Structure steps in order to get tests to pass consistently.

What is a step?

A step is the building block of a Rainforest test. Rainforest tests drive testers through a flow through a series of action/question formatted steps. Steps are the primary means of instruction for our crowd of testers, so it's vital to write really good ones.

Each step has two parts:

  • Action - What should the tester do?
  • Question - What should the tester check for? Can be answered Yes or No

This simple format is easy for anyone to write, but also easy to understand and execute.

A step as it appears in the tester's interface

How should I write my steps?

Each step should be a clear, concise, and easy-to-follow instruction of what the tester should do. It should be followed by an equally clear question confirming what they should expect to see. Make sure that this question can be answered with a Yes or No.

If you only remember three things:

  1. Keep it simple: Don’t use jargon or complicated language where simple words will do
  2. Keep it short: Under 20 steps is best, and under 300 characters for instructions.
  3. Keep the testers in mind: Think of our testers as a completely new user to your application and industry.

How specific should my steps be?

While tests must be tightly focused on a specific process, individual steps can be as high level or low level as you wish, depending on what you want to confirm.

Let's use a test for checking the signup form feature as an example.

  • Low level: If the only level of detail that matters is the successful creation of a new user, you could write something like "Click on the Sign Up button in the top right and enter some fake details".

If you're like most people, you probably need to validate specific text entries in the signup process. You can expand our steps to whatever level of specificity you require.

  • High level: Instead of vague instructions, you can use step variables or manually define discrete values for testers to enter: "Click on the Sign Up Button, enter "Susan Platt" and email "splatt@example.com".

You can ensure any number of things (right email format, minimum password length, confirming that the correct user details appear) simply by expanding the language of the step.

It's entirely up to you to decide how specific you want to make your steps, and therefore how much detail you want to get back from your testers.

Some tips for writing awesome steps:

1. Keep step instructions short and simple

It's easy to lose track of what to do next when steps are dense. If you find you're including 3 or 4 different instructions or questions in a single step, it's better to break them into two.

Be sure to check out our tips for limiting ambiguity and vagueness for further support.

2. Eliminate jargon

The best Rainforest tests are free of jargon. Remember that testers may encounter your app for the first time, and don't know it like an internal team member would. To help, we always imagine that we're writing our tests for our grandmothers to perform.

Take a look at the difference:

The simpler and more user-friendly your language is, the faster and more reliable your results will be.

3. Use double quotes to get exact matches for important terms

Testers are trained, and have rules to enter or look for and match terms contained within double quotes exactly. This is an easy way to indicate that you need to confirm some exact copy, or have them enter specific text into a field.

Without quotes

Click the test results link. Do you see a results page?

With quotes

Click the "test results" link. Do you see a page titled "Your test results"?

Be careful with how you use this: don't use quotes if all you really want is to draw attention to a word, rather than get an exact match for it. In the example above, if your page title changes even slightly from "Your test results", your test will fail. Quotes should be used sparingly, when absolutely necessary to test your functionality.

Tip: Make sure to use double quotes, e.g. "contents"

4. Indicate flexible content with an underscore '_'

Our testers are trained to match all of the text in quotes exactly, with ONE exception. They will accept any content replacing the placeholder: _ within a test step.

You can use _ in the instructions to confirm content that is not always static in your app or site. The _ placeholder can be used inside or outside of quotes, as well as for an unlimited amount of letters, words, numbers, special characters, etc.

Tip: You can make the underscore two or three lines long for visibility without a problem. Just do not use other symbols to stand in as placeholder.

5. Embed images and text files:

If you'd like testers to look for something that might be difficult for them to understand or if is complex for you to describe, consider adding an image into the step so they know exactly what to look for. This includes GIFs, and the same works for a text file—just drag and drop them into the step!

Check out our detailed guide on how to insert screenshots and text files.

Questions? We're here to help!

Want some more advice on writing your steps? Looking for suggestions, tips or tricks? Reach out to us at support@rainforestapp.com with any questions!

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