I have been trying to draw out everything I can – even things that don’t seem like that would make sense to draw – just so that I can get a feel for where it might be useful to use more visual tools. One of the things that I have discovered is that visualization can be used in many many different situations and ways. Almost everything that I have tried this with has given me positive results, and I have also discovered that there are a lot of different ways to communicate visually. Words themselves can be turned into helpful visual communications just by playing around with their layout or by adding in connectivity between them etc. The classic model of this is of course the mind map, but I have found it helpful to use other combinations of text and visual elements at well. For example, checklists with lines drawn between some of the bullets on the list can add a layer of meaning that would not otherwise be there. Another thing that I have found really helpful is to make changes to ‘typical’ formats that we are more familiar with. An example of that would be creating a table that has some cells with text and some with images.
In my experience so far it would seem that you can use visual elements to enhance the way you think about, execute and communicate almost any task you do, but I have noticed that some types of visual communication are better suited to certain types of task that others. For example, mind maps are very helpful in thinking about feature interactions when planning some testing, but they don’t work as well when trying to understand and think about the workflows a user might do or the states of the product as we execute that workflow. My current experimentation is geared around figuring out if there are some general principles I can use to help in deciding which types of doodling to include in what am doing.
As I’m writing this I realized I didn’t even try any visual thinking exercises for this post. Hmm, maybe I’ll have to experiment with that next time!
So I have been practicing doodling and thought I would give an update on my progress
First a picture
As you can see, I am no artist, but I’m not going to let that stop me. I have already been looking for ways to practically use doodling, and the reality is, at lot of the stuff that I have tried to use doodling for has ended being even simpler than the stuff in this picture.
I have already been able to use it in test plans where a simple doodle can illustrate far better what I am thinking than a large block of text. I have also used visual communication in several other areas as well, including bug reports, test coverage reports and in preparing presentations I had to give. I am also looking at using story boarding and other techniques to help describe and understand user workflows.
So far this has been a lot of fun and I would certainly recommend others to try their hand at more visual approaches to thinking and communicating as a tester. Up until now I have been trying it out everywhere I can, even in place where I don’t think it would make sense, just to see where it might be effective. As I continue this experiment I will be focusing in on areas where it seems to be the most effective. Stay posted for more thoughts on the most powerful times, solutions and ways to use visual approaches.
Inspired by Danny Dainton’s recent post about focusing his learning on a particular area, I have decided to do something similar. I too have a concentration problem. I love learning things and I get excited when I hear a new ideas and before I know it I have 5 different things I’m trying to learn at the same time and I end up having a very shallow understanding of any of them. It’s kind of like that last sentence – I’m all into and. I want to learn this, and this, and this and this. That approach might work well when your starting out on learning something new and you need a quick survey of the topics there are to learn, but if I want to really become a testing craftsman, I need to be able to focus my learning and go deep on some things.
So I’ve decided to do something similar to what Danny is doing, and have focused time spent on learning new topics and skills that will help me be a better tester. I’m not necessarily going to do a month per topic, but I am going to have a current focus on the go with some goals around it. Once I meet those goals or I feel I have exhausted the topic or I don’t think that going deeper is going to add any more benefits, I’ll move on to the next topic.
I’m hoping this will give me discipline in my learning and help me to actually focus in on a topic until I have a reasonable mastery of it. I’m also hoping that this will help get rid of some of FOMO. By knowing I will get to a particular topic in its due time, I can be free from the fear of missing out on some important thing that I think I need to know. I can bookmark things for later and feel confident that I will get to them as part of my ‘learning plan.’
So no more shotgun learning. It’s time to be a sharpshooter.
My first topic was inspired by a talk that Karen Johnson gave at the KWSQA conference here in Waterloo, Canada (You can view a recording of the talk here). At one point in her talk she spoke about using visual thinking to help with problem solving. I’m not very good at drawing, but I think it would be very helpful for me to be able to think and communicate more visually so my first project is going to be around learning to draw/doodle and how to use that skill effectively as a tester. We will see how it goes. 🙂