Test automation has become an essential part of modern software development as it allows for the efficient and consistent testing of web-based software. With the increasing complexity of web applications, it is essential to have effective test automation strategies in place to ensure the quality of the software. Although test automation is a powerful tool in software development, but it is not an all-in-one solution. When done improperly, automated tests can consume resources without providing significant value. To maximize the benefits of test automation, a comprehensive testing strategy must be developed. This includes identifying key flows, selecting the appropriate cases for automation, and avoiding common pitfalls. This article provides a guide on the best practices for test automation and how to apply them effectively.
What’s an automation test strategy?
An automation test strategy is a plan for how to use automated testing tools and techniques to determine the quality of software. It outlines the types of tests that will be automated, the tools and frameworks that will be used, and the approach that will be taken to implement and maintain the automated tests. It also defines the scope of the automation effort, including which parts of the application will be tested, and how often the tests will be run. The objective of an automation test strategy is to optimize the testing process by increasing its efficiency and effectiveness, while also minimizing the time and resources required as compared to manual testing.
Types of automated tests
Automated testing and manual testing share similar characteristics in terms of their types and objectives. The key differentiation between the two lies in their execution – while manual tests are executed and evaluated by a human tester, automated tests are executed through a script and the results are analyzed by the automation tool. Understanding the different type of automated tests and when to use them is crucial for developing an effective test automation strategy.
The major types of automated tests include:
- Unit tests: These tests focus on individual units of code, such as functions or methods, and are used to ensure that they are working correctly.
- Integration tests: These tests check how different units of code work together, and are used to ensure that the system as a whole is functioning properly.
- Functional tests: These tests focus on the functionality of the application, and are used to ensure that the application is working as expected from the user’s perspective.
- Performance tests: These tests check how the application performs under different load conditions and are used to identify and resolve performance bottlenecks.
- Security tests: These tests check for vulnerabilities and potential security breaches in the application.
- Acceptance tests: These tests ensure that the application meets the requirements and expectations of the end-user or customer.
Steps to build an automation testing strategy
An automation testing strategy should be customized to meet the specific requirements of a project. While there is no universal method that applies to all situations, there are steps and recommendations that can be used to develop an effective automation testing strategy.
Step 1: Establish clear goals and objectives
An effective automation testing strategy requires clear and measurable goals, as it is difficult to determine success without them. Once the goals have been established, the following steps should be geared towards achieving them. The goal can be as simple as automating priority test cases for critical flows. Defining the scope of the automation testing in the initial stages also helps to prevent wasted time and resources. Without a clear scope, automated tests may overlap with manual testing or some tests may be overlooked due to confusion over whether they should be automated or tested manually. This can be a significant issue for large QA teams, and it is important to establish a precise scope to avoid such problems.
Step 2: Define requirements
This step emphasizes on the need to collaborate with stakeholders to establish automation priorities, define goals and key performance indicators (KPIs), and document the testing needs. It is important to identify the types of testing required to fulfil these needs which will inform the selection of suitable tools in a later stage.
Step 3: Evaluate Risks
In this step, focus on identifying and prioritizing areas with the highest potential business impact and automate them first. A risk-based approach can assist in this process. By prioritizing correctly, it will enable a logical order for automation, and also allow you to know when to stop automating. For instance, continuing to automate low-priority tests can be costly and may not provide much value.
Step 4: Identify Automation Test Cases
At this stage, the focus should be on determining which specific flows and features of the application need to be automated. Prioritize the areas that have the highest business impact, but also take into consideration the stability and complexity of the flows. Automating test cases that are likely to change frequently in the current or upcoming sprints is usually not cost-effective. If test cases have been previously created, highlight the parts that should be automated based on the established goals, risks, and requirements.
Step 5: Set up test data and environment
Managing the test environment and data is a vital, yet frequently overlooked aspect of an automation testing plan. Compliance with regulations such as GDPR can limit the use of data, making synthetic data a viable option. It’s beneficial to store test data in external files for easier maintenance, as changes to the data should not affect the test code. The test environment should be stable and, if necessary, testing artifacts should be cleaned up after the testing run is completed.
Step 6: Pick the Right Tool and Framework
When it comes to selecting the right tool and framework, it is important to consider the specific needs of the project and team. For example, if the team is more familiar with using Selenium, then it may be a better fit than Appium which is mainly used for mobile automation testing. Additionally, creating a proof of concept (POC) using different tools and frameworks can help in showcasing the best fit for the project. It is important to choose a tool that is flexible, easy to use and can integrate with other tools and technologies.
Step 7: Monitor your Test
Monitoring progress is crucial to understanding the current state of testing and identifying what still needs to be completed. Two effective ways to do this are:
- Utilize a test management tool to keep track of the automation status of tests, using statuses such as planned, automated, and outdated.
- Create a backlog and monitor progress in a ticket management system to easily assign tasks.
It is important to include this tracking information in the overall testing strategy and make sure all team members are aware of the chosen methods.
Step 8: Reporting
Investigating failed tests and identifying problems is a vital part of the automated process. However, it can often take longer than expected to correct underlying issues. Typically, failed tests are caused by one of four areas: Technical issues with the testing environment, defects within the application, obsolete automation scripts and bugs in the automation scripts. All these underlying issues should be reported to the technical team in charge of them.
Step 9: Establish a maintenance protocol
Test automation is not a one-time event, but a continuous process that requires ongoing attention. To ensure your test suite remains relevant and effective, it is essential to formalize the testing process. The first step is to create a system for updating scripts as necessary, but it’s also important to establish clear priorities and timelines. Keep in mind, every out-of-date test is a potential vulnerability that could make its way into the production environment. By implementing a robust maintenance protocol, you can mitigate this risk and promote the longevity of your test suite.
In addition to these strategies, it is also essential to have a continuous integration and continuous delivery (CI/CD) pipeline in place. This pipeline allows for the automated execution of the test cases and can be integrated with the software development process. This ensures that the application is tested at regular intervals and that any issues are identified and resolved quickly. A CI/CD pipeline like Github actions or Travis CI also allows for the identification of regression issues and the tracking of the test results over time.
Choose the right test automation tool
The ultimate game changer that will help you effectively apply all the strategies discussed above is to choose a best-in-class test automation tool. Testup.io is a great option in this respect; it is a visual-based no-code test tool that gives you fast results. Aside from this, your organization can now take advantage of seamless User Acceptance Testing (UAT) with testup.io. Our app allows users (both developers and non-developers) to automate User Acceptance Tests faster than the time it would take to manually test the software. This means that from a timing perspective, the business benefits of automation can begin to be realized on the second automated run. The good news is that we have also created a generic User Acceptance Testing template for your use. Ultimately, it helps cut costs significantly and guarantees that your application satisfies the user’s requirements. Click here to get started with testup.io for automated tests.