How To Automate Your Tests? A Detailed Guide

Automate Your Tests

Test automation is one of the most useful and effective parts of modern agile software development lifecycle that lets you efficiently get rid of boring and time consuming manual testing practices. Traditionally, manual testers have been taking care of all the crucial aspects like test planning, writing the test code, maintaining the suitable workflow, handling the data sets, and overall stabilizing the CI/CD pipeline. However, you already know that more reliance on manual testing causes backlashes like human errors in the tests, latency in the entire development cycle & test cycle, lower test coverage, longer time in the continuous integration process as well as a longer time to market.

On the other hand, automated tests make enable your team members to run tests in much less time which eventually allows the development team to debug the code quicker and promptly take measures to improve the software quality. In our article on “Test Automation”, we have already discussed what the automation testing process is and how it does wonders to the quality assurance part of DevOps. Here we are going to dive into a complete guide of running efficient test automation scripts for important test types (e.g. functional testing, exploratory testing, user experience testing, etc.) and making the best use of advanced automated testing tools like PreFlight for executing massive number of tests within seconds to speed up the development process.

What Are The Criteria For Test Automation?

You have heard a lot about why test automation is so important and we must say it truly is. But, should you automate every test? Definitely not. Automating every test can eventually end up being more loss-making than the expected benefits from it in terms of time, resources, and efforts. So, let’s check out the criteria that your tests must fulfill to become suitable for being automated.

The Tests Are Repeatable

It is a common yet really crucial condition for any type of automation. Generally, automation is applied to anything that needs to be performed repeatedly in the same manner. So, if your tests are repetitive, then you can think about automating them. Otherwise, it becomes illogical to automate a test that needs to be run once. Once you find your repetitive tests that are suitable for automation, proceed with the following steps -

  • Set up the test parameters like test data and environment.
  • Let the function that you want to test perform its tasks. During its running phase, the test will do its job.
  • Record the results and analyze them.
  • Clean up the test data and environment to return to the base state.

These are the tasks that you have to perform for automating your repetitive tests. As mentioned in the first point, setting up the test parameters means maintaining a consistent state for the automated tests. For example, if a test checks that any input data is matching existing data, you must first ensure that the reference data is already present in the database or not. And, as mentioned in the last point, a good experience from automated repetitive tests needs to return to the base state after the test is complete.

Testing A Determinant Function

Any function that returns the same output every time it is provided with the same input, is called a determinant function. Similarly, the tests that check the correctness of such functions are a suitable type of test to be automated. For example, any test that ensures that a division function works properly with test cases like 10/2 = 5, 15/3 = 5, etc. is a test that analyzes the correctness of a determinant function so it should be automated for better performance.

However, you must keep in mind that automated tests work with huge databases with numerous variables and that can make it possible to get different results over time. Some random variables may exempt the function from getting a specific outcome and the test will eventually malfunction. Working with a software design that puts the test inputs to a harness can keep you away from such issues.

As the determinant functions are expected to provide specific outcomes, testing them parallelly may cause the tests to fail. Hence, running such tests in isolation is a good choice.

Tests That Are Critical For The Business

You clearly know that manual operations are more prone to errors than operations performed by computers. Similarly, when any crucial feature is being tested, the tests will naturally be highly complicated and if they are executed manually, the chances of errors will become higher. When you are testing any feature or function that is highly important for your business, such errors can cost you more than you can even imagine.

Tests like regression tests, sanity tests, smoke tests, etc. have huge scales and they have the responsibility to ensure that every feature of the application is working properly without being affected by any addition or update to the codebase. Hence, automating such crucial tests can keep you away from the worries that the tests can harm your business in any way.

The Tests Must Be Unopinionated

There are a lot of tests that directly depend on your end users’ feedback and how they feel about your product. These are the kinds of application testing or in-general software testing that can never be automated because no matter how efficient your test automation tool is, it can never predict someone’s thoughts and opinions.

Hence, the user feedback-dependent tests like A/B testing, usability testing, Beta testing, etc. are always performed manually and the quality improvement measures are taken accordingly. This establishes the fact that only unopinionated tests can be automated.

