To Automate or Not to Automate: The Framework to Continuous Testing Success
To Automate or Not to Automate: The Framework to Continuous Testing Success
A discussion of key challenges and benefits of adopting a CT methodology, focusing on test automation, where to automate, and testing frameworks.
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When it comes to continuous software delivery, one of the most important steps is testing. You should be able to constantly test existing software and new changes to make sure not only these changes are working as expected, but current functionalities remain intact. Talking about software having many functionalities means not having to conduct all tests manually, and instead, you can automate the majority of tests, thus increasing the speed and quality of your release process.
Once teams shift to automated testing, testing can become a repetitive process in which you’re constantly running various automated tests to ensure your application is working as expected. This is a process called continuous testing. In this article, we will discuss key challenges and benefits to adopting a continuous testing methodology with a primary focus on test automation, where to automate, and testing frameworks.
Let’s get started!
The Importance of Continuous Testing in the SDLC
Continuous testing accelerates software delivery by making the entire testing process faster. It also ensures teams deliver high quality and reliable applications through rapid feedback in the software delivery pipeline. Additionally, the ability to conduct efficient testing can then reduce testing costs significantly for your organization.
Continuous testing starts at the beginning of each project and continues until the application is delivered to production as a final product. This facilitates quick feedback that helps to identify bugs and other problems in an application faster and earlier. Not only does continuous testing save time for the delivery team, but it also creates a reliable software delivery pipeline in which developers can deliver changes fast with little risk of losing functionality or breaking changes in production.
There are plenty of tools out there to help adopt and implement continuous testing. Some of the most popular tools include Jenkins, Selenium, Appium, Katalon Studio, and Tosca. However, regardless of the tool you choose, it is crucial that you pick a tool that can integrate into existing Agile processes, CI/CD pipelines, and DevOps teams.
Benefits of Test Automation
As mentioned above, the key element of continuous testing is test automation. Test automation brings a lot of benefits to your software delivery, which include:
- Rapid feedback
- Accurate testing
- High test coverage
- Faster detection
- Reusable tests
- Shorter release and delivery time
- Better adapted for DevSecOps
- Saved time and money
Test Automation and ROI
Although test automation has a lot of benefits, it can be quite expensive in the beginning. Buying a new tool, training resources, and implementing automated tests take time and money. In the beginning, the ROI for automated testing is lower than manual testing, but once you are developing new features in your application, manual testing eventually becomes more expensive while automated testing becomes cheaper.
In the end, not everything should be automated — and not everything can be automated. So it is important to assess, research, and analyze your requirements carefully before deciding how to best implement test automation. Next, we will look at when to automate and when to not automate tests.
When to Automate Tests
To build a successful continuous delivery pipeline, making the right choice at the right time is crucial. Nearly every software team is working on a time-sensitive project, which means there is never enough time to apply every best practice. This can also apply to test strategy since testing is not always a high priority for software teams. Having said that, you should carefully consider this section and try to make the right choices based on your application type, time frame, testing tools, and resources.
Here are important test types for your team to consider automating:
This is a great place to start when first adopting test automation because unit tests only test a piece of code, with no dependency on other parts of the application. And the code is tested for its functionality. So it gives developers more visibility into the code functionalities. Due to modern testing culture, many teams are following the Test-Driven Development (TDD) methodology in which they start writing tests before writing code. In this way, both code and test quality are assured.
High Priority Features
If you have dozens of features and limited time, you can list features and prioritize them based on those with a high possibility of failure. Therefore, features with a higher possibility of failure can be automated earlier.
Regression and Integration Tests
Integration tests are used to determine if individual units in an application are working as a group, and regression tests ensure application functions are functioning as expected. These two tests are usually executed after an application is changed or improved, so testers are constantly running these tests. Having these tests automated saves a huge amount of time, giving time back to testers to execute other types of tests.
