With faster and more reliable results, test automation has completely changed how testing is done. However, to fully profit from test automation, it is essential to stick to the best practices that guarantee successful implementation and execution.
If you're curious about
- how to choose what to automate and what not,
- what to focus on while designing a test automation strategy that improves effectiveness and economic savings,
- what test automation and best coding practices have in common,
this article will equip you with the best test automation practices, whether you're a seasoned software tester or just starting.
Keep reading for more!
Benefits of Test Automation
But let's start from the beginning - why do we need test automation?
Most of all - automated testing increases efficiency. It can be run anytime, uses scripted sequences to examine software and reports findings that can be compared with earlier test runs. This enables continuous testing and accelerates bug discovery, saving a whole bunch of time for testers and developers!
Additionally, automated tests help find flaws that manual testing may miss. As a result, it gives quick information about software quality and saves costs by simultaneously identifying issues on various hardware and software platforms, reducing expenses for fixing them.
More than that!
Automated testing frees up time for more critical work, can drastically reduce workload and enhance knowledge sharing among team members, positively affecting employee motivation and product development.
Look serious, right?
Time to jump into the best test automation practices!
#1 Identify Stakeholders
Start your work by identifying stakeholders, so those who:
- want to have this particular test automation
- will implement it
- will be affected by the changes.
Therefore, you must understand their expectations and needs.
Explaining automation's benefits is a good idea, especially if someone hesitates or is unsure. Consider creating a presentation with graphs and numbers to demonstrate the advantages of automation more concretely. You can also show the return on investment by emphasizing the reduction in time it takes to execute regression testing and business-critical test cases faster.
Making sure that all of you are on the same page makes the next steps much easier.
#2 Build Test Automation Strategy
"Without a strategy, execution is aimless. Without execution, strategy is useless."
The following quote describes the essence of strategy management: it highlights the importance of both creating a strong strategy and executing it effectively. Strategy provides direction and helps prioritize activities to focus on what matters most and ensure everyone is working towards the same objectives.
How to create a good test automation strategy?
- Identify why you want to automate tests. This will help you define automation goals, including faster time to market, higher software quality, reduced manual testing, or transitioning from waterfall to agile development.
- Define your goals clearly, ensuring they align with business objectives.
- Consider the types of test automation you need. Using test pyramids can help improve testing results with minimal effort.
#3 Use Test Automation Pyramid
Have you ever heard about the agile test automation pyramid?
It shows the different types of tests and how often they should be used. The pyramid has three sections:
- Unit tests are the base of the automation pyramid. Programmers write it to verify small pieces of code, usually individual units or components.
- Integration tests check how code interacts with other external components like database or API. It may be done by programmers and software testers.
- E2E Tests are at the top of the testing pyramid. Mainly check the user path to ensure the application works correctly from start to finish. It is a domain of software testers.
Based on the above, you should invest the most in the unit and integration tests, reducing the number of E2E tests. Why? Because they are easier to write and faster in execution. Many things need to be done to create automated e2e tests, like writing code, reviewing, building the environment, running tests, analyzing results, and fixing bugs. It's time-consuming and costs more effort.
As you can see, the automation testing pyramid is vital for test design and helps developers get feedback quickly to avoid breaking features. However, the Testing Pyramid should be a guideline, not a hard rule.
#4 Choose the Best Test Cases to Automate
To succeed in test automation, you need a good plan focusing on automating suitable test cases. Best practices can help guide the decision-making process.
I know what you're thinking - better said than done!
To help you get started, I created a checklist that I use while making my test automation plan:
- Repetitive executed tests cases
- Test cases that are run frequently, such as regression tests
- Tests cases that include typical user paths
- Test cases that are stable and unlikely to change
- Smoke-level tests for crucial features
- High business value test cases
- Test cases that are complex or require multiple steps
Ok, we already know what to automate, but what about the other cases?
#5 Don't Automate Everything
Despite what automation suggests, only some things need to be automated. In other words, make sure to automate the right things. This mistake is made by testers who try to automate every test case word for word, even when they shouldn't.
Here are some examples that should not be automated:
- Test cases that are expected to be flaky, as they may not provide consistent results
- Test cases for features that are in the early stages and are expected to go through many changes
- Unlikely edge test cases
- Test cases for very rarely used features
Are you still with me?