Automating Test Data and Environments

Test automation never means automating the tests only. You can easily automate the test data and environments using the test automation strategies and tools. And, the best part is that some advanced test automation tools define the desired functionality first to make themselves capable of building/generating test scripts even before the test is written.

Which Tests Should You Avoid Automating?

Though automating software tests is one of the most effective and intelligent approaches in the technology business and we always advocate for adapting it completely, there are a few parts of technical operations that are best done manually. Software testing also has some portions that stand by this fact. Below we are mentioning some types of tests that are really difficult to automate and you should perform them manually for the best results.

Newly Designed Complex Test Cases

Test automation frameworks can surely execute the created test cases with ease but sometimes there are a few complicated & lengthy test cases that you have just created and do not know how they will perform on their own. So, you must manually run them at least once to see if they are properly running and fulfilling the objectives that they are created for.

One-off or Ad-Hoc Tests

These are kind of problem-specific tests. That means these tests are mostly used when you have to test a specific function or any reported bug. The best practice for such cases is to create and execute the test cases manually. However, if you know how to recreate the bug, you can consider automating the test cases.

Constantly Changing Test Cases

Automated tests mainly work on the principle that they verify the outcomes of the tests with a set of ideal/correct outcomes. Hence, if the reference outcomes change frequently then it makes no sense to automate those test cases. Also, constantly changing outcomes are not the only reason to avoid automating such test cases. Sometimes, those tests may have almost the same outcome but a lack of clarity in those results lead to avoiding automation for them.

Testing The Features That Are Still Having Changes

In conventional testing processes, test cases are created only after the development phase is complete. But, if any feature is still evolving or its codebase is having changes then it is not possible to create test cases for it. Hence, eventually, you cannot automate such test cases.

Key Test Automation Methods And Their Utilizations

There are some advanced automated testing approaches that are used for different situations to achieve the best results. We are jotting them down along with the best situations to utilize them.

Data-Driven Testing

The name of this type of testing is justified by its property of repeating the same test multiple times with different sets of data. This is a highly useful technique for the tests that truly have the requirements of running the same test numerous times just with changes in the test data. For example, you are testing a function that checks the eligibility of a person for vaccination according to age & gender, and the age is calculated from the date of birth provided by the user. So, you can clearly see that the test to verify the correctness of this function will remain the same for as many different sets of user data you want to use.

Black Box Testing and White Box Testing

Black Box testing means you are running a test without any prior knowledge of the implementations in the system being tested. So, this type of testing method is the perfect one for system testing as it will let you check everything about the system without having any prior knowledge about it.

On the other hand, White Box testing is where you know everything about the system and the operations going on within it. Hence, it turns out to be a good choice for unit testing and integration testing because, in those types of testing, you need to ensure that every smallest software module/unit is working properly while they are independent of each other and even when they are interconnected.

UI Testing and API Testing

As the name suggests, UI testing is all about ensuring that everything in the user interface is working perfectly. Regression tests and smoke tests are best performed with this testing approach.

API testing involves calling the API functions to check if they return correct results. One of the best utilization of this testing method is in performance testing.

How To Automate Your Tests?

Till now, you gained knowledge about a lot of things related to test automation. But, knowing what test automation is, why it is important, which tests are generally automated, etc. will not make you aware of the steps required to automate a test. So, let’s take a look at the step-by-step approach to test automation.

Choose Your Framework

No matter how pro you are at coding, there is hardly anything that can provide you with such a smooth testing experience than a test automation framework. You must have read about Selenium, one of the best test automation frameworks, and have got to know about codeless Selenium automation. However, you must check out here how PreFlight, the most efficient and effective alternative to Selenium, solves all your test automation needs without any dependence on coding.

Prepare The Required Setup

Automated tests will not set the required infrastructure by themselves. You need to do that before letting the test cases proceed on their own. The preparation stage starts with writing down every single step and the required outcome so that you don’t miss taking care of anything.

