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Don’t forget to test the steps in the Help documentation!

I test the steps in the Help documentation for the functionality that I am testing. It is easy to forget to test the examples in Help. Testing the steps used in Help can be useful in more than one way. 

It is important that the steps described in Help ‘work’ because they are what the user will refer to if they need to check how the functionality works.

I have tested using the Help pages everywhere that I have worked as a tester and many times they have helped me to find issues. 

You can find a fault in the software. When I have been using the Help pages to do testing I have sometimes found that the steps in Help do not work. This can be because of a bug in the software, in which case you can raise a bug card. Reviewing the automated tests to find the gap that allowed this bug will also be useful because you can then fill that gap in the automated tests. 

You can find a fault in the Help documentation. The steps in Help may not work because the steps described in Help are incorrect in some way, maybe due to the functionality being changed since the Help documentation was written. If the steps in Help are incorrect then it is useful to talk with the Help pages writer and show them the issue. Wherever I have worked I have found that the writers are pleased to know how Help pages can be improved and correct the steps in the Help pages. The Help pages are not only used by customers, they are often also used by Customer Success. This means that by finding issues with Help, you are not only helping customers, you are also helping your colleagues provide a better service. If you test the steps in Help also means that you provide the link in the process which keeps Help up to date.

If I am doing regression testing the cases in the Help pages form an important test case. If I am testing new functionality the Help pages may not have been written, but if they have been written the cases in them need to be tested because customers will follow the steps in them.

Whether you find a bug to be fixed or find an issue with the steps in the Help pages testing the steps in the Help pages is another way that your testing adds value. Don’t forget to test the steps in the Help documentation!


Published by Mike Harris

Mike has been working in testing for 20 years and is the lone tester for Geckoboard. He has been a Test Lead and has also worked as a part of waterfall, lean and agile teams. He has a B.Sc.(HONS) from Middlesex University and is an Associate of the University of Hertfordshire. He has set up and led a Testing Community of Practice and been part of a successful agile transition. He is Vice-Chair of the British Computer Society’s Specialist Interest Group in Software Testing. He also contributed to the e-books Testing Stories and How Can I test This? and has had articles published by the Ministry of Testing, LambdaTest and The QA Lead.

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