Your team has just finished developing a mobile app and is ready to take it to market. You’re confident that your product reaches the highest usability, functionality, security, and performance standards. There’s no need for testing, right? Not quite. Software testing is a necessary step to ensure the quality and security of your products.
There are two kinds of testing: manual and automated. Manual testing involves a team running tests to catch any errors, while automated testing uses algorithms. With the increase in the scale and scope of testing in DevOps, the need for automated testing is greater than ever.
In this complete guide to automated testing, we’ll go over:
- What is test automation?
- How is test automation changing the world?
- Limitations of automated testing
- Benefits of automated testing
- 3 levels of the testing process
- What tests should be automated?
- What are the types of automated testing?
- What are examples of automated testing?
- How do you perform an automated test?
- Why is the human touch still crucial in QA?
- 3 tips for better QA in an automated world
What is test automation?
Automated testing is the practice of running tests automatically. They are used to execute test scripts on a software application. The tests are carried out using testing software which frees up time and resources during the testing process. This allows you to test software quality more efficiently and at a lower cost.
QA professionals have started to use automated testing because it allows them to:
- Create a set of tests they can reuse again and again.
- Deploy tests 24/7 and speed up product launches.
- Reduce cost by debugging and catching problems early on.
- Ensure test coverage throughout development.
How is test automation changing the world?
Automation is advancing at a rapid pace, not only in QA testing but in daily life. From voice tech to self-driving cars, the technology we use is becoming increasingly automated to make our lives simpler.
Automated testing is continuing to improve the quality of QA testing and is a huge time saver versus manual testing in the right situations. As it stands, writing test cases requires ongoing human intervention. And to yield the best results, test cases must be an ongoing collaboration between developers and testers (in-house and externally).
"The pace of progress is remarkable… Robots will be able to do everything better than us."
Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla Inc. and SpaceX
Regardless of the product or service, the key advantages of automation can be summed up by the following:
- increased output
- increased speed
- improved quality
- reduced costs
But how does automation translate to the world of software testing? Click here to learn how to implement test automation for the first time.
Limitations of automated testing
As it stands, carrying out 100% automated testing is very difficult. By nature, automated tests are limited to the test cases that are written for them. They aren’t able to test any bugs outside of this scope.
A self-checkout machine in a supermarket can be a time efficiency. But when it needs a human to step in and make a decision for it, e.g., to ascertain whether a customer is over the legal drinking age, it loses one of its main benefits.
Added to this, the implementation and ongoing maintenance of automation require a significant investment of time and money.
A common misconception of automation is that it eliminates the human element completely. But who writes the test cases or scripts? Automated testing requires human input to function. This is why any software testing strategy should take an integrated approach.
In-house developers and testers don't always create the best test cases. This is even more true for less common areas of an application that are harder to automate—for example, having a tester interact personally with an application in the geographical location in which you want to test.
The same goes for test cases that are run multiple times. New bugs can be introduced into your application after each product enhancement or fix. Test cases in automation become ineffective without ongoing human input.
Benefits of automated testing
While there are undoubtedly some limitations to automated testing, there’s no doubt that it’s becoming a necessity. Also, with the progression of AI, the power and scope of automated testing tools are growing exponentially. With the development of testing technology, the benefits of automation will continue to be critical advantages in quality assurance.
Automated software testing will save your business money, resources, and time during the quality assurance process. While you’ll likely do some manual testing, too, your QA engineers will have the time to work on other projects. This will reduce the overall cost of software development.
Run Tests Simultaneously
Because automated testing requires little to no human input once it’s started, you can run many tests at once. This also gives you the opportunity to make detailed comparative reports in less time with the same parameters.
Faster feedback cycle
With manual tests, it can be a time-consuming process for testers to get back to your DevOps department with feedback. Using test automation tools, you can execute faster validation during the development of your software. By testing early on, you increase your team’s efficiency.
Faster time to market
The time you save with continuous testing during development means that you’ll be able to launch your product sooner. Automation testing tools can also get test results faster, expediting final software validation.
Better test coverage
With a good automation strategy, you can increase your test coverage to ensure the quality of more features in your application. Because the testing process is automated, it frees up your automation engineers to write more tests and make them more in-depth.
