Testing is a crucial phase in the software development process. It ensures that there are no bugs, the software works as intended and performs well under any circumstances. There are two ways one can test software - manual and automated. Usually, companies either test software manually or use both manual and automated testing. While some types of manual testing are irreplaceable, such as usability or discovery testing, sometimes it does not make sense to test manually. Here's when automation comes into play.
It simplifies the manual effort and fastens the process. Automation has many benefits. However, before you automate testing, you need to know when it is wise to use automation, and when it is not suitable. In this article, we will discuss these topics in details and guide you through the automated testing process.
What is automated testing?
Automated testing or test automation is a process that validates if the software meets all requirements and functions well without any issues. Unlike the manual test, it needs little to no human intervention and is more efficient and effective. This testing method uses software, automation tools, and scripted sequences to perform test cases by repeating pre-defined actions. It compares the results of tests to the expected outcome and detects issues.
At Flat Rock Technology, we use software test automation for both functional and non-functional testing. Automated tests have different purposes, with some of them, you can test the system's performance, with some - certain functionality of the software. They increase overall test coverage, and you can execute them repeatedly. The goal of automation is to reduce the number of manual test cases and increase efficiency. Test automation does not replace manual testing. While we use automated tests, we also perform some tests manually to maximize the outcome.
Why test automation is important
The goal of every development team is to deliver value to the clients by releasing working software with minimum defects. The quality assurance team works throughout the project to detect bugs before the release date. Considering the multiplex tech solutions companies provide today, it is quite challenging to deliver a flawless final product. Automated testing makes this process more effective, efficient and comprehensive. Test automation is crucial, as it can increase effectiveness and provide better results in the area, where manual tests are not suitable.
Manual testing can be time and money consuming
When testing software manually, engineers sit in front of computers, carefully go through the application screens and try different usage and input combinations. Then they compare the results of testing to the expected behaviour and record their observations. Considering that the software might have multiple features and tests are run repeatedly during development cycles, testing is time and money consuming.
Once you create automated tests, you can run them repeatedly without human intervention. With this, managers can use the expertise of the quality assurance team where manual tests are necessary and use automation where it is best suited. This also helps you to find bugs in the early stages of development and eliminate future bottlenecks. It reduces the time and money you need to spend on fixing bugs when you find them in later stages.
It is hard to test multilingual sites manually
With globalization, companies focus on providing their service or product to the worldwide audience. Thus, the need for multilingual websites is rising. Businesses choose to deploy websites in multiple languages which can also multiply errors during the development stage.
When the website is in many languages which neither a software developer nor a quality assurance specialist can understand, it is especially hard to test it manually. You need to ensure that everything works perfectly in any language for any region. Automated testing can be irreplaceable in such cases.
Automated testing does not require human intervention
It is one of the main benefits of test automation. Besides the point that it saves money and time, as discussed above, it can significantly increase the efficiency and speed of project delivery.
As it does not require actual humans to be present and run the process, you can test the software overnight and have the results of it readily available in the morning. When your team goes back to the office to resume work, testers and developers will already have information about bugs and can work on fixing them without losing time.
Automated testing improves test coverage
When the testing strategy is defined, usually the team has several high priority test cases, and over time expands the testing coverage. It is almost impossible to claim that software is entirely bug-free, especially with manual testing. However, it is crucial not to miss the high priority test cases and detect all the bugs that the software might have. By introducing automated testing, you can significantly improve test coverage. With the automation, you test risk spots regularly, so that you can detect issues before they hinder the development. At the same time, you can run different test simultaneously and increase the number of items that undergo testing.
Manual testing can become error-prone
Since people are running manual tests, it has a lower accuracy compared to automated testing. Manual testing can become boring, and hence, error-prone, especially when it is repetitive and long-term. Even the most experienced quality assurance specialists can miss something when they conduct repetitive tests. Automation, on the other hand, has a high level of accuracy.
Automated tests allow multiple user simulation
There are cases when you want to test the capacity of the software to handle a lot of traffic. For example, you want to see how the software will perform if numerous people will try to log in or register at the same time. You cannot achieve it manually. With automated testing, you can simulate multiple users and perform comprehensive testing.