Then you should go on with setting up the test data and the environment where the test will take place. Automated test cases will not proceed towards execution unless the required environment is set up. Generally, such a setup will need some data manipulation or the application will be required to put it in a specific state. Hence, make sure to take care of all these attentively.

Run The Tests

As you are now done with taking care of the prerequisites for the automated tests, it’s time to actually run the tests. The test is primarily run by the test driver and the common methods used to run them are -

  • Making API calls for the application.
  • Using its user interface.
  • Directly running the code.

Use these methods to efficiently run your automated tests but keep in mind that test drivers are responsible for nothing but driving your tests. The responsibility of keeping a track of everything including keeping their balance and reporting the results belongs to the test management system. Hence, make sure to keep that in proper condition.

Report The Results

The primary objective of software testing is to find ways to improve the tech product from the test results. Only running efficient tests will solve no purpose if you don’t analyze and understand the test results. Hence, you must make sure to record the results of the automated tests and keep detailed reports of them. No matter what the format of the results is and what problem tickets or bugs are created in a work tracking system, the basic result is always a pass or fail. This pass or fail result is usually displayed through a green or red indicator.

There can be some unpredictable situations in the automated test runs. Sometimes, the tests may not return a clear result/conclusion or will not even run for some reason. But, the advanced test automation frameworks or tools have solutions for such problems. In such cases, the tools will generate a full log of the output for the developers. They can analyze that log and understand the issue. The most common and effective approach that they follow is replaying the scenario where the problem has occurred and correcting it.

How To Choose The Best Suited Test Automation Tool?

Till now, you must have got a clear understanding of the importance of test automation tools in smoothly handling everything about the automated tests. Now, you must keep in mind that every test automation tool will never be a perfect fit for your set of requirements. So, you must take the following points into consideration while choosing the best-suited test automation tool for you.

Ease Of Operation

The whole point of automation is to make things easy. But, if using the automation tools itself becomes a cumbersome task then there will be no point in using them. For example, Selenium, one of the most popular test automation frameworks, needs you to learn a new scripting language for using it. Also, some other popular test automation tools cause a number of other issues while creating, running, or maintaining the test suites. Hence, you must prioritize choosing an easily operable tool according to your needs and there is no need to mention that PreFlight is the simplest and most efficient test automation tool that provides you with these amazing benefits.

Cross-Platform and Cross-Browser Support

Every app is not built through a specific IDE, for a specific browser or a specific platform, and neither your users are going to use the same operating systems or test environment. Hence, if you are unable to test tech products in cross-browser or cross-platform (like iOS, Windows, Linux, Android) settings, written in different languages like Java, Python, etc., the market will leave you behind. Hence, make sure to use an advanced test automation tool like PreFlight to easily test your app in every popular environment or setting.

Easy Analyzing Procedure

All your efforts in testing your product will become meaningless if you are unable to analyze the test results and completely rely on the automated system. To avoid such a situation, you must have the complete freedom and flexibility to keep track of everything about your tests. The dashboard that allows playback of the recorded tests should show what the test results are, which ones have failed, how often they have run, etc. Some products or test methods may need to generate detailed test reports for such an analysis. Also, for real-time analysis, some tests need to record some metrics parallelly while the tests are running. Those metrics tell you if the product is suddenly behaving in an unexpected manner. Our marvelous auto-recording feature leaves a significant impression on this point.

Flexibility Is Essential

You are adapting to automation to achieve better efficiency and if you need to use multiple frameworks or tools for different types of tests, that efficiency will remain an expectation only. So, you need a truly useful tool that is capable of running every kind of test like performance tests, smoke tests, regression tests, unit tests, API tests, etc. One popular myth is that no tool is capable of handling all kinds of tests but we feel proud to say that PreFlight can significantly solve all your testing needs without involving you in even a little bit of coding. And, you can know everything about that in the article “10 Amazing Software Testing Benefits From PreFlight In 2022”.

