Can you use mind maps to create test plans?

During the week I had a session with a group of students to teach them agile testing basics. One of the things that I introduced to them is “testing evidence”, whether that be mind maps, note taking or a one page test plan. There was a particular student who had ears wide open and tentatively listening to what I was saying. She was absolutely awesome! One of the questions that she asked was, can you use mind maps to create test plans? My answer at the time was yes! Do what works for you. You may find the one test page plan easier, however, if you don’t then experiment with what works for you. It made me start thinking about documentation, the purpose and what it means to “do what works for you”.

Do others use mind maps to create test plans?

I asked on Twitter whether people use mind maps for test plans and I received an overwhelming amount of responses. The result was that yes a lot of testing professionals do this already. I started to think about why I haven’t come across this before. I took a step back and brainstormed some ideas of why we document in the first place, which leads onto my next section.

A tweet saying “Yesterday I got asked, can you use mind maps to create test plans? My answer was why not. Interesting thought. Has anyone done it this way?”

Why do we use documentation?

I did some reading about information processing. The idea of information processing was adopted by cognitive psychologists to explain how human thought works. Here’s a diagram to explain what information processing is all about.

Information processing diagram. You have a stimulus (such as text on a page), your brain goes into processing that stimulus that results in an output, such as a response of reading what you can see.

This diagram explains a lot to me of why we do any documentation at all. This can be seen in my brainstorming thoughts below.

  1. Process information — this is a bit like showing your workings for a long multiplication. It’s useful to you to explain how you have come to an answer.
  2. Evidence to prove — This is useful to prompt a response from your stakeholders.
  3. Store information — Risks/mitigations are one thing where I think it could be useful to store information. Your brain only has so much storage, so information can be useful to give you a cue of what you did at the time. There was a feature I worked on about 6 months ago and I got asked to revisit it. The feature map I created and documenting any know-how was so useful. It triggered my memory of what I did at the time.

Documentation that works for you and your stakeholders

It makes me think further about documentation and how to do a level of documentation that works for you and your stakeholders. Perhaps the element of doing “the workings” some people can do in their head and the documentation is simply a chore for them, whereas others need to write everything in detail in order to process. It simply depends on this information processing model and how your brain best processes information.

How do you do your workings and what documentation do your stakeholders need?

This is the next question I’d like to explore in a future blog post — different ways you can show your workings and the documentation stakeholders need.

Note: Information processing — could it be a flawed model?

The idea of information processing has been influenced by how a computer works. However, what if this comparison is flawed and we need to re-think this model of how human thought works? There is a great article by the guardian that puts arguments forward of why your brain is not a computer.



Software tester writing to process her thoughts and learnings.

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