Adventures on the Happy Path

A couple of weeks ago, Linda Wilkinson posted a piece about how The Happy Path does not exist for testing purposes.

Happy path testing, for those of you blissfully unaware that such a thing could even exist, is taking the most obvious, expected, valid path or paths through a given piece of software to verify the software is Perfectly Lovely and ready to move on to your lucky clients. Companies with no understanding of either software or software quality can embrace this testing policy, since it’s both cheap and unlikely to find much error. Until production, of course. But for some reason, these same companies don’t seem to “count” production errors or time lost by users in prod as part of the project expenditures.

Actually, one can consider smoke/sanity testing as Happy Path Testing. A real tester might try a quick subset of easy, positive test cases when a build comes out to determine what simple, basic functionality the developer destroyed when deploying his gee-whiz new drop-down list sorting method. QA should not focus on happy path testing since every other person in the company who runs the software for demos, for milestone meetings, or for documentation purposes (ha! Just kidding! I only know of one technical writer who ever ran the software he was documenting, and I left technical writing for QA) will run happy path tests.

QA needs to focus on the use cases outside the perfect world, and that’s Wilkinson’s point.

Now, here’s my worst Happy Path Testing Story:

Back when I was working for a startup, the release testing involved everyone in the organization dropping other tasks for a day and running through a smoke test like script. When I mean “a,” I mean “the.” 40 people, from developers to project managers to technical writers all ran the exact same script. You can bet by the time that the software was released, they combed a full 50% of the critical issues from the product before burning it to CD. Which explains why I’m still working for a living instead of living off of my stock option wealth.

No Responses to “Adventures on the Happy Path”

  1. Linda Wilkinson Says:

    Well, I have to concede the point on smoke/sanity checking. And I’ve also got to admit you were absolutely right when you said the blog on the fine art of saying no would have been inestimably better with use of the phrase “urinating submissively”. I only wish I had thought of it first.

    And to tell you the truth, I wanted to use “whoremonger” on my business cards when I was in consulting.

    Evidently I need to buy one of your t-shirts…


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