When, Why, & How to use Automated Testing: A Detailed Guide

Sushmitha S Das

Automated testing is the process of testing software products with testing tools and frameworks, reducing human intervention and maximizing quality. Automated testing allows modules or entire applications to be tested automatically. This ensures that repetitive tasks that are difficult to perform manually can be executed without errors.

However, the idea is not to replace manual testing entirely, but to aid developers and testers in reducing their burden and saving time by automating possible scenarios.

The automated testing process involves writing a test script that replicates the users’ actions. For instance, consider the task of finding a specific button and clicking it. The actual outcome is then compared with the expected outcome and generates detailed reports.

Benefits of automated testing

Automated testing helps to increase the efficiency, execution speed, and coverage of software testing. Here are some of the benefits of automated testing:

  • Quick feedback: Through automated testing, developers receive instant feedback that helps them to take immediate action and fix defects quickly.
  • Increased app quality: Automated testing helps expand the test coverage, which ensures better performance of the app and increased user satisfaction.
  • Scalability: Computer systems provide 24/7 operations which means that you can run more tests with the same resources than relying on manual testers. This transforms the scale at which the testing team operates.
  • Faster delivery: Automated testing speeds up the process and reduces overall testing effort by handling repetitive and time-consuming tasks. This can help integrate new features into the product and release them faster.
  • Streamlined releases: Using automated testing, you can continuously re-test apps during development, whenever a new code is pushed, or when a feature becomes stable. This makes the entire process more streamlined and efficient.
  • Lean quality assurance (QA) team: Automated testing reduces the manpower needed, which means companies can maintain a lean QA team size and allows the team to focus on more important tasks.

Why is testing essential for CI/CD pipeline?

Today, new software releases are delivered faster and in regular intervals than ever before. Companies now embrace models like Agile and DevOps to improve the efficiency and quality of their development process. Automated testing and test automation (we will discuss the difference between them in the next section) are critical components of the delivery process.

In the Continuous integration and continuous delivery (CI/CD) pipeline, the software is constantly in development and should always be ready for deployment. This entails continuous testing where automated tests are run against new code changes to verify they don’t break the features or introduce new bugs. Automated testing, thereby, ensures good speed and quality at every stage of development.

Test automation vs. automated testing

Automated testing and test automation are often used interchangeably. However, they are two different but related concepts in software development. Automated testing is about executing specific tests with the help of automation tools to reduce manual effort and reap other benefits we discussed in the previous section. Test automation, on the other hand, involves automating the process of tracking and managing different tests. Both automated testing and test automation are critical to continuous testing and the DevOps model.

Types of Automated Testing

There are many types of testing that can be performed manually or automatically. Broadly, they come under functional and non-functional tests. Functional tests deal with business requirements and corresponding functional specifications. Non-functional tests, on the contrary, are about the performance of the application in terms of (usability, accessibility, user interface experience, etc).

Here we look at a few types of testing that can be automated.

Unit testing

This is the first level of functional testing, where a module or all modules of an application are tested. Unit testing ensures that the individual components perform well.

Integration testing

Through integration testing, teams look for seamless interaction between dependent modules or interfaces in the form of commands and data exchange. These modules are tested as a single cluster.

Regression tests

The code is modified whenever code fixes are done, or any functionality is enhanced. Regression testing ensures that these code changes do not introduce new bugs in the code and that the previous functionality is intact.

Smoke tests

Smoke testing validates the stability of the mobile application and is performed on the initial software build. The objective here is to analyze the core functionality of the app.

Performance tests

It is used to measure the speed, stability, and effectiveness of the software application under a specified workload. Performance testing is conducted by subjecting the app to real-world conditions.

Test cases to automate

Repetitive/tedious:

As we already discussed, automated testing is used for repetitive and high-volume tasks that are difficult to perform manually. A test script ensures that the code runs automatically and error-free. High-volume batch testing overnight is an automation choice under this type.

