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How to reduce false failure in Test Automation workflow?

By Priyanka Bhat & Ganesh Hegde, Community Contributors -

Table of Contents

Quality Assurance (QA) is a common practice to check that the end product meets agreed expectations and is bug-free. In short, Quality Assurance in software testing ensures that the software delivered is of high quality that gives a seamless user experience. 

Software applications can be tested using manual techniques or test automation. While Manual Testing involves QAs running each test manually to find bugs, software test automation is a broad term used for testing the software in an automated or a programmatic way.

However, in either of the testing methods, test failure plays a major role in debugging. And hence failure detection in a QA workflow is significant to delivering a bug-free experience to the users.

This article discusses how to reduce false failures in Test Automation workflows, making the debugging process more efficient.

What is Software Test Automation?

Software test automation uses specialized tools to control the execution of tests and compares the actual results and expected results to produce the output. The checkpoint or assertions are used to define the pass/fail criteria. Some of the most used software test automation frameworks are Selenium, Cypress, Playwright, Puppeteer, etc. 

In automation testing, the actions are simulated using specialized commands to replicate the user actions and workflows. Automation tests can run on their own without any human interaction.

Why do you need Test Automation?

Organizations are moving towards automation, making it an inevitable part of the software development lifecycle. Here are several reasons why Test Automation should be used in your project:

  • Test automation accelerates the development cycle
  • Automation testing works well with the agile methodology and helps in the rapid delivery of the product.
  • Test automation execution is less time-consuming compared to manual testing
  • Multiple platforms and browsers can be tested in parallel
  • Tests can be scheduled or executed on demand
  • Test reports are in-depth and serve as proof
  • Reduced cost and improved manpower utilization. Hence Test Automation ROI is better.

When not to choose Test Automation?

However, test automation might not always fit into every testing requirement. Test automation is not a good choice when:

  • The application is undergoing frequent changes
  • The application development doesn’t follow standard architectural practices
  • Tests are not required to run frequently
  • No proper or stable infrastructure exists to execute automation scripts
  • The application has a lot of third-party integrations/gateways, and there are restrictions around their usage.

What is a Test Report in Software Test Automation?

Test Reports are the end results or output of the testing written in a human-readable format. Test reports contain screenshots of failed scenarios/test cases, graphs, etc. Sometimes additional stack traces will be mentioned to analyze the failed scenarios.

Test Summary Report is pivotal in Debugging. Learn How to write a good Test Summary Report

Failures in Test Automation

There are two scenarios in which test cases fail in software test automation:

  1. There is an actual defect in the application under test – valid failures/true failures
  2. Something wrong with the test automation code – false failures

The first type of failure is valid, as the application is not behaving in an expected way, so the test case failed. This is called a valid failure or true failure.

The second type of failure is a most faced challenge in software test automation. In this scenario, the application might be working as expected in reality, but the code written to automate test cases are somewhat not working in an expected way, so the test cases are failing. The failures of test cases without any actual defect in the application but because of automation code are called False Failures.

Did you know How Test Failure Analysis Can Drive Smoother Releases? Check out the guide to know more about it.

Reasons for false failures

  1. Browser Interaction: The automation test code simulates the user actions using specialized commands. There is a high chance that the commands might be executed before the page load. There is also a chance that the executed command could not be interpreted by the browser as expected at that point of time for some reason.
  2. Change in locator: The locator uniquely identifies the HTML element, and automated scripts are instructed to execute the action on the specific locator. There are many reasons why the locator might change. For example, a developer has updated the identifiers such as id, class name, etc., or there might be a change in third-party modules that the application is using. In such cases, the automation scripts need to be updated. Otherwise, the failures will be reported.
  3. Dynamic behaviour: It can be handled to some extent using automation, but achieving 100% is difficult. Dynamic behaviour may fail if the data is changing in real-time and the automation script is trying to validate with some assumptions.
  4. Adding new features or changes in existing features: If the application has added a new feature or if any changes in the existing workflow may cause false failures. For example, in the e-commerce application, the earlier feature was after adding the item to the cart. The next page is the payment page for the improvement of the product. If they introduce a new feature like the review cart items page, then the automation test fails as the automation test doesn’t know the newly added feature unless the script is modified. In this case, the automation test causes false failures.
  5. Version upgradation and dependencies: Whenever the new version of the automation tool is released, there might be a chance that some commands will be deprecated. When the automation script encounters such commands, a false failure will be reported. Similarly, the automation tests are closely tied with browser and browser versions and other dependencies if any API changes might also cause false failures.

How to reduce the false failures in test automation?

  • Stack traces

The stack traces are like proof of your test failures. The stack trace helps to trace back the errors. In most cases, you can judge whether the failure is a false or valid failure just by looking at the stack traces. Whenever you expect an exception or an error add a code to capture the stack trace.

try
{
//some automation code
} 
catch(Exception e)
{
e.printStackTrace();
}
  • Loggers and .log File

Log every detail into a separate log file. Just like any development practice, have loggers defined in your automation framework. Log interactions and other useful information in a simple log file will help you quickly analyze and fix failures. Many logger frameworks make your job easy. For example, log4j can be used for Java-based frameworks.

The log file provides information about where it failed, and which interaction or action caused the failure of the test. This information helps to narrow down the problem or failures.

driver.get("https://www.browserstack.com/users/sign_in");
log.info("Open browserstack");
driver.manage().window().maximize();
log.info("Maximize window size");
js.executeScript("document.getElementById('user_email_login').value='rbc@xyz.com';");
log.info("enter username");
  • Enable console logs

Most of the test automation tool provides the console logs feature, the console logs are shown based on the default log level or that set by the user. The detailed console.log helps to understand the problem and where it originated from.

