What is QA Automation: Benefits, Limitations, Tools, and Best Practices
By Sonal Dwivedi, Community Contributor - September 2, 2023
In today’s competitive market, the quality of the product plays a vital role in the software development process. Quality Assurance is the process to test the System or the Application and prevent quality failures before releasing it to the production.
Quality Assurance strives to deliver consistent results through a set of standardized processes and procedures that systematically monitors different aspects of a product or a service. By regular audits and other forms of assessments, QA detects and fixes the problems or variances that fall outside of organized standards or requirements.
To release a product as a whole for the first time in production or to release an update, QA is mandatory. Every piece of code needs to be tested regressively before it is released to the market. And in today’s agile world, with frequent build updates QA becomes a challenging and time-consuming task. QA automation is the solution to such problems as it replaces manual efforts with automated scripts to speed up workflows and improve the quality assurance (QA) process’s efficiency. While manual testing will always be vital, automation may save time and money.
What is QA Automation?
QA Automation aka Automation Testing refers to developing automation scripts to run tests on the software using automation tools. It uses automation scripts that can be executed repeatedly. Basically, QA automation tools perform repetitive testing tasks that were previously performed by testers manually. QA automation increases test coverage and eliminates any chance of human-prone errors.
With the help of third-party reporting libraries, automation testing can showcase test results with various statistics such as Passed, Failed, Skipped, environment details, execution time, steps details, graphs, trends, etc.
Apart from performing repetitive tasks with such ease, automation testing also helps to perform more advanced tests that are not-possible/ time consuming to test manually. It also frees up the software testing team to focus on complex test cases which cannot be tested through automation.
When to use QA Automation in Testing
- For Repetitive Tests: If your project demands execution of the same set of test cases again and again for every release, then automating it is the best choice. Automating such scenarios would not only frees up the tester’s time but also speed up the execution with no human error.
- Data Driven Testing: There are scenarios where we need to run the same set of test cases with the same or different set of data for every iteration. With manual testing, it would only add boredom to the tester’s life by testing the same functionality repeatedly, making them prone to missing some data sets. Data-driven automation testing frameworks allow us to reduce the time and effort spent in testing these cases.
- Number of test cases: Whether test automation is required for a project depends upon the number of the testcases in a test suite. If the project is too small and has a lesser number of test cases, manual testing should be preferred over automation. On the contrary, if the project is huge and has a large set of test cases, automation is a must.
- Regression or smoke testing: Regression testing helps testing teams ensure that the software didn’t develop any defects after introducing new functionalities in its system. These test suites have a selected number of test cases that we must test after every defect fix cycle. Likewise, Smoke testing should be run at the beginning of each test cycle to ensure whether the basic features of an application are working according to our expectations. Automated testing is ideal for regression/smoke testing suites as it must be executed whenever we release any new feature.
- Order of executing test cases: For some projects, test cases order execution plays a vital role. There are some test cases which need to be executed before in order to execute other test cases in the test suite. If it is performed manually, QA team members must remember the order of execution for every iteration making it more complex, time consuming and error prone. With automation we can set the order/ priorities to the test cases in the way it should be executed.
- Cross Platform Testing: Executing multiple tests on multiple environments/systems is time consuming and error prone if done manually. Also, it would require testers equivalent to the number of systems to be tested to execute those tests. With automation we can run the same automation script on multiple systems at once.
How does QA Automation work?
- Define Goals: Before starting QA automation, be clear about your long-term and short-term goals of test automation. Discussing the road map with higher management and stakeholders would be best.
- Test Approach Planning: There are different testing levels; automation is often confused with end-to-end testing, but there are many levels. The best approach is to create test pyramids.
- Choose a Framework: Once you know the business value, the most critical part is the type of framework you choose. There are different types of automation frameworks; you need to discuss them with the team and choose the right one.
- Test Automation Environment: You should also know which environment the application under test will be used for validation, such as dev, staging, production, or all of these. Additionally, the ideal test grid should enable parallel testing. This means testers should be able to run multiple tests on multiple devices simultaneously.
- Risk Analysis: Analyzing and communicating the risk to management is essential. Automation testing may have some risks based on your tools and strategy.
- Create, Execute, and Maintain Tests: Start creating the automation tests for the critical features first. Once you create the test cases, execute them often. Timely maintenance is expected for automation test cases as there will be active development in the background.
- DevOps Integration: A DevOps integration also reduces the dependency of the testing team; anybody can execute and get the report.
- Reporting: The report must have numbers of total test cases, passed, failed, etc. The report must be understandable for any non-technical person.
- Review and Retrospect: Continuously review your test scripts, and understand what is causing false failures and what is impacting test case creation. How can you do it better? This task is not only for test case creation. This may also include modifying the automation strategy, which should not deviate from your original goals.
Difference between Manual and Automated QA Testing
Both manual and automation testing approaches have their significant place in the SDLC. The choice between them depends on various factors, including project requirements, time constraints, budget, system complexity, and the testing team’s skills and expertise.
Manual testing requires testing of the software by QA professionals, whereas Automated QA uses tools and frameworks to trigger tests where the user interactions are simulated by frameworks and tools to run tests at scale. While manual testing needs more time, automated QA saves time and cost.
