We can all agree that testing is one of the most crucial phases in software development. However, depending on the complexity of the project, the testing process might demand a lot of time and effort. In some areas, you can successfully replace manual testing with the automated one and as a result, increase the efficiency while reducing time and effort. We have already discussed why test automation is beneficial for your software testing and how to get started with it in details. But you might ask yourself how to choose the right test automation tool.
In this article, we will overview different types of test tools and provide the checklist you can follow when comparing various tools. We will also review some of the most popular and trusted tools, that we have hands-on experience with at Flat Rock Technology.
What is a test automation tool?
A test automation tool is a software that allows you to define software testing tasks and run them repeatedly with minimal or no human interaction at all. Choosing the right test tool for your team and project can be the determinator of success in software testing automation.
Types of test automation tools
Based on the purpose and types of test tools, we can divide all available test tools into two groups:
1. Test automation tools for functional testing.
2. Tools for non-functional testing.
Based on the area of testing you want to automate; you can narrow down your search and explore tools suitable for you based on their purpose. As the name suggests, you can use functional test automation tools to test the new functionalities and features of your software. Similarly, non-functional tests tools allow you to automate non-functional testing, such as load and performance testing.
Apart from the division based on the functionality and purpose, we can divide tools based on their type too. There are three main types of automation testing tools: Open-source tools, commercial tools, and custom frameworks.
Open-source automation tools
The most popular test automation tools are open-source ones. These are free platforms that allow users to access their source code freely and modify them based on their testing needs. Many people with programming background choose open-source tools as they are mostly free and allow them to use customization for advanced test cases.
Commercial automation tools
These are subscription-based test automation tools. Users who want to use such tools for commercial purposes have to purchase a license to use the software. Compared to open-source tools, commercial tools have more premium features. Apart from it, they offer throughout customer service and support. Hence, companies can use it to complete the whole testing process.
Sometimes neither open-source software nor commercial testing tool can be suitable for some projects. Niche projects often require more complex test automation solutions, as they might have different testing environments and process. At times like that, a software development team might need to develop a customized automation testing tool. To deploy such custom test automation tools, you will need tech experts.
How to choose the right automation tool
There are multiple testing tools readily available on the market. Before you start the research and compare different ones to each other, you should have already decided a few things:
1.Which areas of software testing you want to automate and which ones to keep manual.
2. Which types of testing you want to automate. Do you want to test the features and hence get a test automation tool for functional testing automation; or do you want to conduct load or performance testing, and therefore get the non-functional test automation tool.
3. What type of test automation tool suits your project best, open-source, commercial, or custom framework?
When you start searching for a suitable tool, you might aim to find the best one available on the market. Or research what big companies and enterprises use. But this approach will not be beneficial for you and your team. Keep in mind that you should not search for the best one. Instead, focus on selecting the right tool. Questions below will guide you in the process.
1. What is your budget?
The more complex test automation tool you select, the more it will cost your team. Define the budget you can allocate for test automation and choose the right tool accordingly. In case you do not have enough money resources, you can always go with the open-source tools. Otherwise, you can compare the commercial ones based on their capabilities and price.
2. Do your team members have the necessary skills to utilize the tool?
Do your team members have experience with test automation? Do they possess the technical knowledge to utilize the tool? Compared to manual testing, test automation is far more technical. The lack of skills in the team is the main bottleneck for the companies that want to automate software testing. Especially if they decide to use the open-source testing tools as they require more advanced technical knowledge. Asking yourself these questions will avoid you purchasing the testing software which your team cannot use. Hence, the testing tool you select should fit the skills and knowledge of your QA team members. Otherwise, you will have to dedicate some time and resources to upgrade team members' expertise.
Automation tool evaluation checklist
The next step is to shortlist the available tools, evaluate and compare them to each other. Automation tool evaluation checklist below will help you gather information about the tools and choose the right one. Based on your project testing requirements and team capabilities, some of them might be more crucial than others. At the same time, some of them might not be relevant at all.
Cost of ownership
Cost of ownership/licensing can be a crucial factor, especially when you are searching for a budget test automation tool. Apart from that, you need to find out and consider the price of supporting it. Compare all costs to the expected return on the investment.
Good test reports
All commercial and almost all open-source test automation tools offer some reports on the issues and bugs. However, it might not be useful enough for your team. You might need a more insightful and comprehensive report. The ones that help the team find and diagnose test coverage and the root of the issues.
The commercial automation tools often come with documentation, guidelines, training materials and tutorials. For many teams, it is crucial to have materials that will help them adapt and utilize the tool and its maximum capabilities. You might need to give higher preference to the tools that offer such materials if your QA team members lack technical knowledge.
