Choose a new area or feature to test, depending on your charter.

Repeat the cycle until the testing objectives are achieved.

Tips for effective exploratory testing

Maintain curiosity: Always be on watch for unusual behavior.
Be creative: Experiment with different input combinations and user scenarios.
Collaborate: Share your findings with your colleagues to gain more views.
Keep learning: Regularly update your knowledge of the application and testing procedures.

Best practices of exploratory testing

Here are five crucial best practices for exploratory testing:

Clear objectives: Ensure the goals and scope for the exploratory testing session to focus efforts and ensure that relevant areas are thoroughly tested.

Charter-based testing: Guide exploratory sessions with test charters. A charter gives structure while allowing for flexibility by outlining a specific topic to explore, goals, and possible risks.

Document findings: Maintain thorough records of all test operations, observations, and flaws discovered. This documentation assists in monitoring coverage, recreating problems, and promoting discoveries.

Apply time-boxing: Set a predetermined duration for your sessions (e.g., 1-2 hours) to keep focus and intensity high. Working in several brief sessions may be more productive than a single, extended one.

Regular debriefing: Conduct frequent debriefing meetings to review results, exchange ideas, and modify tactics. This process aids in the testing strategy’s continuous growth.

The following exploratory testing techniques are very appropriate for agile teams:

Session-based testing: Organize testing sessions in a time-boxed manner with well-defined goals and charters to facilitate focused and organized analysis inside the agile sprint cycle.

Pair review: To improve defect identification and promote teamwork, work in pairs (tester and developer or two testers) to mix varied viewpoints and talents.

Bug bash: Plan team-wide testing sessions in which everyone, including developers, testers, and product owners, participates in rigorous exploratory testing to find bugs as soon as possible.

Clarity in mind maps: To ensure thorough coverage and promptly adjust to changes in requirements or priorities, use mind maps to visualize and arrange test scenarios dynamically.

Test tours: To methodically examine various application elements, use a variety of exploratory test tours, like the “Claims Tour” (validating product claims) or the “Data Tour” (examining multiple data inputs).

To report bugs effectively:

Clear title: Summarize the problem with a clear title.

Detailed description: Describe desired and actual behavior, along with procedures to duplicate it.

Environment information: Provide information about the device, software version, OS, and browser.

Videos and screenshots: Provide visual proof of the issue.

Severity and priority:

To help prioritize fixes, assign severity and priority levels.

This provides bug reports that are effective and actionable, accelerating the resolution of issues.


Scripted testing is a solid foundation for software quality assurance, but exploratory testing is a key component that helps identify unexpected bugs and user experience challenges. While scripted testing has a predefined route, exploratory testing allows testers to use their knowledge and imagination to go deeper into the application.

This research is guided by software testing techniques, such as equivalence class partitioning and cause-effect chaining, allowing testers to find edge situations and potential concerns systematically.

By combining the benefits of scripted and exploratory testing, teams can produce high-quality software that meets and exceeds user expectations.

Explore the key differences between automation and manual testing to choose the best approach to testing your project.

About August Infotech

At August Infotech, we are dedicated to delivering high-quality IT services that drive success for our clients. With a focus on innovative solutions and a team of experienced professionals, we help businesses navigate the complexities of the digital world. Our expertise spans various domains, ensuring we meet and exceed client expectations.

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Author : Bhagyashri Adbalwar Date: June 25, 2024

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