Minimalism and test documentation

Outside of work I consider myself a minimalist.

The definition of minimalism I most closely align with is

Minimalism is a tool to rid yourself of life’s excess in favor of focusing on what’s important—so you can find happiness, fulfillment, and freedom

Source: The Minimalists

For the past few years I’ve done my best to not over-consume and to donate or sell things when they are no longer providing value to me.

I take pride in the fact that I don’t have that many things like shoes (I invest in a few good ones and then try to buy the same ones when I need replacements) or clothes (found that I was wearing less than half my wardrobe anyway)… and books for that matter (why hello library membership!).

The reason I take pride in this is because I’m always questioning the value something may provide for me when I consider buying it. Then around twice a year, I go through what I own and question whether I am still getting value from it.

This type of questioning can also be applied to test documentation.

When trying to ascertain what is needed (when it comes to test documentation), I think it’s important to question what value you are hoping to get from the test documentation you hope/plan to create.

But more importantly, as time goes on, I think it’s even more important to question if the test documentation you are currently creating still provides value.

Maybe it doesn’t provide the value you thought it would?

Or maybe it no longer provides value? Context can change after all.

If we were to apply my understanding of minimalism to test documentation, it would look something like this:

Minimalism in test documentation can rid yourself of unnecessary excess work in favour of focusing on what’s important— clear communication about the status of the software under test, to enable informed decision making.

You see, I think there are clear disadvantages in having excess test documentation. It’s not just about the time spent in creating them, but also the additional time needed to go through excess test documentation to find what you need or to understand exactly what the findings are.

Back to my personal minimalism example, having less clothes means I don’t have to struggle to find what I should wear. I also have a clear understanding everyday of what my clothing options are depending on the weather - I don’t have to hunt for them (if it’s raining outside then that narrows it down to my rain jacket and one of my somewhat waterproof bottoms).

I would like to make clear that I am not at all against test documentation.

But I am against excess test documentation that doesn’t provide value to you or your team.

So next time you are creating test documentation ask yourself:

Why am I doing this?

What value will I get from this?

What value will my team get from this?

Is there a way to communicate the message/my findings in a more effective manner?

Image by Sarah Dorweiler on

Other post(s) on Test Documentation:

What’s the purpose of Test Documentation?

Follow me on Twitter: @NicolaLindgren