DevOps, CI support
The test automation tool of your choice should be integratable with DevOps and CI. As the lack of it can significantly reduce the effectiveness of the test tool itself, principally if you work with agile methodology, where the speed is critical.
Level of programming skills and experience required
Again, consider the experience and programming skills a team must have to handle the test automation tool properly. You might find a specific tool to be suitable for your project, but it might be too multiplex or too technical for your team. Hence, it will be useless, at least for the time being.
Availability of tech support
For many teams, the availability of tech support can be a game-changer. Before selecting the tool, make sure to check if it comes with the tech support and what kind of support it is.
Apart from these, you should keep maintenance and reusability, integration capabilities and scalability on top of mind.
Some of the most trusted automation testing tools
At Flat Rock, we use test automation for both functional and non-functional testing. Here are reviews of some of the most trusted automation testing tools that can help you develop valuable and bug-free software.
Selenium tool suite
Selenium is an open-source test tool for functional testing. The selenium tool suite offers one of the most reliable and trusted test automation tools. It is available on the market since 2004, and adopted by multiple companies, proving the value of it. It is compatible with several automation testing frameworks and programming languages. You can execute Selenium in multiple operating systems and web-browsers.
Users can create browser-centred test scripts and use them across different environments. You can also create scripts for exploratory and regression testing.
The Selenium test suite includes several automation testing tools: Selenium WebDriver, Selenium Grid, Selenium IDE, and Selenium RC.
Testers use Selenium WebDriver to create browser-based regression automation suites and tests and distribute scripts across environments. The tool drives a browser natively as a real user would. It works locally and on remote machines. One of the most prominent features of WebDriver is its simplicity and conciseness. It has a compact programming interface and is simple to set up. At the same time, it is a comprehensive test automation tool that works well with the major browsers. You can automate real user interactions in Chrome, Safari, Edge, Firefox, and more.
Selenium IDE is an extension for Chrome and Firefox browsers. It allows testers to record and playback tests in the browser. It is a web-ready, simple, and reliable solution that allows easy debugging and cross-browser execution.
Testers can set breakpoints and pause on exceptions for making debugging process easy. It also allows running tests on any OS combination or browser at the same time by using the Command-line Runner.
Testers use Selenium Grid with WebDriver to run tests on many machines simultaneously. It significantly cuts down the testing time on multiple operating systems and browsers. You can run automation scripts across combinations of several operating systems, versions and browsers and speed up the execution.
The Apache JMeter is an open-source test automation tool for non-functional testing. It is a desktop application which mainly focuses on measuring performance and web application. Testers can use it for unit testing and functional testing as well. However, functional testing Is limited.
With Apache JMeter, you can test performance on static and dynamic resources. It is one of the best automation tools to simulate a heavy load on one server or on a group of servers to analyze the overall performance and its strengths under different types of loads.
Here are some of the most prominent features of the tool:
- It allows users to perform load and performance tests on various applications, server, or protocol types, including Web - HTTP, HTTPS. SOAP/REST Webservices, LDAP, FTP. database via JDBC, message-oriented middleware (MOM) via JMS, and more.
- Apache JMeter includes CLI mode to load test from any Java-compatible OS, including Windows, Linux, Mac OSX)
- It allows test IDE which enables users to test plan recording, building and debugging.
- It has a complete, readily presentable and dynamic HTML report.
- Allows easy correlation through the ability to extract data from HTML, JSON, XML or any other textual format.
- It allows for offline analysis and caching.
SoapUI is another open-source test automating tool which provided end-to-end API (Application Programming Interface) test automation for SOAP and REST. Testers use it to reveal the inconsistencies from the expected behaviour and detect bugs during the software development and after releasing it.
You can do different kinds of API testing to ensure that the software is acting as intended, including functionality, reliability, load, security, proficiency, creativity, API documentation and negative testing.
Postman is also for API testing. Users can either download a desktop application on Windows, Mac, and Linux or install a browser extension. As Postman is a development environment for developing and testing APIs, it is in demand not only among testers but also developers who use it to create and test APIs. As SoapUI, testers use Postman to automate different types of testing. One can automate and streamline unit tests, integration, functional, regression, mock, and end-to-end tests.
Postman allows users to reuse test cases and with that, create a CI/CD pipelines and test at every push. You can even integrate Postman Instance with Jenkins to create their own CI/CD pipeline or add to the existing pipeline, as a building step. The greatest benefit of Postman is that it simplifies automated testing. It is easy to set up and utilize. Users can run and manage test workflow from the app, Postman monitoring or do it through the Postman’s command-line tool, Newman.