What is Test Automation?
Test automation is a powerful way to do software testing. In this strategy, we use software tools that are not part of the software being evaluated.
These tools are mainly used for test execution, running predefined actions, and comparing the results against expected outcomes.
This form of testing is helpful in dealing with repetitive but necessary tasks in a test suite and is an integral part of the DevOps and agile methodologies.
Test automation is the usage and development of specific software (separate from the software being tested) to control test execution and compare actual and predicted outcomes.
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The Importance of Test Automation
It has become a critical asset in the software development cycle for several reasons:
Quick feedback on errors: It reduces the time between code development and validation, allowing developers to fix issues promptly.
Quicker testing and deployment: Automated testing allows for testing to be done, which speeds up the testing process and reduces the time to bring a product to market.
Regression testing: Automated regression tests can run frequently to ensure new changes do not compromise existing functionality.
Testing on multiple browsers and devices: Automation tools allow for parallel execution of tests across different platforms and devices.
Data generation and validation: Automated tests can create large amounts of data and check results more quickly and accurately than humans can.
Repetitive tasks: In situations where tests need to be run frequently with only minor changes in parameters, automation can relieve testers from the tedious task of repeating the same test case.
Accurate calculations: With minimal scope for human error, automated tests provide high precision.
Documentation: Automated tests keep computer records of each test, which makes it easier to keep records and look back on them in the future.
When Not to Use Test Automation
This isn’t a cure-all, and it might not work in every situation:
For example, if a system is undergoing substantial changes frequently, the constant updating of test scripts can become a significant overhead.
When systems are due for retirement, it’s more practical to limit testing to the manual effort necessary to keep the system running until decommissioning.
The upfront cost and time of setting up test automation might not yield a significant return for small or short-term projects.
Levels of Test Automation
It goes beyond a single software testing life cycle stage. Instead, it spreads everywhere:
Automated GUI testing allows for the systematic checking of your software application’s graphical user interface (GUI). It helps verify whether the GUI behaves as expected in response to user input and displays the correct data. It can also check for visual aspects like layout, colors, and font sizes.
This testing level aims to expose the faults, defects, or bugs that can occur when different software modules interact. Automation in integration testing ensures that the data shared among modules is correct and there are no broken paths in communication.
Unit testing, often automated, involves testing individual units of the source code, like functions or methods. Automated unit testing allows developers to refactor code or upgrade system libraries while ensuring the module works correctly.
Who Should Do Test Automation?
The right person to perform test automation depends on their skill set and the project requirements:
Developer: Developers are often involved in test automation since they have a good understanding of the codebase. They help incorporate testing into the development process, creating a shared sense of ownership.
Test-Automation Engineer: These are professionals skilled both in software testing and programming. Their role typically involves setting up, maintaining, and optimizing the automation framework and developing automated test scripts.
Tester: While they may lack extensive programming knowledge, testers bring to the table a strong understanding of the software testing process. They can take part in test automation, especially in higher-level tests like GUI or user acceptance tests, working closely with developers or automation engineers.
Test Automation in the SDLC
This is now an essential component of the Software Development Life Cycle (SDLC), rather than an afterthought.
This process begins early in the cycle, seamlessly integrating with each phase – from initial development to deployment and maintenance.
For instance, during the development phase, unit testing tools like JUnit or TestNG are employed to validate individual units of code, while deployment stages might leverage tools such as Jenkins or Travis CI for continuous integration and delivery.
This continuous approach to testing is critical for maintaining quality control at all stages, allowing for early discovery and resolution of faults, hence increasing total development efficiency.
In addition, it eliminates the delays traditionally associated with manual testing after each update or change. However, integrating test automation into the SDLC is not without challenges.
Teams often face obstacles such as selecting the right tools that align with their technology stack or adapting to the shifting dynamics between developers, testers, and operations.
To navigate these challenges, adopting best practices, such as continuous collaboration, iterative testing, and regular updates to test scripts, is essential.
By understanding and addressing these aspects, organizations can fully leverage the benefits of test automation, ensuring a streamlined, efficient, and high-quality software development process.
Test Automation Process
It is more complex than purchasing and running a tool to automate your tests. It’s a systematic process that involves:
Analyzing scope and expectation: This involves defining what parts of the application you want to test and what you hope to achieve with automation.
Defining the approach: Based on the scope, decide on an approach. This could be a simple “record and playback” of user actions, data-driven testing, or a keyword-driven or hybrid approach.
Selecting the tools: Different tools are suitable for different testing, programming languages, and applications. The right tool depends on your specific needs and circumstances.
