An Introduction to Mind Maps and Testing

Mind maps are a wonderful way to provide a graphical, visual representation of information to organize your thoughts and testing approaches. They can be helpful in so many ways including brainstorming sessions, laying out solutions for a problem, note taking, documenting test ideas, and defining goals. I first learn about mind mapping and testing from Darren McMillan – click here for his website. I use them to help organize my testing ideas, test strategies, and research projects. As I am testing I need to know what has been tested, what larger problems remain, and what risks have not been addressed. They can be a great alternative to a written test strategy or test plan document when a lean approach is appropriate. If using a collaborate tool such as mindmeister, multiple testers can update the same mind map. When using a desk top application, a mind map can be copied and sent to several testers so they can update it for their assigned testing.

When creating a mind map, it starts from the center of the document and branches out with cascading lines forming relationships through descriptive words, symbols, and colors. It can be created using paper and pencil. However, developing a mind map using software allows it to become a living document where information can be added, removed, and updated. I often start a mind map and if it gets too large I make a copy to break it out into several maps.

Mind Mapping Software
To get started with creating a mind map, download a free version such as X-Mind, FreeMind, or FreePlane. Mindmeister is another option, which is an online service with a basic free subscription allowing up to 3 free mind maps storing the data in the cloud. For a small monthly fee you can create more than 3 maps and collaborate with other testers. It is wonderful for distributed teams where you can be in different timezones but yet updating the same map. Mindmeister provide applications for the iPad, iPhone, and Android. I use mindmeister and love being able to access my maps regardless of my location. It can be helpful to test a few of the free mind mapping tools to compare ease of use and supported features. For example, X-Mind provides different templates such as: project planning and flowcharting. Once you better understand how you will use a mind mapping tool, you can identify your requirements to review paid products. Or you might find the free tools meet your testing needs.

Problem model example xmind

Project Dashboard Example


A Brief History of MindMapping Techniques
Some sources indicate mind mapping techniques, using pictorial methods to document information, have been used for hundreds of years. In recent history, the concept of MindMapping became popular through Dr. Alan Collins, Ross Quilian, and Tony Buzan. During the 1960’s Dr. Alan Collins, considered the Father of Modern Mapping, published extensive research on graphical thinking and learning. Many consider Dr. Collins and Ross Quilian as the ones who shaped the future of mind mapping.

During the late 1960’s Tony Buzan, British psychologist, made the modern mind mapping popular through: defining a set of ten-rules, creating a name for the approach, and registering it as a trademark. To learn more about Tony refer to his website which includes a MindMap to navigate through his website. His MindMap is created through iMindMap and there is a download to a free basic version on the website.

MindMap Example for My Research
Below is an example of a mind map I created to organize my research about learning more about the history of mind mapping and how I might use it in testing. FreeMind was used for this example providing an overview of several ways to organize information. Major topics were identified that includes: Overview of Mind Mapping; Brief History; and Applying to Testing. Additional nodes were created to further define each section. This visual representation of the research became a living document to help track progress, capture research links, and add new information.
Sample Mindmap

To organize the order of these topics a numbering system is used. Other methods would be to rearrange the order of the nodes by physically moving them. The red arrows represent a link to a website. The links are usable through the actual mind map and exporting it as HTML, which presents the nodes and links in an outline format. This is a great way to link your research within your mind map providing a central location for your information. You can add notes to your nodes to provide more details.

Symbols are a quick way to measure your project’s progress. A check mark can be used to identify research that was found to be beneficial or a task that is completed. A red “X” can define articles that were not helpful and will not be used a reference tool or testing ideas that were not performed. A pencil can identify areas that require more research or work.

For purpose of this example, I provided a few more symbols to show how you might use them to visually document information. The light bulb represents “ideas”; paper with pencil represents “refine”; spaceship is “launch”; and magnifying glass is “to be discussed”. There are a lot more symbols and approaches that can be used to create and maintain the mind map. Take some time to explore the functionality provided by the various mind mapping software packages and how you can use it. When creating a map you could add a node as a symbol legend so readers will easily know how you are using each symbol.

Stay tuned as I will be adding more postings discussing mind maps providing different examples on how you might use them in your testing. If you are using mind maps I would be interested in hearing how you find them beneficial.

I am a researcher by heart and I wanted to share a few links on tools and research that may interest you.

FreeMind: click here
XMind: click here
iMindMap: click here
mindmeister: click here

History of Mind Mapping: click here
Who Invented Mind Mapping? click here
Mind Map: click here
Theory behind Mind Maps: click here
Tony Buzan: click here
High Five: Five Best Mind Mapping Applications: click here
11 Free Mind Mapping Applications & Web Services: click here

8 responses

  1. We’ve collated a bunch of resources related to testing and mindmaps, you might find it useful –

    1. Thank you Rosie! It is a fabulous collection!

  2. Hello, I was wondering where does MindMup fix in the scheme? As a noob, I am trying to decide which software to start. Tools mention some of the free software but I’m wondering if I should also consider web. Thank you.

    1. Hi, Jaz. Thanks for stopping by. I would definitely consider the web. I like MindMeister since I can easily get to my maps since they are stored in the cloud. For work I use FreePlane and XMind to keep them secured on our network. I have not used MindMup but after taking a quick look it appears to have the basic functionality. I did not see any symbols but it looks like you can import images. Plus you can export those maps to FreeMind which is another nice tool. Let me know if you have any more questions. I do plan on posting more articles on mindmapping in the upcoming months. Bernice

  3. […] other tools for career development. If you want more information on mind mapping see my posting An Introduction to Mind Maps and Testing. See my previous posting on Ideas and Approaches on Developing a Career Plan and if you review my […]

  4. Thank you for every other great post. The place
    else could anyone get that kind of information in such a perfect manner of writing?
    I’ve a presentation subsequent week, and I’m on the search for such info.

    1. I am happy to hear Mohamed that you are finding the information helpful. Best wishes on your presentation!

  5. […] Story/ FS / SRS / all those fancy acronyms. That can be done through any language but I have found mind maps and conceptual maps more easy to work and explain the […]

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