Lightning round: What is a test plan?
What is it?
A test plan describes a planned period of testing for a specific project. It can look like 120 pages of information, or be a quick one-page drawing in a notebook.
Why do I need it?
It’s a handy tool for keeping focus and overview, and you can change it as the project proceeds, if you need to.
Where is it used?
In any project where an overview and plan of the test process is needed. Many companies have their own test plan template that their projects have to use.
Who use it?
Often it’s testers and test managers who use the plan, but test plans are made for many people. The project team, project managers, stakeholders, legal department… you name it.
When is it relevant?
A test plan is useful throughout the entire test process. You can plan and estimate test activities from it, or use it later in the process to check up on whether you’ve forgotten something.
How do I make one?
Make a plan specifically for your project, and consider time used for writing the plan vs time used actually using the plan. It’s supposed to be a help to your project, not a mini-project in itself.
Things you might find in a test plan
- An overview of people involved in the test process and their responsibilities
- Calendar overview and important dates
- An overview of the project’s timeframe and budget
- Descriptions of different test methods
- Descriptions on how testing will be carried out and reported
- Contact information on people that the project need to get in contact with
- Visual drawings and mind maps that support the test process
- Technical specifications on the system and software used
- Notes on anything related to testing the project
A note on standards, best-practices, and certified test plans
You can find many recipes and free test plan templates online. Most of these will tell you that you must have specific data in your test plan because it’s “Industry standards” or “best practices”.
That’s lazy-talk. The standardized plans cover everything anyone ever wrote in a test plan. You’ll end up with unnecessary information, and that defeats its purpose.
If there are any legal requirements for your project’s test plan, or if you can use parts of the standardized plans, then by all means follow and use them. But make the document with the people who will actually be using it in mind, not because of formalities.
Test plan examples
I like this 1-page usability test plan template. The structure is a good starting point for any sort of testing really.