'Test Cases vs Checklists: Choosing the Right Test Documentation' post illustration

Test Cases vs Checklists: Choosing the Right Test Documentation


It's no secret that many aspects of the product creation process rely heavily on documentation. This serves to consolidate completed processes and facilitate communication among QA Engineers, both present and future. The two most common types of test documentation are test cases and checklists, but what sets them apart?

A test case contains detailed information outlining a scenario for testing a specific functionality. It includes steps, expected and actual results, prerequisites, and other details. Test cases are well-suited for comprehensive testing and are easier to automate.

A checklist, on the other hand, is a more general list of checks for a specific area of the product. It can be used to simultaneously test different aspects of a product, providing broader coverage. The choice between test cases and checklists should be made according to the specific requirements of your project, aiming for maximum effectiveness. Factors to consider include budget, allocated time, and the scale of work.

How to select test documentation

To help you navigate the decision-making process for your project, we've compiled a set of criteria. Consider these factors to determine the best approach:

  • Complexity Check: If your product boasts intricate features with multiple scenarios and interactions, test cases excel at structuring this complexity.
  • Time Crunch: Tight deadline? Opt for checklists — they're swift to create, making them ideal for projects with limited timeframes.
  • Adaptability Requirement: Constantly evolving requirements? Checklists offer flexibility, accommodating changes more conveniently than test cases.
  • Automation Aspiration: Eyeing automation down the line? Test cases shine here. Their detailed and structured nature makes them prime candidates for automation.
  • Team Dynamics: Assess your QA setup. If you're working alone, checklists are enough. But if you're working with a team or multiple testers, test cases are better for thorough testing and quality assurance.

These criteria provide valuable insights into selecting the appropriate test documentation for your project. While most of them are quite straightforward, it might be hard to estimate the complexity and define which documentation you need. Let's dive deeper.

What test documentation to choose for your project

Now, we will look at how to choose the documentation according to the project type by complexity. Most projects can be broadly categorized into three types:

  • Large Corporate Systems
  • Small and Easy-to-Function projects
  • Projects planning expansion

Let’s look in detail at what test documentation suits each of them on some real world examples.

Large Corporate Systems

For large projects with complex architecture, comprehensive test cases are preferred. They offer a detailed description of execution steps, facilitating quick understanding for other testers and streamlining onboarding for changing team members.

Let’s look at one of our projects as an example. This project aimed to revolutionize the beverage industry by leveraging IoT devices in innovative ways. The objective was to enhance service quality and drive sales growth for businesses across hospitality industry, including sectors like restaurants, stadiums, theaters, cruise ships, and more. By offering remote management and beverage dispensing as a service, the company's IoT solutions have generated significant demand, leading to a transformative impact on the industry.

Because the project had big goals for the future, and automation became really important for testing, we used test cases to keep track of things. Here's an example:

An example of a test case for a large corporate system

It was easier to automate the test cases, which was a good fit for the project's long-term plans.

Documentation is essential in large-scale projects with a sizable team and impacts the budget and working hours. As functionality complexity increases, more time and documentation are needed. Still, regular maintenance and updates of test cases are crucial, especially in projects with changing and intricate functionality, and this effort pays off with an organized process and, as a result, high product quality.

Small Projects

Using checklists is advisable for efficient documentation and quality testing for small projects with crucial functionality and limited development time. Checklists are quick to implement as they don't demand detailed steps, reducing documentation time. However, it's essential to acknowledge that the constrained timeframe also limits the testing process.

For instance, we once had a client interested in developing a platform for freelancers. The platform involved only two user roles: freelancer and client. The freelancer had the ability to create an account, post service offerings, manage their calendar, accept, cancel, or reschedule appointment requests, and view general statistics on their progress. On the other hand, the client could only book, cancel, or reschedule appointments. You can learn more about the project here.

As you can see, the project had few flows with clear time limits. Therefore, we decided to use checklists for testing because of their simplicity and ease of adaptation to the project requirements.

An example of a checklist for a small project

This allowed us to quickly yet comprehensively check the platform and release the MVP on time so the project could start bringing revenue to its owner as soon as possible.

Projects Planning Expansion

If you have a start-up or a small project, it would be logical to use checklists - it is inexpensive in terms of time and budget. Since the work is just beginning, and the entire structure may change over time, checklists will be convenient for adapting to changes.

As the project grows or returns to development for expansion, it is very likely that another team will work on improving it. Therefore, checklists will become convenient, making understanding the functionality and logic easier. With an increase in budget and team, while new ideas and improvements are being implemented, transitioning from checklists to test cases becomes feasible. This transition allows for more detailed documentation, ensuring functionality and team efficiency.

Let’s take another example - a taxi management system. This system assists drivers in managing their work and admins in overseeing cars with drivers, similar to Uber. The MPV version includes the basic needed flows for users, and many other features are postponed to the post-MPV. During this phase, we had one QA engineer dedicated to the project.

Given the limited time and the need to perform numerous checks for the MVP version, we decided to use checklists. This allowed us to manage our testing process efficiently.

An example of a checklist for a scaling project

In the subsequent post-MVP phase, we started updating the current documentation and enriching the documentation creation process with checklists to cover more complex functionalities.

An example of a test case for a scaling project

Combining checklists and test cases within one project enables high flexibility and provides an opportunity to adapt to project needs depending on its stage, ensuring a short time to market as well as detailed coverage and comprehensive checking.

As a conclusion

In a nutshell, test cases accommodate intricate features, checklists suit time constraints. Understanding these distinctions aids in effective documentation choiceYet you have to consider all the factors and future perspectives to ensure the most efficient choice for your project. An experienced QA should be able to identify the needs of the project and provice you with the suitable approach and needed documentation.

Feeling overwhelmed? Don't fret - we've got your back!
Let's ensure the quality of your product!