Great! Let’s see how to prepare an environment for our automation!
#6 Prepare Test Data and Test Environment
One of the best practices I follow is to notice the environment and test data management in our test automation plan. For easier maintenance, I suggest storing test data in external files. Also, ensure that changes to this data do not affect the test code.
It doesn’t stop there -
Make the test environment stable and as close as possible to the production environment, especially regarding performance. Use containers to avoid residual effects on new tests and version control for identifying issues and rolling back changes.
One of the core principles is to keep the system under test clean. To do this, set the prerequisites for each test and clean up testing artifacts after the testing run is complete.
Time to choose the best test automation tool!
#7 Choose the Right Automated Testing Tool
But first - identify your project requirements and the issues you must solve.
These questions will help you decide which framework is best for your project:
- What platforms need testing? List all supported operating systems and browsers.
- What type of application requires testing? Is it a web, mobile, or desktop application, or all of these?
- In what programming language is your app written? This can help you find the best automation framework.
- Do you need cross-browser or cross-device testing?
- Are there any other essential requirements?
To make the optimal choice, consider the pros and cons of various automation tools available in the market. Focus on team skillset and consider the budget. Doing so will enable you to make an informed decision and select a tool that aligns with your business needs.
So, take the time to evaluate different options.
#8 Stick to Programming Principles
The truth is -
Writing automated test scripts is similar to software programming.. Your tests should be stable and reliable. That's why staying up-to-date with the programming design principles and practices is crucial.
Let me show you how to do it:
- Run multiple tests in parallel to improve testing speed and turnaround time.
- Start with simple tests before moving on to more complex ones to save time and resources.
- Avoid over-complicating your tests. Keep them simple and easy to maintain so that you can make changes and updates quickly and easily.
- Regularly check and update your test suite to prevent any unexpected issues from arising.
- Don’t repeat yourself. Reuse code and avoid duplication to make your tests more efficient and easier to maintain
- Use meaningful variable and method names
- Document your code with helpful comments
- Ask other testers or programmers to conduct thorough code reviews
- Choose selectors that are unlikely to change. Great examples are custom attributes specifically added for the purpose of automation.
#9 Run Automated Tests as a part of CI/CD
Continuous integration (CI) refers to frequently integrating code changes into a shared repository, which helps identify issues and conflicts early in development. Continuous delivery (CD), on the other hand, focuses on automating the software release process, allowing teams to deliver software products quickly and efficiently.
But how do they relate to automated testing?
The purpose of running automated tests as part of CI/CD practice is to get rapid feedback on the changes that you have just made. In other words, adopting a continuous integration and delivery pipeline will allow you to catch any issues early on and ensure your code is always relevant.
#10 Pick Metrics to Measure the Success of Automation
Whether you like it or not, this step is essential! And you will need much more than a one-size-fits-all solution.
To choose the right metrics, link them to your company's primary goals. For instance, if your goal is to deliver software on time, use metrics that track test progress against time delivery. Another example might be automated test coverage which compares the percentage of automated tests versus the total tests run.Your metrics should help you and your organization improve progress assessment and filter out ineffective solutions.
#11 Create documentation
Last but not least - documentation! Good documentation is priceless when it comes to keeping your team on the same page and identifying potential issues. While preparing documentation, note each step of your testing process, including relevant information about the system under test. Use simple, straightforward language, and consider using diagrams or other visual aids to help illustrate complex concepts or processes.
I know it's time-consuming, but it will pay off in the long run!
Now you can see that test automation is crucial in software development - it significantly improves efficiency and saves costs. However, to do it right requires a lot of effort.
What practices to follow to make sure successfully implement and run an automated testing plan?
- Explore your project well because it will make it easier to implement automation.
- Highlight the benefits of automation to all stakeholders.
- Ensure proper understanding and emphasize sharing information through statuses.
- Create clear and understandable reports.
- Look for tools that fit the project and avoid caving to current fashions and trends in testing.
- Familiarize yourself with different tools but choose the best for you.
- Find metrics showing whether you have achieved your objectives or if something needs improvement.
- Don't fear failure; keep trying even if the first iteration needs improvement.
Would you like to discuss this matter or share your thoughts? Contact me via LinkedIn!