Automated tests are more efficient
Due to the reasons mentioned above and the overall nature of test automation, it is more efficient than manual testing. You can run tests simultaneously and continuously, with little to no human interaction and with lower costs which makes automation more beneficial.
When to apply automated software testing
Automated testing works best when:
1. You have business-critical test cases.
2. You repeatedly execute the same test cases.
3. Test cases are tedious or difficult to perform manually.
4. Test cases are time-consuming.
It is always best to use test automation when you have business-critical cases. Apply automated tests on such case from an early stage to detect bugs on time. It will help you avoid complications and long hours of work later. This method is perfect for tests that you need to perform over and over again. Or they are too time-consuming or difficult to perform manually. Instead of spending your effort on such cases, it is always better to automate it and let your team focus on more high-level tasks.
When automated tests are not suitable
Automated testing is not suitable when:
1. Test cases are newly designed.
2. Requirements for test cases are frequently changing.
3. You perform test cases on an ad-hoc basis.
The main goal of test automation is to replace the human force and perform tests more efficiently. It is not preferable to do it when the test cases are newly designed. Instead, test them manually and once they prove to be usable, use automation tools. The issue is the same for the test cases that are frequently changing. It does not make sense to set up automation for test cases if you are going to make multiple changes regularly. Similarly, when you perform tests on an ad-hoc basis (Without planning and documentation) using automated testing is futile.
Automated Testing process
Here are a few steps to follow to automate testing.
Select test tools
Test automation starts with selecting the right tools. There are multiple test tools on the market that you can use. Selecting them depends on two conditions:
1. What kind of tests you want to perform (functional or non-functional)?
2. Technology that you have used to build the software you want to test.
Each testing tool has its purpose. We use some tools to perform functional tests, and some to test the performance or load. For example, when we want to make load testing or test system performance, we use Apache JMeter. On the other hand, when we want to check specific functionality, we choose Selenium WebDriver.
Before you buy the tools for automated testing, decide what kind of tests are you going to perform. You also need to consider the technology that you have used to build your software as some of the tools might not be compatible with it. Based on these conditions, make a shortlist of tools, compare them with each other and choose the one that suits your test cases the best.
Define the scope of automation
The next step is defining the scope of automation. As mentioned above, for comprehensive testing, it is always best to use both manual and automated testing. At this point, you need to select the area of your software, where the tests will be automated. Answering the questions below will help you determine the scope correctly.
1. Which features are most important for the business, for which you are developing the software?
2. What are the scenarios that have a large amount of data?
3. What are the most common functionalities across the software?
4. Which test cases are the most complex?
5. Considering the technical feasibility, what are the test cases that can be automated efficiently?
6. To what extent are the business components reused?
7. Which test cases can you use for cross-browser testing?
Going through and answering this question with your team will give you a good idea of where it is expedient to use test automation and when to use manual testing.
Create a plan for automation
At this point, you already know what tools to use for automation and in which areas. The next phase is to create a strategy and plan the process.
The strategy document for automation should include the following details:
1. Automation tools - The list of the tools you will use for functional and non-functional testing.
2. Framework design - Rules and guidelines that your software development team will use for designing test cases. It will help your QA team to create test cases correctly and make automated testing more efficient.
3. Items for automation - The list of in-scope things that you will automate, and the list of things that you will test manually.
4. Automation testbed - The test execution environment that you will configure for automated testing. It should consist of specific hardware and software, operating system, application software, network configuration, and the product under test.
5. Schedule - Define the timeline for test case scripting and execution.
6. Deliverables - Define the deliverables for automated testing.
Once you have the plan ready, you can confidently start the process of test automation.
The fact that automated testing performs tests without human intervention does not mean that it does not need maintenance. When we add new functionalities to the system that is under test with successive cycles, we also need to add, review and maintain automation scripts for each release cycle. It is a necessary process for improving the effectiveness of automation scripts. To make this process easier, you can store automation tests somewhere. For example, we use GitLab to manage the storage of automation tests.