Designing the architecture: This is the blueprint of your test automation project. It involves selecting the framework, setting up the environment, and defining how the components interact.
Creating the automation framework: This is a set of guidelines, coding standards, concepts, processes, and practices supporting automated testing.
Developing tests, reporting, integrations, etc.: Write the test scripts, create the reporting mechanisms, and integrate them with other tools, such as building servers or bug-tracking systems.
Maintenance: As the application changes, the test scripts need to be reviewed and updated to ensure they’re still valid and useful.
Choosing Your Framework
The choice of a test automation framework can significantly impact the success of your automation efforts. Here’s what you should consider:
- Paid or open source: Both have their advantages. Paid tools often provide robust support and comprehensive features, while open-source tools offer flexibility and are cost-effective. Consider your budget, required features, and the complexity of your project before deciding.
- Continued support and active community: A tool with active support from the developers and a robust user community can make it easier to overcome any obstacles you encounter.
- Experience within your team: If your team already knows how to use a certain tool or language, it can save a lot of time getting up to speed.
There are many frameworks available, each with its strengths and weaknesses. Some popular ones include Cucumber, RobotFramework, Protractor, NightWatch, Serenity BDD, and others. Your selection should be based on your project’s specific needs.
Test Automation Languages
The programming language you pick for test automation, as well as the resources and experience on your team, are heavily determined by the software stack upon which your application has been developed.
Python: Python is a popular choice for script testing because it is easy to use and easy to understand. This general-purpose language has powerful tools like PyTest and Robot Framework that are perfect for writing test scripts.
In large-scale systems, people commonly use Java because of its robustness and scalability. Developers often use test tools like JUnit, TestNG, and Selenium WebDriver to write test cases in Java.
Ruby: Ruby, particularly its Ruby on Rails framework, has extensive built-in testing support. The language is very readable, and the Ruby community strongly emphasizes testing, so there are plenty of resources and tools available, such as RSpec and Cucumber.
C#: C# is often the language of choice in Microsoft-based settings. It works with the.NET version of Selenium WebDriver to automate web testing.
Finally, the language we use for our test automation should be determined by the knowledge of our team, the nature of our application, and the tools and frameworks available for each language.
Cypress vs. Selenium
Cypress and Selenium are two popular tools for test automation, but they’re quite different:
- Cypress: A front-end testing tool designed for the modern web. It executes directly in the browser and handles everything from the test runner to assertions, spies, and stubs. It also provides automatic waiting, screenshots and videos, and real-time reloading.
- Selenium: A more mature framework that is language-agnostic. It operates outside the browser and requires manual configuration for wait times. However, developers widely use Selenium as it supports a broad range of languages.
The choice between these tools depends on your needs. Cypress might be a better choice for dedicated front-end tests, while Selenium can be more flexible for diverse testing needs.
Further Studies and Resources
Here are some tools to help you learn more about test automation and stay up-to-date on the latest trends and best practices as you continue your learning:
- Experiences of Test Automation by Dorothy Graham and Mark Fewster
- Continuous Delivery: Reliable Software Releases through Build, Test, and Deployment Automation by Jez Humble and David Farley
- Coursera’s Software Testing and Automation Specialization
- The Complete 2023 Software Testing Bootcamp
Blogs and Websites:
Webinars and Podcasts:
Communities and Forums:
Tools Documentation and Guides:
By exploring these resources, you can improve your understanding of test automation and stay ahead of the curve in this rapidly growing field.
Mastering test automation can speed up your software development process, improve product quality, and increase team productivity.
This guide provided a comprehensive overview of test automation, including its process, importance, potential drawbacks, and considerations for tool selection.
Keep exploring, and you’ll surely find the perfect mix of tools and strategies for your testing needs.
1. What is Test Automation?
- A process where manual testing is eliminated.
- A process where certain software testing tasks are handled by a script instead of a human.
- A process where all software development tasks are automated.
2. Which of these is NOT a reason to use test automation?
- Quick feedback on errors
- Regression testing
- The system is due for retirement
3. What are the levels of Test Automation?
- GUI Testing, Integration Testing, and Unit Testing
- GUI Testing and System Testing
- System Testing and Unit Testing
4. Who should undertake Test Automation?
- Only Developers
- Developers, Test-Automation Engineers, and Testers
- Only Test-Automation Engineers
Which framework specifically designs for front-end testing?
6. What factors might influence your choice of a Test Automation framework?
- Your team’s experience, budget, and required features
- Only your team’s experience
- Only the required features