For example, if you are using Selenium, you can enable all logs to get detailed logs.

LoggingPreferences logPrefs = new LoggingPreferences();
logPrefs.enable(LogType.BROWSER, Level.ALL);
  • Update the script more often

Many think that automation tests can be written once and forget it, but this is not true. The automation tests need timely maintenance for accurate results. One of the reasons for false failure is unknown feature changes or addition. Have a frequent sync-up with the development and product team to understand the changes. Any changes in the application need to be updated in automation scripts as well. This helps to reduce any false failures because of feature changes.

Following Agile practice and attending daily scrum calls helps to tackle such problems in a great way. As the daily scrum provides an update about what each team member is working on, the automation testers can get high-level information about upcoming changes. Based on the assumption and impact, the automation tester can take the conversation to the next level.

  • Version Upgrades

Before upgrading the automation framework and dependencies, analyze the new version changes. The release notes usually state the changes that are made in the latest version. Understanding changes and modifying them in your test scripts eliminates false failures.

Selenium4.4

  • Rerun or Retry mechanism

Many factors can impact test automation, such as tools used, browser version, browser name, configuration settings, the application’s behavior, performance like response time, the execution environment, etc. So having the retry failed test mechanism helps to run the test multiple times and helps reduce the false failures.

For example, the TestNG provides the IRetryAnalyzer. You can write the custom code to implement the IRetryAnalyzer and the number of retries you want to make for failed tests. 

@Test(retryAnalyzer=Retry.class)
public void test(){
Assert.assertEquals(1,0);
}

Note: Above is a sample code. You need to define and write the logic to implement IRetryAnalyzer before using it in the @Test annotation.

  • Integrate automation tool with messengers 

You can integrate the test automation tools or pipelines with tools like Slack, Teams, etc. The messenger tools provide instant results, and whether tests are passed or failed, you can take a quick look immediately and check for errors.  

Let’s consider a scenario in which the system where the test automation is configured is running updates. This causes performance degradation and failing automation tests.

Everything might look normal if you look at the automation test results after a few hours. However, if you log in to the system immediately, you can clearly see the update process or tasks which are running, and there is an issue with performance. This helps to understand the problem without the hassle, and you can tune your automation script schedules accordingly.

For example, if you are using the Jenkins and MS teams, you can easily configure the integration using the connectors.

Jenkins connector

  • Integration with analytics Platform

An analytics platform like Grafana can provide you with trend analysis of tests. Though it requires advanced configuration knowledge, it can help analyze inconsistent test cases, execution time, server performance, application health, etc. You can also create a custom dashboard, trend analysis, alerting, etc., using Grafana.

Analytics platform

  • Execute Tests on Real Devices

Many times you try to emulate browser settings and perform the automation on emulated devices. For example, you can execute the mobile browser testing by changing the viewport, but this doesn’t guarantee that result will be the same on real devices.

At times, testing on emulators and simulators is not as accurate as that of real devices since the real user conditions are not taken into account. It is pivotal to decipher why test on real devices compared to emulators or simulators.

The tests can be executed on real devices and browsers using tools like BrowserStack, which helps to avoid false failures.

Test on Real Devices for Free

Software Test Automation Best Practices 

  • Consider the POC of the tool before adopting it: The test automation tool needs to be picked based on the nature of the application, skill sets, features, and cost involved. The best suitable tool may vary from organization to organization, so Proof of Concept (POC) is important before choosing an automation tool
  • Decide on Test cases that can be automated: It is a known fact that there cannot be 100% test coverage. Prepare a plan for what can be automated and what cannot.
  • Have a stable environment: The minimal requirement for test automation is a stable environment. If the environment is unstable, you cannot expect an accurate result.
  • Do not test everything in one test case: Consider splitting the test into multiple scenarios. This will improve the execution speed and readability.
  • Give importance to multi-platform/browser testing: Cross-platform/browser testing ensures the application stability across the browser and platform combinations.
  • Have a good reporting system: No matter how many test cases you have or how efficient they are, automation doesn’t bring any value if you don’t present it efficiently. So having good reporting is very important.

Conclusion

False failures are the most common and challenging part of test automation. It can make test automation unreliable. The test automation scripts need timely maintenance. No matter how advanced test automation frameworks are, false failures still exist. False failures need careful analysis and consistent monitoring as there are many root causes for false failures. 

Tools such as Slack, MS Teams, and analytic tools like Grafana can help you to narrow down the problem. The test automation team needs to spend a good amount of time choosing and integrating tools and dependencies. The efficient implementation test automation framework is key to reducing false failures.

Most importantly, it is always recommended to test on real devices to avoid false positives. However, it brings the question of build vs buy, i.e., whether to build an in-house device lab or a buy subscription of a real device cloud like BrowserStack. 

Building in-house infrastructure is expensive to create and maintain while renting cloud-based infrastructure is cost-effective and reliable. Players like BrowserStack are offering access to 3000+ real device browser combinations to test effectively, along with one-of-a-kind features like Barcode Testing, QR Code Testing, Biometric Authentication, Geolocation Testing, Network Throttling, etc. to ensure that the test results are accurate.

Try BrowserStack for Free

Tags
Automated UI Testing Automation Testing

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