Test automation: when, why, and who needs it
Automated testing, unlike manual testing, simplifies the process of identifying bugs using special programs, which reduces costs and time for the testing cycle.
Frankly speaking, it provides you with a ready-made, bug-free software product in a shorter time frame than manual testing does.
One of the main goals of introducing test automation is to increase efficiency and coverage and speed up testing under constant repetition of test scenarios. Automated tests can be run regularly, during business and non-business hours. On average, it takes a tester about a day to perform manual tests, find and log errors. Automation reduces it to minutes, and helps you to find errors in the code at the time it is added to the source code repository.
Automation has the following advantages:
- Replaces time-consuming manual testing of workflows and multiple scenarios
- Excludes “human factor” errors
- Provides transparent control over the testing process
- Reduces costs for reusable scripts
- Provides accurate and reliable test results
- Reduces the market launch time of a finished product
- Improves the development process (Continues Integration)
When to automate
How do you know when it is time to automate testing? Will the return on investment in automation always be justified?
If the project is large, it grows, includes several subsystems and already several hundred “manual” test cases, automation will increase the tester’s performance by no need to spend weeks checking test cases.
Not merely a large project but also a large team of programmers needs automated testing to speed up debugging in the interaction of different code modules.
Test automation will be especially relevant if the product meets the following criteria:
- Scenarios repeat regularly
- Scenarios are time consuming, complex and not suitable for manual testing
- Checking test cases is time-consuming
- Scenarios are for high-load applications
Automated tests are not a viable option if the test scripts are new and have not been manually tested, or if the tests require constant changes, or you only need to run the test script once.
What to automate
The final product consists of a large number of functionality and processes that make it work. The most often processes to be automated are:
- Back-end processes and services
- Database operation
- Frequently used options and tools of a site, application, resource: registration forms, online payment systems, etc.
- Filling in fields, saving, and checking
- Validation of input data
- Data storage and integrity
Types of testing to be automated
Testing is a necessary step in creating a product. Automation will make it easier and faster. However, not all types of testing need automation but only those that involve repetitive actions.
Let’s consider the types of testing that are recommended to be automated.
Performance testing (load, stress, volumetric) checks the performance of the product in as close as possible to real-life environment with the expected loads and the amount of data. For example, you need to check the operation of the site with a lot of user traffic, which can affect the loading speed and the operation of individual modules. PT is automated in the first place because manual testers cannot artificially create conditions that will simulate real situations to identify code defects.
Regression testing of the correct functionality is used on regularly changing services (new builds, new software versions). The task of the RT is to make sure that new changes to the code do not disrupt the software. RT automation frees the tester from constantly repeating manual launch of the same test cases before each new application or software update. In the case you need to perform the same actions but with different data, automation provides you with a single database, from which scripts will automatically select information and conduct tests.
Configuration testing is used to check the performance of the product on different operating systems and if changes are made to configurations. When developing mobile applications, CT controls the operation of the product on different mobile devices, considering the size and resolution of the screen, operating systems, their versions, etc. CT automation does not require much time for implementation but significantly speeds up the testing process by running tests in parallel with various combinations of configurations (browser – operating system – database management system – server).
Localization testing is responsible for configuring the product, with its adaptation for the country of sale. i.e. translation of interface elements into the selected language, control of the time zone and date format, translation of texts, keyboard layout, etc. This also includes multilingual sites, which are tough and time-consuming to test in manual mode. TL automation will significantly reduce the time for checking possible errors due to product adaptation for different versions.
Integration testing is used for group tests that combine software modules of several programmers. For example, you need to check the way the cart module in an online store and the payment module interact. In addition, IT validates system performance in combination with out-of-process dependencies (both controlled and uncontrolled). The result of the automation of integration tests is reliable protection against failures and the absence of the need to rework the code.
There are many types of testing, and the choice of a particular option depends on the tasks and the expected result. For this, an automation strategy must be developed.
The choice of a particular strategy depends on a kind of project the testing company is faced with. In the absence of automated testing (AT) and any exact goals, it is then recommended to start with the preparatory stages, carefully consider the choice of tools, and work from the upper level, without going into the AT of certain modules.
If AT has already been configured, preliminary work has been carried out, there are results in the form of test plans and cases, tools have been selected, then the strategy should be based on a step-by-step movement forward, automating module by module and updating goals at each new stage.
Test automation process
Let’s consider the process by stages:
Stage one. Automated tests are run based on manual tests performed with validated scripts. To automate the process, choose a testing tool due to the type of product: website, mobile application, API, software, etc. When choosing it, note the compliance of the budget (how much the company is ready to pay for it), the technical characteristics and support of the technologies used in the product, the requirements for the skills of specialists working with this tool and the quality of reports this tool generates.
Stage two. Determine the scope of automation. It depends on a developed product strategy: for the main product it is better to provide maximum coverage with automated tests. If this is a prototype, then the timing comes to the fore, rather than the quality of the product.
Stage three. Develop an automation strategy and plan. For this, the infrastructure for automation is designed (the necessary stands are prepared), the schedule for launching the scripts is approved. Before running automated tests, the test data is prepared. After running tests, analyzing the test report and fixing errors, perform tracking, correction and retesting.
Stage four. Serve tests to check the quality of automation. This is to improve the efficiency of both existing and future scenarios.
The choice of a certain tool directly depends on the requirements for test scenarios. In most cases, several tools are used at once, each of which tests a specific level of system architecture.
Their choice is due in large part to the following functions:
- Ease of use and user-friendly interface
- Built-in support for the main types of testing, i.e. production, regression, functional, etc.
- Ease of debugging and script support
- Informative test reporting
There is a list of reliable and recommended testing tools that automate the process for various products.
Selenium is designed for testing websites and web applications on different operating systems and browsers. Its advantage is that testers can choose their programming language for writing tests. Among the main ones are Python, Perl, PHP, Java, C#, etc.
This tool adjusts automated testing for web products and mobile applications, software, databases, application programming interfaces (API). Among the tests, it supports regression and cross-browser testing.
A licensed tool by Hewlett Packard. Designed for functional testing of software applications. Has a built-in debugging mechanism, recognizes smart objects, controls the generated script text directly during user actions.
Has been designed for testing web applications but today can perform load testing for connections such as FTP, HTTP, JDBC, POP3, LDAP, etc. Helps create a group of requests from several PCs at once. Test test results are presented in the form of infographics.
A Java test automation framework that combines JUnit and NUnit functionality in addition to new features and multi-threaded testing. Easy to use, this tool provides support for major types of testing, including functional testing, integration testing, etc.
An easy-to-use product designed for cross-platform automated tests with object identification and a built-in analytics system.
A highly functional test automation platform with the ability of Amazon EC2 load in the case of cloud testing. Generates more than 80 options of reports using infographics.
The program is designed to create and test the operation of application programming interfaces (APIs) and websites, as well as to send requests to the server. The graphical interface helps easily configure all the necessary data for tests.
Summing up, we should note that not all projects need full automation. Some companies need manual testing for more efficient and cost-effective performance, speeding it up by writing additional scripts. Automation in many projects is combined with the well-organized work of QA specialists.
When to automate:
- When developing a large-scale application, software or website with a large set of functions
- For long-term projects
- When implementing CI/CD, issuing regular releases
- Cost optimization
- Speeding up the testing process
- Improving software quality
- Saving time and resources for test cases
- Improving team performance
- Wide test coverage
- Support and update of automated tests
Automation in IT projects, along with the right strategy and a selected team of specialists, always pays off the investments.