10 Test Automation Best Practices to follow
Shreya Bose, Technical Content Writer at BrowserStack - May 28, 2020
If any website or app has to succeed in the digital market, they will have to provide a bug-free user experience on every device, browser (only for websites), and operating system. However, with sites and apps being equipped with increasingly sophisticated features, manual testing becomes a complicated and long-winded task.
With automation testing, this becomes easier. Since comprehensive testing is essential for optimal software operation, automation helps to make testers’ lives easier by letting them manually test only what they absolutely have to.
Repetitive tests like regression tests and integration tests are prone to human error and are best left to machines. Automated testing also provides extended coverage and more accurate results, which improves product quality, reduce time-to-market, and generates better ROI.
However, automation testing requires the right tools, test automation frameworks, and technical knowledge to yield results. To set up these repetitive, thorough, and data-intensive tests for success, one has to follow a number of test automation best practices. By doing so, testers can not just organize and execute automated tests for maximum efficiency, but also balance their resources between manual and automated tests. Here is the list of 10 test automation best practices –
- Decide which tests to automate
- Divide tasks based on skill
- Collective Ownership of Tests
- Remove uncertainty
- Pick the right tool
- Test on real devices
- Keep Records for Better Debugging
- Use Data-Driven Tests
- Early and Frequent Testing
- Prioritize Detailed & Quality Test Reporting
To elaborate on the above listed best practices,
- Decide which tests to automate: it is not possible to automate every test since some of them can only be conducted with human judgment. So, every test automation plan must begin with narrowing down which tests will benefit from being automated. It is advisable to automate tests with the following qualities:
- Tests requiring repetitive action with vast amounts of data
- Tests prone to human error
- Tests that need to use multiple data sets
- Tests that extend across multiple builds
- Tests that must run on different platforms, hardware, or OS configurations
- Tests focusing on frequently used functions
- Divide tasks based on skill: When creating test suites and cases, assign each one to individuals based on their technical expertise. For example, if the test requires a proprietary tool to be executed, it will allow team members of varying skill levels to create test scripts with reasonably minimal ease. However, if the team chooses to use an open-source tool, this becomes complicated. In this case, designing automation tests will require the services of someone with expertise in coding for that specific tool.
- Collective Ownership of Tests: Don’t just appoint a single tester or engineer to carry out entire automation testing projects. If the rest of the team does not stay up to date every step of the way, they will not be able to contribute in any meaningful way. To integrate automation successfully into the testing infrastructure, the entire team has to be on-board at all times. This helps every team member to be aware of the process, communicate more transparently, and make informed decisions about setting up and running the right tests.
- Remove uncertainty: The entire point of automation is to achieve consistent, accurate test results. Whenever a test fails, testers have to identify what went wrong. However, with an increase in the number of false positives and inconsistencies, there occurs a corresponding increase in the time required for analyzing errors. To prevent this, one has to eliminate uncertainty by removing unstable tests in regression packs. Additionally, automated tests can sometimes miss out on checking vital verifications because they are outdated. Prevent this with sufficient test planning before running any tests. Be conscious of whether every test is up to date at all times. Ensure that the sanity and validity of automated tests are being adequately assessed throughout test cycles.
- Pick the right tool: Automation testing is entirely dependent on tools. Here’s what to consider when choosing the right tool:
- The nature of software: Is the application being tested web-based or mobile-based? To test the former, use a tool like Selenium to automate your tests. For the latter, Appium is one of the best possible tools for automation.
- Open Source or not: Depending on budget constraints, one may choose to use open-source tools such as Selenium or Appium for automation purposes. However, it is important to remember that all open-source tools are not inferior to their commercially available counterparts. For example, Selenium Webdriver is an open-source tool that is most highly favored by automated testers around the world.
- Test on real devices: No matter the website, it needs to be tested on real devices and browsers. Remember that device fragmentation is a major concern for every developer and tester. Every website has to work seamlessly on multiple device-browser-OS combinations. With 9000+ distinct devices being used to access the internet globally, every website has to be optimized for different configurations, viewports, and screen resolutions.
In this state, no emulator or simulator can replicate real user conditions. Websites need to be tested on real devices so that they can work in real-world circumstances such as a low battery, incoming calls, weak network strength, and so on. If an in-house lab is not accessible, opt for a cloud-based testing option that offers real devices. BrowserStack’s cloud Selenium grid offers 2000+ real devices and browsers for automated testing. That means users can run tests on multiple real devices and browsers by simply signing up, logging in, and selecting the required combinations.
Do not release a website without testing on real devices. When users visit, they will encounter bugs and errors that could have been easily avoided, and disruptive user experiences will result in loss of users.
- Keep Records for Better Debugging: When tests fail, it’s important to keep records of the failure as well as text and video logs of the failed scenario so that testers can identify reasons for test failure. If possible, choose a testing tool with an in-built mechanism for automatically saving browser screenshots in each step of the test. This makes it easy to detect the step at which the error occurs. On BrowserStack Automate, every test run is video recorded exactly as it is executed on our remote machine.
- Use Data-Driven Tests: If multiple data points need to be analyzed together, a manual test becomes out of the question. The sheer volume of data, along with the number of variables would make it impossible for any human to conduct quick and error-free tests. Implementing data-driven automated tests boils it down to a single test and a single data set, which can then be used to work through an array of data parameters, thus simplifying the process.
- Early and Frequent Testing: To get the most out of automation testing, start testing early in the sprint development lifecycle. Run tests as often as required. By doing so, testers can start detecting bugs as they appear and resolve them immediately. Needless to say, doing this saves much of the time and money that would have to be spent to fix bugs in a later development stage or even in production.
- Prioritize Detailed & Quality Test Reporting: Automation should serve to reduce the amount of time QA teams have to spend verifying test results. Set up adequate reporting infrastructure with the right tools which generate detailed and high-quality reports for every test. If possible, group tests according to parameters such as type, tags functionality, results, etc.
Test automation can only help to create high-quality software and reduce time-to-market when it is implemented in tandem with certain best practices. However, it’s important to understand that every testing team and organization has unique requirements. Study these practices, and implement them in a way that best suits the software, the business, and the users.