Useful Features

You must expect the best features from the test automation tool that you use and it must take good care of that expectation. An efficient test automation tool must provide you with powerful and effective features like data-driven testing, the flexibility to set up test criteria, define custom metrics, use custom variables & custom JavaScript codes, etc. and you will get to experience the best versions of all these benefits along with a lot more from PreFlight. All you need to do is to book a demo now.

Cost Effectiveness

Every business always needs to follow the principle of cost-effectiveness to achieve and hold success. Similarly, if you are looking for an amazing test automation solution that will eventually bring efficiency to your business, you must make sure it does not boost your expenses to the sky-high limits. And, we would suggest you get rid of that worry by choosing one of the easily affordable packages from PreFlight.

Less Fragile Tests

If your tests keep breaking down, there will be no meaning in automating them. And, this can be a real scenario with some test automation tools. Creating your tests using such tools can lead every test to break down for any small change in the UI or app logic. Such breakdowns can cause significant wastage of time on test maintenance. Hence, while choosing your test automation tool, make sure to keep the point of fragility in mind.

Availability of Effective Support

No one in the world can be a pro at everything and you must already know that even the expert tech persons are also well-acknowledged in their respective fields only. One expert in any specific field can be a novice in another field. When you are using an advanced test automation tool, you may need guidance or support from authentic sources at any time. And, that kind of support through training materials, active customer support, tutorials, etc. is mostly provided by the communities handling/operating the tools. Hence, make sure that the tool you are using has an amazing support system as PreFlight provides to its users.

Test Automation Best Practices

Now, you know everything about how to select the best-suited test automation tool and how to set up the tests. However, you must know some best practices that will help you achieve the best results. Here we are mentioning those best practices mainly focusing on system testing and some other popular forms of tests.

  • Prioritize keeping the test cases clear, self-contained, and easy to understand. The best way to do that is by carefully determining the scope of the project from the beginning.
  • Choose your test automation tool based on the truly important points we have mentioned previously. Any tool’s popularity does not make it the best choice for you.
  • Try to identify and correct the errors/bugs as soon as possible. Bugs that are identified later become more difficult and resource-consuming to fix.
  • Make sure to plan the set in the most efficient order for your tests because most of the time one test execution sets the state for the next state. Hence, setting up the best order will significantly improve the overall efficiency.

Maintain proper scripting standards -

  • Focus on creating good scripts and maintaining proper comments & indentation in the code.
  • Make sure to include good exception handling parameters to deal with a system failure or unexpected behavior of the application.
  • User-defined messages are not suitable for the testers’ understanding. So, make sure to transform them into codes or standardized languages for better error handling.
  • Test scheduling is another important step that can exempt you from the worries of always staying engaged with the tests. So, choosing such a tool that handles the test schedule will get you there.

One of the most effective ways to know whether your tests are doing good or not is by analyzing the metrics and observing the following things -

  • The ratio of errors to your complete code.
  • Time taken by each and every cycle of automation testing.
  • The release must take the least amount of time.
  • The customer satisfaction index must stay in a good position.
  • Productivity must always improve.
  • You must set up an alerting system to get instantly notified whenever a test fails. Such an early warning will help you make the decision about continuing the faulty test run or aborting it.
  • Your testing strategies should evolve with time. It is absolutely pointless to stay stuck with testing the legacy features that currently solve no purpose for your tests.

Conclusion

You can clearly see how test automation can help you get rid of the worries about handling dependencies, learning a number of programming languages, and make you capable of easily performing complex & lenghthy tests like end-to-end tests, acceptance tests, etc. on any type of application under test. And, all this is possible just through some simple steps that we discussed here. Hence, it’s your time to become a pro at this highly important part of modern agile methodology and start mastering a remarkably efficient test automation tool like PreFlight.

This magical no-code test automation tool in the format of a simple browser extension can enable everyone from your team create and run tests collaboratively irrespective of their coding knowledge. Check out the awesome advantages of using this magical tool in this article “10 Amazing Software Testing Benefits From PreFlight In 2022”. So, stop missing out an unimaginably easy and efficient testing experience by just signing up.

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