Read More: Manual Testing vs Automation Testing
Benefits of Automated QA
Automated QA testing is important for companies that practise continuous integration, which means that software is developed, tested, and deployed multiple times per day, rather than in stages, as was common in more traditional development models.
- Saves time and money: Test suites need to be run for every release, or whenever any new update is pushed. Traditional manual testing would consume a lot of time to execute those and hence with automation in place for such testing would drop the execution time and ultimately save cost too.
- Increases test coverage: Automation testing increases the depth and scope of the tests to improve the software quality. By supporting cross platform testing it leverages testing a heavy set of test cases on multiple platforms at once with such an ease. It can easily execute thousands of different complex test cases during every test run providing coverage that is impossible with manual tests.
- Improves accuracy: Monotonous testing for every release makes the human more prone to commit mistakes. Automated tests can perform the same steps accurately every time they are executed.
- Early bug detection: Through automation testing critical bugs can be surfaced earlier in the initial phases of testing which would reduce the costs of fixing it and help to improve team efficiency.
- Fast development and delivery: Automated testing is executed repeatedly and executed in less time. With faster tests and quicker results, teams can get feedback more frequently, which helps them detect issues and improve functionality. Frequent and fast feedback cycles are an integral part of Agile life cycles which ultimately speed up development and delivery.
- Reusability of test scripts: Automation test scripts created can be reused with minimal or sometimes no changes in the script and the data. These scripts can also be used by multiple QA teams to use it as it is or extend it as per their project need.
Read More: Benefits of Automation Testing
Web and Mobile QA Automation Tools
There are many automation tools available in the market to cater web and mobile automation. Below are some of the most popular ones:
- Selenium is one of the most used and favourite web automation tools in the market. It is an open-source platform that is compatible with numerous browsers, operating systems, and programming languages. It supports the execution of parallel tests, and integrates well with other software testing tools.
Pro-Tip: No-matter which framework you choose, it is important to run tests on real devices and browsers for more accurate test results. BrowserStack Automate and App Automate allows you to run web and mobile automation tests on 3000+ real devices maximizing test coverage. It also enables you to consider real user conditions while testing for a more realistic testing experience.
What is the role of a QA Automation Engineer?
A QA automation engineer is responsible for designing and executing automated tests for evaluating and assessing the functionality of the system under test. QA automation engineers design the tests, write test scripts, install automation testing protocols and consequently report the results.
They are responsible for creating a robust automation framework and setting up continuous integration and deployment. They need to collaborate with different teams by which they can get ideas to improve productivity and enhance test scope.
QA Automation Best Practices
- Analyze test cases to be automated: Automating all the testcases is not feasible as some test cases require human intervention to execute it. Test cases which need to be executed repeatedly or with different sets of data should be the right candidate for automation. Therefore, a proper automation plan should be created and an analysis should be made on what test cases can be picked for automation. For example: Smoke and Sanity test cases should be automated as they are run quite frequently for every iteration/ release.
- Select the appropriate automation tool:
- Based on the project’s platform and technology, suitable automation tool should be selected. For example – If the project is web based or mobile, Selenium or Appium tools should be used respectively.
- Depending on the project’s budget, one should decide for an open source or commercial tool whichever best fits the requirement. Selenium, Cypress, Playwright, Katalon, Watir, Appium and Robotium are some of the well-known open-source tools available in the market.
- Divide the work based on the team member’s skillset: For any automation assignment, framework creation and test scripts writing are the two important tasks. Some team members are good at logic building, experienced in structuring framework utilities and having good knowledge to integrate with the reporting library and scale the framework as per the need. Whereas some are only good at writing test scripts with no knowledge of framework creation. Proper work allocation should be done between the team members in order to expedite the automation testing.
- Create Data driven tests that can be scaled: Creating good test data is extremely important to perform data driven testing. Data to be used in this testing is separately stored in XML files, Excel sheets, JSON files, etc. Using external data makes the automated tests reusable and maintainable. To include various other data driven scenarios or to execute test scripts with new data, only test data needs to be updated or extended without altering the test scripts.
- Testing on real device: With the huge device fragmentation, it is mandatory to test the application on all the latest devices and browsers before releasing it on production. While some small-scale organizations procure the devices and build their own testing lab, it is not always feasible as the mobile devices are released very frequently. It is impossible to test the application against all the devices with different operating systems, screen size-resolution, browsers, etc. Investing in a cloud-based testing platform is the best option.BrowserStack real device cloud leverages testing of mobile/web services by providing 3000+ real devices and browsers for comprehensive testing of the websites and mobile applications for functionality, performance, and visual appeal to release bug-free software faster and at scale.
- Storing Failure logs for better debugging and Reporting: It is important to track the logs and screenshot of the failures during test execution to understand whether it was a genuine or false failure. TestNG is a framework that can be integrated with Selenium to create test execution reports. Framework should contain a logic to store all the failure screenshots with timestamp. On BrowserStack Automate, every test run is video recorded exactly as it is executed on our remote machine.
Automated testing is a great way to save time and money by speeding up the testing process and delivering a higher level of accuracy. If we use automated testing alongside manual testing, you would have the best chance of catching a high number of bugs and defects.
Automation would not do everything for us. We still have to brainstorm on the automation build up process, choosing the right automation tool, plan, create, maintain and do continuous integration and deployment. Having said that, some amount of manual testing will always be necessary and it cannot be eliminated completely from Software Testing.