Business critical:

By automating business critical and high-risk tasks, you can schedule them to run regularly and make sure the test is carried out consistently. Smoke tests and regression tests fall under this category.

Repeatable:

This involves tests that can/will be repeated regularly and saves time and effort for teams. For example, automating a test for a deprecated feature that is not in active development and may be removed in the future.

Determinant:

Automated testing is a suitable choice for tests that have determinant outcomes. This means the results should have clear predictable right or wrong outcomes that can be detected by a computer. Examples include stress and load testing that assess performance and stability under specific load conditions.

Case scenarios not to automate

Ad hoc tests

There are one-off tests that may not be relevant at all times but will be performed during a phase of the project. For instance, check a particular condition or a reported error. Such cases do not require automation and manual testing proves to be a better choice.

Continuously changing

There is little point in automating tests where the outcome changes frequently. Similarly, tests with unclear outcomes are also not a good option for automated testing.

Functionalities evolving

If a new feature is being developed, tests are run in parallel. With the features changing rapidly, investing in automated tests may not make sense.

Newly designed

Again, sometimes a newly designed product may not have a target audience or business model. With not enough criteria to test against, automated testing can cause unnecessary expense and effort.

How to automate tests

Define the scope of automation

This involves checking the feasibility of the automation process. A few things to consider are modules to be automated, the team size, ROI, and less complex test cases.

Selection of test tool

Depending on the project requirements and type of tests, a suitable tool and framework should be chosen. This includes questions such as do we have skilled resources to perform tasks, what technologies are used, and what budget constraints are.

Some of the popular automation tools are Selenium, Zephyr, QuickTest Professional (QTP), and Sikuli.

Test planning, design, and development

The creation of test procedures and standards, architecture design, and selection of framework come under this phase. Testing frameworks such as linear testing, keyword-driven testing, data-driven testing, and hybrid testing are used for automated testing.

Test execution

Once the custom test script is written and all prerequisites are ready, final execution takes place. You will check whether the scripts are running correctly or not. For instance, if the app runs on different browsers, you must ensure the test works on every web browser.

Maintenance

The last phase of the testing life cycle involves generating reports after tests. The outcomes are then evaluated to determine if additional testing is required and if test scripts can identify errors. The reports are documented for future reference.

Best practices for automated testing

-Test early and, as often

Identifying bugs early in the development stages makes it easier to fix them. Later on, it will require more effort and can waste time and money.

-Plan the process

Automate the right tests and put specifications on what the automation process will/will not do. Ensure well-written test cases are used and measure automation metrics to identify the success.

-Schedule testing

It’s a good idea to use automation tools that can schedule testing automatically whenever a new code is pushed or according to a defined schedule. This ensures that the code is constantly tested and maintains quality.

-Follow scripting standards

Standards should be followed while writing scripts for automation. This includes creating uniform scripts, adequate exception handling, and standardized user-defined messages.

-Setup alerts if a test fails

By doing so, you can decide if the current test run should be aborted or completed. If it’s a major bug, it’s best to abort and fix the bug.

-Reassess test plans

It is always a best practice to constantly assess test plans as the app develops or changes. Testing legacy features no longer part of apps is a waste in many ways.

How BTC can help

Automated testing has multiple benefits if done right. However, it also involves challenges such as high costs, personal data breaches, lack of regulatory compliance, and lack of skilled testers.

Partnering with a reputed IT service provider like Boston Technology Corporation (BTC), you can ensure robust, zero-defect applications. We help you mitigate technical risks, improve time-to-market, and prevent application failure.

BTC has unparalleled domain knowledge with over 17 years of experience in IT services, particularly automated testing services. Our dedicated testing CoE offers a broad spectrum of testing and QA services, such as functional, performance, acceptance, and API testing for mobile (iOS, Android) and cloud platforms. We ensure continuous investment in testing capabilities and collaborate with leading technology providers, including AWS, Google Cloud, Apple, and Azure.

To learn how we can help, contact us.

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