Using Mind Maps to Create Comprehensive Test Plans in Your ALM


Mind maps work well for planning the test strategy and monitoring project status. Mind-mapping software makes all this easy, and the visual presentation keeps everyone in the loop. Ritinder Kaur shows how mind maps can communicate ideas clearly and help you execute them exactly to create a comprehensive test plan.

QA and testing is a key function that supports every aspect of application lifecycle management (ALM). While quality is everyone’s job, most organizations have an experienced quality assurance and testing subject matter expert to help the team successfully implement these essential practices. For example, your build and release engineers may be experienced in configuration management, but they still rely on your expertise to implement QA and testing best practices.

As a QA team lead, it is your role to plan your test strategy and explain the flow of the application lifecycle to your team. You may have a certain visual image in mind about your test plan, and if so, you want to convey it clearly so that it is executed with clarity and precision. You should avoid technical jargon and long-winded explanations.

Mind maps are an effective way to visually communicate and teach others QA and testing practices. Yes, it is the same concept as when we used to draw connected bubbles with crayons in kindergarten. And today, this simple concept is being used in software development, business presentations, and even teaching.

Mind maps are creative business tools that let you use the power of visuals to present your ideas and concepts. This can help your team engage more effectively in brainstorming and test strategy analysis and planning.

As the QA team lead, the onus is on you to plan your test strategy well, keeping in mind all the attributes of each use case. This means you have to focus not only on the details at the granular level, but also on the overall big picture. Whether you are performing manual testing or automated testing, your main challenge is comprehensive test coverage.

If you are new to the concept of using mind maps for software QA, you will be surprised at the ease with which you can create them using specific software. All you need is knowledge about the product and clarity of thought with regard to the flow of application development.

How to Make Mind Maps

Mind maps extend radially to mimic the way a human brain thinks—we don’t always think in a linear fashion.

Example of a mind map

The main idea is positioned in the center. The main topics related to the main idea extend outward; they are called the “child nodes.” These further branch out into the sub-topics. Just make sure the main topics and sub-topics are arranged logically.

Take a look at the detailed example below:

Mind map showing attributes of an app function

This is a mind map showing the attributes of the chat function of a messenger app and the test cases that can be developed from them.

With the help of mind-mapping software tools, the nodes can be made to collapse and expand, depending on what you want to focus on at that moment. You can attach pictures and links to other documents to enhance the map; your mind map also can be linked to other maps and even merged with them. What’s more, these tools provide ready-to-go templates so that you don’t have to create a mind map from scratch every time. Just think of how a snazzy mind map will spruce up your office presentation! You can take audio notes during the meeting for added information and save them for future reference.

Mind maps should be kept clutter-free by using concise text only where it is required, so that the focus is on the visual elements.

Why Use Mind Maps?

Whether you are working independently or as part of a test team, there are several reasons using mind maps is worth the effort.

Eye-catching visuals: Besides helping the team understand the test strategy, mind maps offer the ability to use colors, lines, shapes, and symbols to enhance and emphasize certain attributes, such as marking the high-priority test cases.

Project documentation: You can record the flow of application development in a mind map and keep updating it as product development continues.

Test strategy planning: You can record user stories in the form of mind maps. For each story, you can record its details like description, acceptance criteria, and any additional information. This will help the whole team understand the app flow and devise test cases from the acceptance criteria. Team members can also suggest additions or point out gaps in the test strategy. Issues raised during QA and test results can be recorded in mind maps, too.

Showing the test effort: Mind maps are easy to comprehend; the product manager can review the test plan easily just by looking at the mind map. They can also make the call about whether there is sufficient test coverage for a user story to justify the test effort. This will help them prioritize the test plan to optimize the investment in the project. For the QA team, mind maps help reflect the test effort accurately to management. This helps maintain transparency in the relationship between the management and the tech team, and it’s also good for building mutual confidence and trust.

Capturing heuristics: As project development goes on, ideas and suggestions shared among team members and the queries raised by them can all be recorded and retained, even if they are not all used at that time. Those nodes can be collapsed and kept for future reference. If needed by the client, the test team can revise and recall the test effort by using previous mind maps.

As a QA team lead, you already visualize the use cases in your mind graphically; mind maps help bridge the gap between visualization and execution. Make sure you utilize your experience to help each member of the team implement effective QA and testing best practices. You may be the most experienced QA professional, but quality is everyone’s job, and each function within the ALM benefits from your expertise.

User Comments

Simon Rigler's picture

It's always good to see someone valuing mind maps in testing. I love them, and want to use them more than I have actually managed to so far, and not just for test strategy.

I'm not so sure about all the Test Lead references though? I'm guessing we are not talking about agile development, or SCRUM at least, in this scenario? The QA test lead position isn't so relevant (or even a thing) in SCRUM - a team might have a designated tester, but it's more of a team effort., including the strategy. Mind Maps are possibly even more valuable in this environment for giving the team a canvass on which to express their ideas and develop them further. I am traditionally a Test Manager / Test Lead, and my contribution in this regard has been to suggest mind maps to the scrum teams as a way of developing their test strategy under their agile process.


March 1, 2016 - 5:34pm
Swetalina Sahoo's picture

Good Article....

Can you also pls detail the best practices and different test initiatives that can be taken to make the testing process more robust.



July 20, 2016 - 2:45am

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