Automation tests not only tell you when a test fails but also show you insights into the application. It can demonstrate file contents, data tables, and memory contents. This will help your developers pinpoint what went wrong.
To err is human, and with manual testing, there’s always the risk of human error. With automation, the execution of tests will be accurate almost all the time. Of course, test scripting is carried out by humans, which means that there’s still some chance of errors. But these errors should disappear the longer you reuse tests.
Less stress on your QA team
Using an automated testing strategy takes a lot of pressure off your quality assurance team. Once you eradicate the time-consuming task of manual testing, you allow them to build tools to optimize your testing suite further. This makes them more engaged with their job and takes the stress and monotony out of their day-to-day activities.
3 levels of the testing process
The first level of testing is called Unit Testing. This test is completed to check whether the individual modules of the source code are functioning correctly—like when a manufacturer examines the parts of a car before the entire vehicle is assembled.
The second level of the process is Integration Testing. This checks the connectivity or data transfer between the already tested modules. The different types of integration testing include big bang, top-down, and bottom-up. Your chosen method will depend on your desired workflow.
Level three of the testing process involves System or End-to-end Testing. This step tests your fully integrated application to ensure the software works in all intended target systems. During end-to-end tests, you must verify that every input in the application has the desired output to test the application’s user experience.
What tests should be automated?
While automation can be employed throughout the testing process, White Box Testing, like Unit Testing, should take priority. While it can also be used in Black Box Testing, the tests completed in White Box testing feature complex scenarios that require a lot of data or an established environment setup. Because Black Box Testing focuses on user experience, it should be the last process you automate. We’ll explain these two types of testing below.
What are the types of automated testing?
Software testing can be placed into two major categories: Black Box and White Box Testing. The two boil down to differences in test environment. Depending on what test data you’d like to execute, you’ll use a different strategy.
The key difference to remember is that Black Box Testing carries out the process without a knowledge of the program’s internal structure. By contrast, in White Box Testing, the internal structure is known to the tester.
Consider how the two types of tests are used in automated testing:
Black Box Testing
As we’ve established, Black Box Testing is done without the knowledge of the internal structure of the application. This tests the program from the point of view of the user. It aims to discover how the system responds to expected and unexpected user actions, its response time, reliability, and usability issues.
In terms of automation, it’s more challenging to automate Black Box tests. However, it’s still possible to automate this process. You must implement a record and learn approach. You need to record an action and create a test that you can reuse regularly.
Think of Black Box Testing as a way to step out of your developer’s shoes and into the user’s. It allows you and your automated tests to test the user experience by using a wide range of inputs.
White Box Testing
White Box Testing is the easiest way to use automation during QA testing. The software knows the program’s internal structure and works to verify the internal functioning of the system. Testing is based on coverage of conditions, paths, code statements, and branches.
White Box Testing is most useful for unit and integration testing. This is because the main objective of White Box Testing is to verify the quality of the code. To write tests for this type of testing, you need to understand the program well to ensure complete coverage of the program logic.
With White Box Testing, you’re not experiencing the software as the user but evaluating it based solely on the way it works as a piece of computing code. In this test, you put yourself inside the software and look at how the code is interacting within and between lines.
What are examples of automated testing?
If you were unfamiliar with the broad categories of White and Black Box Testing, you might be more accustomed to hearing about specific examples of software testing. Good app testing frameworks incorporate most (if not all) of these examples. Whether you’re developing a mobile or web application, each of these has a place in your methodology.
If the individual parts of your code won't work, you have no chance of them working within your final product. It doesn’t matter if you’re using Python or Java; you need to find out if the individual parts of your code work. Unit testing takes a deep dive into the smallest piece of code that can be isolated in a system. If you’re looking at the units in most programming languages, it’s a function, method, property, or subroutine.
The unit can be a line of code, a method, or a class. However, the smaller the amount of code under testing, the more granular the view you’ll receive of your product. With automation, it’s easy to run small amounts of code in large volumes, as it requires no human input.
To carry out Unit Tests, the tester requires an awareness of the program’s internal structure, making it a type of White Box Test. The best part of Unit Testing is that it can be executed throughout the software development process. This provides you with a continuous delivery of feedback that will expedite the development process, sending products to market sooner.
