UI Test Automation – what’s possible and what is not

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The central reasons to automate any business task are speed and convenience.

Think of the consumers opting to get a dishwasher. They want to eliminate the drudgery of washing utensils and the time and the effort that consumes daily. A dishwasher helps to speed up the process, without taking much effort. That’s how automation is intended to work.

In just this way in product development, automating testing delivers acceleration and effort-saving.

Can UI tests be automated?

However, a debate about automating User Interface Testing has raged for a long. Given that the user interface relates to how a user feels while using a piece of software, the common belief is that this demands human validation. Of course, that is true. But it is also true that many mundane tasks related to testing a user interface can be automated.

UI is the front end of any application that a user interacts with on her screen. Every click on the UI is a touchpoint to be tested. UI testing is complex and involves many such touchpoints and workflows. This makes it challenging. Testing, obviously, ensures that no workflow in the UI journey ends up breaking. Since UI has this human appeal, testers believe that manual testing is more suitable to catch real-world issues users could encounter while using the application.

While many builders of products have been conditioned to the only plan for manual UI testing, there are definitely certain areas where you can turn to automation for UI tests.

The value is apparent. As applications become complex, the testing needs to grow, adding to the required time and effort. Often, repetitive tests remain untested, adding to the overall technical debt. Automated UI testing can help ensure that key customer workflows are always tested, no matter how big the application.

However, many UI test automation initiatives fail simply because there is no clear idea of ‘what to automate’? A critical decision is, what area under UI testing will be good candidates for automation?

Before you start with UI test automation

UI test automation can deliver excellent value. It empowers agile development because it enables better coverage and faster execution. It helps in simplifying your testing landscape. But before you decide to go for UI testing automation, here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Set clear expectations with your team while setting up the groundwork – because writing the code for automation scripts will take time. It would be good to involve your testing team in the groundwork, so they have a clear idea of what lies in store.
  • Identify the key scenarios that can be automated, for example, the elements or specific workflows to focus on.
  • Getting the right UI Automation testing tools is crucial. With the wrong tool, your team will end up wasting a lot of time adapting to system changes.

UI Test Cases that can be automated

Test cases that are in many in number or that have predictable outcomes are the ones that offer to become the ideal candidates for automation. To define the UI test scenarios that can be automated, you need to ask some critical questions:

  • Are these scenarios repeating often?
  • Does the test case involve multiple data sets?
  • Do the test cases deliver exact results?
  • Are these test cases time-consuming but easy to automate?
  • Are these scenarios least likely to change after any enhancements?

Business Scenarios that work with UI Test Automation

  • UI versions: Frequently changing UI versions make it difficult to automate testing and maintaining the scripts becomes a challenge.
  • Custom controls: Any crazy loop of UI elements will not cut it for automation.
  • Multiple error handling: Testing errors in complex scenarios may not be easy to automate.
  • Image comparison: Testing images in automation is not as easy as one needs to take care of factors like pixel variations in size, color, shape, and formats.
  • Corner cases: Automated tests stick to the script; they cannot test any corner cases that might appear suddenly.
  • Severe threat analytics: If the security issues are critical and need someone to work on the patterns and algorithms to fix them, it needs manual intervention.

There’s never been a serious argument about the ability of test automation to save time and effort in routine tasks. However, when it comes to UI testing the value has always been up for debate. Obviously, certain test scenarios will always need to be checked manually to ensure they deliver the right user experience. That said, it’s clear that automation has the potential to help create an impact in certain aspects of UI testing too.

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