Performance and Load Tests
For performance and load tests, there is no alternative method via manual testing since you need to simulate hundreds or thousands of users with different conditions, often from different browsers, locations, and platforms.
Repetitive Test Cases
These are very important tests; that is why teams run them repeatedly as they have with login tests. For example, you do not want to lose login functionality since it is essential for application accessibility. Therefore, it is better to automate this test type and save testers’ and developers’ time.
Basic Smoke Tests
Unlike other tests, smoke tests are not as complicated and are relatively easy to implement. But don’t be fooled — getting these tests right is crucial. Smoke tests are the last hurdle, informing teams if the basic functionality of the application is working properly. These are used primarily when companies are delivering new functionalities and/or basic functionalities, such as:
- Checking whether the main page of the application is up or not.
- Are users able to log in? And are APIs accessible?
- Is the web application accessible from different locations?
When to Not Automate Tests
When learning about test automation, and the benefits available, one might wonder why not automate all tests. This is a little bit tricky — while the automation mindset is a must for developers and DevOps teams, several factors should be considered before planning to automate a test. Below, we will discuss example tests and scenarios of when to NOT automate your tests:
User Experience Tests
This aspect of application testing cannot be automated. Many aspects of UX design require manual, tedious rounds of testing. For example, if teams want to test how easily users can sign up to a website, or if they want to test whether various field compositions provide better visibility of users’ profiles, these tests would all need to be conducted manually.
Features in the Early Stages of Development
When a feature is still in the early stages of development, developers are constantly making changes to the code, and this can make it difficult to define a test. Therefore, it takes less time to test these features manually, so wait to start automating until you have a stable version.
Test automation costs time and effort, so not all features can be automated within the project’s time frame. Because of this, teams should prioritize features and automate the important ones earlier. And they might have some low-priority or small features that can be tested manually in the meantime.
Tests Without Foreseeable Results
When it comes to automation, teams need to know the expected result for each input. If they cannot find this for a test, it means automation will not provide the necessary proof that the feature is working. Therefore, this type of feature test cannot be automated.
Tests Cannot Be Automated in Full
If teams automate half of a test and the other half remained manual, this would create complexity and unnecessary overhead since such a test is time-consuming and reliability could be difficult. It might be more cost-effective to continue testing these features manually until they can automate them fully.
What Is an Automated Testing Framework?
In every software delivery team, the QA team is responsible for the design, implementation, and execution of tests. Therefore, for each test, there must be a predefined test case to establish guidelines, rules, and tools to conduct tests. A testing framework is a combination of these guidelines, tools, and practices, which helps test engineers accomplish test cases efficiently.
There are different frameworks for different testing goals. Let’s introduce some of the most popular types of automated testing frameworks:
- Modular-Based Testing Framework: The application is divided into separated modules and each module is tested in an isolated condition.
- Linear Automation Framework: Teams record what should be tested in order and then play back the test whenever it’s needed.
- Library Architecture Testing Framework: This framework is created on top of the modular-based testing framework — the only difference being that it contains reusable functions.
- Data-Driven Framework: Test engineers can define a data source for the tests and collect data from different sources like SQL, Excel, CSV, or any other format of data.
- Keyword-Driven Framework: In this framework, test keywords are separated from technical code stored in an Excel sheet or other type of data. And every keyword corresponds to a related object and action in the test.
- Hybrid Framework: A hybrid framework is a combination of different testing frameworks. In this way, teams can make use of different testing frameworks at the same time and increase the efficiency of automated testing.
The most common goal across all software teams is to have a faster software delivery in which you can hand over a quality and reliable product. In order to procure a fast, efficient delivery process, continuous testing must be implemented where possible.
Automation is the key to making sure software can quickly pass all gates and deliver features to clients. However, this does not mean teams should invest all of their time and resources on test automation. Teams must only automate what should be automated. Making the right choices surrounding tests in the early stages of development matters. Don’t forget: The goal is not achieving test automation; it’s about delivering reliable and quality software.
*Images by Raha Khademi
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