Software Testing as an Art

Art and testing may look like an odd couple. True, Glenford Myers combined both in his book “The Art of Software Testing”, but the art in there was strictly limited to the title page, since the term isn’t even mentioned once throughout the whole book. It referred to skill and mastery, of course, not to an aesthetic experience.

More recently, Robert Austin and Lee Devin published “Artful making” which mainly addressed software development and its resemblance to art. This video investigates what happens when we infuse testing with aesthetics. Can the fine arts in any way support or complement our testing efforts? With some surprising examples, it illustrates how they can. The tools used by art critics, for instance, can be a valuable addition to our tester toolbox. They enable us to become software critics, engaging in demystification and deconstruction. Testers can also benefit from studying art and looking at it. After all, this largely resembles what we do when we are testing: thoughtfully looking at software. Art carries the risk of being mistaken for superficial “look and see”, as does testing: we look; we see what’s there – or we believe we do. But looking at something in ways that make sense of it calls for much more than that. It appeals to our experiental and reflective intelligence. Art feeds and stimulates the tester’s hungry eye. As we are overloaded with greater amounts of information than ever before, our ability to find meaning in things surrounding us involves a complex set of thinking skills. Naming what we see is one of them. Analyzing context based on personal association and perspective, cultural knowledge, interpretation, evidence, imagination, exploration and risk is another. These questioning and reasoning strategies used in evaluating art can be applied in testing too. This is where testing and art can meet. Good testing should be artful, in so many ways.

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1 Comment on Software Testing as an Art

  1. Very interesting point of view on testing. Very much about thinking outside the box and doing more than developing test cases! An art critic or a software critic are similar in a way, both looking for cracks and crevices that either should or should not be there. We all know that most defects are not found with our everyday test cases but more with exploratory testing which this video points to in a round about way. Exploratory testing is certainly an art and takes a creative set of skills which need to be applied differently to different types of software. Exploratory testing as much as some would like to automate it, still needs real people!

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