Now that all the individual parts work, you need to see if your system functions based on your requirements and specifications. Functional Testing ensures that your application operates as it’s meant to based on specifications and requirements.
Functional testing employs Black Box Testing techniques, so is executed without the tester’s knowledge of the internal system logic. It examines the user interface, APIs, database, security, and other functionalities. These software tests function by providing input and verifying that the correct output is produced.
While it’s harder to automate Black Box Testing, there are automation solutions available to you. For example, Selenium IDE (Integrated Development Environment) and Appium are popular open-source functional testing tools. Selenium provides you with a Graphical User Interface (GUI), so you can easily record your interactions. Appium is great for Functional Testing mobile apps and can even be integrated with Selenium.
As you go through the testing process, you will be changing the code or program. This means that a good testing methodology incorporates regression tests within their test automation framework. Regression tests are also an essential aspect of Continuous integration (CI)—a development practice where your team integrates code into a shared repository frequently.
Regression tests are used to confirm that a recent change to the system has not affected existing features. To do these tests, you take existing relevant test cases from the test suite that covers the modified and affected parts of the code. You must complete regression testing whenever you alter, modify, or update any part of your code.
Have you ever updated a piece of software or mobile application and seen this introduce bugs into the system? At best, it may make a feature unavailable or slow down the application; at its worst, it causes the application to crash. You may have even experienced such a bad update that you had to delete the application entirely. You want to avoid that with your own product by utilizing these tests fully.
Do you know how much stress your application can handle? This is a vital piece of information to arm yourself with before you put it in the hands of your user. Load tests are non-functional software tests where your software is tested under a specified load. It will show you how the software behaves while being put under the stress of multiple users.
When you do load testing, your goal is to remove or improve performance bottlenecks. You’re also checking the stability and maximum operating capacity of your product. It verifies that the current infrastructure of the software is sufficient to run the application.
We’ve all visited a website to see the message that it’s experiencing high traffic and been frustrated when the hope raised by loading the home page successfully is then crushed by delayed load times when we try to access the site’s features. Instead of experiencing further frustration, we close the tab and abandon our efforts. You don’t want this to happen with your application. Load testing will make sure it can handle the high traffic you hope for.
Performance Testing evaluates the stability, responsiveness, and speed of your application. You’ll never know how your product can perform under a wide range of conditions unless it undergoes some form of performance test.
If you don’t test for performance, your software may have slow response times or user experiences inconsistent with the operating system. But how do you evaluate app performance? You can do this by using performance metrics or key performance indicators to guide your automation testing framework. Some of these include:
- Memory: The storage space available.
- Response time: The amount of time between the request and the output.
- Bandwidth: The volume of data per second that can be moved between workflows or across a network.
- Throughput: The number of units that a system can process over a specified timeframe.
How do you perform an automated test?
Now that you know what automated testing is, its benefits, and the types and examples of the tests you can perform, let’s look at how you should go about executing them. This section will consider the software testing life cycle and provide you with a step-by-step tutorial of the process and automation best practices.
7 steps for performing an automated test
- Establish a test automation plan: You need a solid strategy for effective test management. Your teams should define the scope of automation and determine testing priorities.
- Choose an automated testing approach: Test automation roll-out must be a well-defined process. Choosing a framework creates the foundation to build test cases that are maintainable and robust.
- Acquire a testing tool: Take the time to look for the best tool for your product. For example, you’d most likely use a different tool to test web services than you would to develop a mobile app.
- Set up an automation environment: This is where you check your testing environment and acquire your automation tools. You need a stable testing environment to perform successful test automation.
- Design automated tests: Once you’re equipped with your tools, strategy, and the environment, it’s time to get to writing. You should write your tests while you’re developing the product so you can have a positive workflow.
- Execute test automation: You’re now prepared to execute your tests. Use a pipeline orchestrator or scheduling tool so you can parallelize your test cases that require no interdependency.
- Results, Analysis, and Reusability: In this final test, you should analyze failed tests and fix any problems. You should examine the outcomes and usability of the test cases to evaluate their reusability.
7 test automation best practices
- Automate the most frequent, easy to automate, and predictable test cases: It’s impossible to automate everything, so choose the test cases best suited for automation. Start with the tests requiring conditional actions that you’ll perform the most.
