A recent survey showed that almost 80% of organizations use automation testing for functional and regression testing. The market for automation testing is also projected to grow by over 15% in the next five years. So what is automation testing, and why is it so important?
As software is being developed, it's tested to ensure everything works properly and identify bugs, vulnerabilities, or other issues. Testing can be done manually (and it often is), but manual testing is repetitive and time-consuming. So, developers turn to automation testing.
Automation testing is both practical and cost-effective. As the name suggests, it involves automating the testing process and the management and application of test data and results to improve software.
Below, we'll take a closer look at automation testing, exploring topics like:
- The benefits of automation testing
- Criteria for automation testing
- Automation testing tools
- Types of automated tests
- Test automation process
- Careers in automation testing
The benefits of automation testing
- Cost. This report on automated testing shows that it can reduce hourly fees by more than 75%.
- Speed and accuracy. Automating testing, data collection, and data analysis provides actionable results quicker. Automated testing dramatically increases speed and accuracy compared with manual testing.
- Effectiveness. Automation testing allows for increased test coverage and earlier detection of bugs and vulnerabilities.
Criteria for automation testing
Given the benefits, how does one know when to automate the testing process? The following are some of the test types that should be automated:
- Tests that are repetitive and time-consuming.
- Tests that run for multiple builds.
- Tests that are vulnerable to human error.
- Tests of high-risk, frequently used functions within the software.
- Tests that can't be done manually.
- Tests that need to be run on multiple software or hardware configurations and platforms.
Setting up these automated tests requires careful planning, so production teams create an automation plan or strategy first. Different automated tests occur at various stages in the development process, so goals and milestones must be established early to avoid haphazard testing and redundancy.
Automated testing is commonly divided into small, manageable units with focused objectives. This makes it easier to update, edit, or augment tests.
Automation testing tools
Automation testing tools help development teams generate testing scripts that can be repeated automatically. There are several ways to generate automated test scripts.
With tools like UFT or Selenium, testers can generate a set of user actions and "record" them. Then, they can repeat (or "play") them back automatically. This allows testers to write code and perform simple tests quickly and easily.
On the other hand, these tests can't be reused. Their parameters are particular, so new tests need to be created every time the data changes.
Keyword/Data-Driven (independently or as a Hybrid)
With tools like Robot Framework, testers can also use keywords to specify user actions and provide data to generate a script to perform the tests automatically. These scripts can be reused, but these frameworks are a little more complicated than linear frameworks.
Types of automated tests
In general, there are two types of automated testing: functional and non-functional. Functional tests verify the software's performance in the real world.
Non-functional testing verifies software requirements like data storage and security. Some types of testing will fit into only one category, while others may overlap them both.
Now that you know the difference between functional and non-functional testing, let's explore some of the most popular types of automated tests.
This is one of the first types of tests done in the initial stages of software development. It's functional testing and refers to the testing of small, individual parts of the software. While unit testing can be done manually, some applications require automation.
Smoke tests are also functional, and they determine if a particular build is stable or not. They're also used to verify the functionality of the software's essential parts and establish whether it can endure further tests in the future.
Integration tests verify that the various parts of the software can function together as a whole.
This is one of the tests that overlap the two types, being both functional and non-functional. Regression tests ensure that no software component has regressed after changes have been implemented.
Security tests are both functional and non-functional. They look for vulnerabilities in security that can be maliciously exploited.
Non-functional performance tests evaluate how stable and responsive the software is. Think of it as a stress test for the software, ensuring a quality user experience.
Application programming interfaces (APIs) allow new software to interface with other systems so it can function. API tests are usually done at the end of development to ensure the software performs as it should.
Acceptance tests are functional, used to get feedback on how end-users will respond to the completed software.
This is one of the last tests performed. UI testing replicates a typical user's experience when using the software. It ensures that the final version performs as it should when users interact with it.
Test automation process
Generally, the test automation process follows these steps:
1. Select a testing tool
Different tools are available for various development platforms and technologies, so there are several factors to consider when choosing an automated testing tool. Here are a few examples:
- What language is the software written in, and what operating system(s) will it operate on?
- What are the testing requirements?
- How will the testing scripts be written?
- Will the team use open-source or paid testing tools?
- What existing infrastructure is already in place?
Many professionals recommend an automation proof of concept (POC) in choosing the right tool. This is a process used to verify to the team that the right tool has been chosen.
The choices made at this stage are often determined by the skill and experience of the quality assurance (QA) and testing team.
2. Define the scope of the automation
To define the scope of the automation, you'll need to know such things as what features are essential to the business, what scenarios will involve the processing of large amounts of data, what functions are common across various applications, and the complexity of the test cases.
3. Plan, design, and develop
Having selected a tool and defined the scope, the team can now create a plan or strategy and implement it. The tools, framework, and test types are integrated into a schedule or timeline so that production will continue according to the goals and milestones set by the development team.
In this context, a framework refers collectively to the concepts, environment, practices, procedures, and processes used in the automating of testing. The framework chosen is determined by the technique used for scripting the tests, whether linear, hybrid or structured.
4. Execute the test
In this stage, tests are performed according to the automation plan schedule. Data is generated and collected to be analyzed as feedback.
As the software evolves based on previous tests, new tests are added, performed, and maintained to improve the results of each successive release.
Careers in automation testing
Since automated testing is an essential part of software development, numerous careers include testing automation.
Programmers write or generate testing scripts, and Business Analysts collect and analyze data generated by tests. Automation Engineers may oversee or directly develop testing strategies and their execution, while DevOps Engineers coordinate and collaborate with all facets of development.