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Become a Staging and Production Testing Ninja with These Tips

Testing in production and staging environments is the same basic activity – but you must know that different environments require different approaches.

Testing in production and staging environments is the same basic activity – you check the functionalities of the app, click all around it, and report anything that breaks. However, the different environments require different approaches.

Staging testing strategy

In staging, you should be like a shepherd starting a stampede on a minefield.

Staging is an environment used and seen only by the client and the development team (developers, QAs, and the PM). Here, your mantra should be “Move fast and break things”. Try to blow up anything and everything that you can. Don’t be subtle or fancy – staging doesn’t need believable user names, and other members of your team don’t mind lorem ipsum and other gibberish as content. You can use the time you save for more in-depth testing.

That said, the client is usually able to see the staging, so you probably don't want to add content that's offensive or obscene.

Production testing strategy

In production, you should be like a ninja – fast, subtle, and stealthy.

Production is seen by clients, and also, possibly, by beta testers or outside users. If you break something here, the whole world will be able to see it, so the reputations of both the company and the client are at stake.

How to do production tests well

When testing in production environment, you can't go wrong with these tips:

  • Consult functional notes! They should contain some crucial info on production testing.
  • Pay more attention than usual to what you do – you don’t want to, say, delete an article that someone was writing for hours, or to mess with the client’s finances. The greater the consequences of breaking stuff, the more careful you should be.
  • When in doubt, ask the team and other QAs (first) or the client (second).
  • Sometimes you need to develop a testing strategy together with the clients. For instance, if there’s a payment system in the app - ask the client if it should be tested. If so, then you need to be provided with appropriate credentials. If not, you should stop testing at choosing the payment method.
  • Clean up after yourself – add content, see if it works, and then delete it ASAP. Remove accounts and comments. Leave no trace.
  • Whenever the results of your tests may be seen by outside users, masquerade as a normal user – don’t pick the username TESTER, don’t write lorem ipsum posts, and don’t write in another language on an English-language website.
  • Follow the checklist and check the latest changes, but don’t go too deep if a feature of the app is unlikely to break or isn’t crucial.
  • That thing about messing with the client’s finances – I mentioned it before, but it's super important. Be extra careful when doing anything related to the client's money.

Also, remember Murphy’s law. Anything that can go wrong will go wrong. Try not to break things in production, but if you do - don’t despair, just learn and do it better next time.

Caution!

Production testing is a balancing act – you want to be stealthy and thorough at the same time, and sometimes these two contradict one another. For instance:

  • some changes cannot be reverted – these include Facebook "like" counts or new user accounts.
  • some features and bugs may be tested only when the content you changed has been around for some time (e.g. admin notification emails or some nasty bugs triggered by old user accounts).

There are no rules set in stone here. For each project, you must develop the most appropriate approach; one that suits both the team and the client. Sometimes you need to be intrusive, and sometimes it’s better to leave something untested. Follow your experience and common sense, but above all else – ask questions! If you have any other insights regarding staging and production testing, feel free to leave a comment. Your feedback is very welcome!

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