- Divide tasks based on skill: Put the aces in their places: Assign testing suites and cases to individuals or teams based on their technical expertise.
- Test on real devices: Make sure you’re testing on real devices and browsers. From desktop to Android or iOS, you need to make sure your products work for your users no matter the device they use.
- Keep good records: It’s vital to keep records of failures for better debugging. Keep text logs, video logs, and screenshots to keep track of the step at which the error occurred.
- Use data-driven tests: Once you have multiple data points that need to be analyzed, you need to automate. Using data-driven tests allows you to boil down large amounts of data into a single test and data set.
- Complete early and frequent testing: Use a continuous integration strategy throughout the development process. Run tests as often as required to detect bugs early and resolve them immediately.
- Collective ownership of tests: Don’t use a single tester for your automation testing process. Involve the development team, testing team, and QA engineers to ensure all the people working on the project can contribute in a meaningful and efficient way.
Why is the human touch still crucial in QA?
Remember your school days? After checking your essay multiple times, why would a friend spot a glaring mistake that you didn't? Your friend simply didn’t have the emotional attachment to the essay that you did, having written it. Your friend brought a different perspective, which often brings better results.
Manual testers inspire creativity and complement the testing phase by giving developers new ideas. They serve as a fresh pair of eyes when developers need quick, critical input. Manual testing provides a much-needed sanity check on real mobile devices that vary so widely.
In the wider context of QA testing, it’s very difficult to rely on 100% automated testing. Manual testing is better at finding end-user bugs that automation, via predefined test cases, often miss.
Exploratory testing adds a different perspective to the process. This is where testers explore an application to ensure it’s working as it should. They use their own experience to find real-world bugs from the end-user perspective. By testing the application like this, testers are more likely to find bugs that customers might encounter.
Finding unique bugs is a skill that requires a certain mindset and motivation. Professional testers want to find bugs; it’s their specialism. Crowdsourced testers have two key focuses with each test cycle—Quality and time. They have the added motivation of being paid per bug they find, but they’re also held accountable for the quality of the bug reports they deliver.
3 tips for better QA in an automated world
1. Humans are still needed
As our world becomes more automated, so does testing. Yet, as elsewhere in life, you only get out what you put in with automated testing. If your testing is becoming increasingly automated, don’t forget it still needs human input to be successful.
Automate where you can, but still complete manual testing. Things like exploratory testing and functional testing will ensure that you still have an excellent user experience. Having your team involved in the testing process will also lead to a more in-depth knowledge of the product and its progress.
2. You need outsiders
Developers and in-house testers are so invested in the application that sometimes bugs get missed. This is no one's fault—it’s inevitable. Testing requires an outsider who has little or no emotional attachment to the application to offer a fresh pair of eyes. External testers can provide a much-needed sanity check.
Using external testers can also be cost-effective and efficient. You get to tap into people who are already experts in the best practices and technology to perform testing that provides excellent coverage. It can also be an important part of an agile testing methodology. This methodology allows your DevOps team to focus on development while your testing team works simultaneously to provide ongoing feedback.
3. Try crowdsourced testing
Utilizing a large, diverse community of professional testers can complement your in-house testing. Automation is a great time saver for certain testing but finding the subtle, unique bugs is what crowdsourced testing does best.
Professional testers explore the application as they see fit from a user perspective. More extensive test coverage means more high-priority bugs are found with a fast turnaround of 48 hours, or even under an hour, for test case execution.
Automation testing is a crucial component of application development. While manual testing is still a critical component, your team will save time, money, and resources by using automation wherever they can. You will have a more positive and efficient feedback cycle, better test coverage, and more, which will contribute to getting your product to market on time and under budget.
You may be wondering, where do I start? If your team lacks the expertise, remember, you can always outsource your software testing. Here at Global App Testing, we have testers from all over the world ready to provide you with a comprehensive solution that includes both manual and automated testing.
As QA professionals, you are responsible for ensuring that your products go to market with an excellent user experience. Take some of the pressure off by automating. As tech improves, we’ll see better results and faster product launches, so make sure your team is using the tools that make their jobs the easiest.