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The typical automated UI testing process consists of using software that simulates the usage of your application through its user interface.

In today’s digital world, your applications not only need to provide useful functionality, but they also need to work well. Modern applications consist of many moving parts, and the increasing complexity of building these systems leads to more potential points of failure. Testing your applications is a critical part of the software development lifecycle, ensuring everything works as your customers expect.

In most organizations, testers validate the functionality of an application manually through its user interface—clicking the same buttons and entering similar text that a typical user would. But this process is tedious, time-consuming and error-prone, increasing the chance of bugs slipping through the cracks. To improve the process, organizations should leverage automation to help with the testing process.

What is Automated Testing?

Automated testing is a process used during the software development lifecycle to verify the functionality of an application by running tests that don’t require manual intervention. Developers and testers create test scripts that go through parts of an application and define the expected behavior of a specific section or typical user scenario. These test scripts can detect if the current behavior of the system under test differs from the desired behavior. If it does discover any changes between current and expected behavior, the team can be alerted to verify if it’s an error in their application.

The primary goal of automated testing is to help developers and testers improve the speed and quality with which they can validate the working state of a software product. This testing method works exceptionally well in large and complex projects that typically require lots of resources to test since it can significantly reduce the time and cost needed to cover critical scenarios. Developers can receive quick feedback to fix issues early, and QA teams can focus on increasing their test coverage.

Applications that contain elaborate and complicated user interfaces are notoriously difficult to test manually. Thankfully, we have plenty of tools to help teams automate UI testing for all applications, from websites to mobile apps to traditional desktop software. Taking advantage of test automation will help you detect and fix problems before landing in your customer’s hands.

How Does Automated UI Testing Work?

The typical automated UI testing process consists of using software that simulates the usage of your application through its user interface. Instead of a human opening your application and verifying that its functionality works as expected, automated testing tools can run through the same exercise without manual intervention, resulting in a more reliable testing approach.

When beginning the process of automated UI testing, you’ll first choose a tool that will serve your purpose. After that, you’ll start to create test scripts. A test script tells your automated testing tool of choice what actions it should perform and what should occur throughout the test. Depending on the tool you use, creating a test script can be as easy as going through your application and recording each step along the way or as advanced as writing code using a programming language like Python or Java.

After creating your test scripts, you can execute them using the testing tool you chose to use for your automated UI testing. The tool will run through all of the defined steps in the test script on your application, imitating the actions you specified as if someone were performing each one manually. It will also gather details on each test scenario for you to analyze after its completion.

After running your test, the automated testing tool will validate if the expectations you defined in your test script match the result that occurred while executing each step. If the expected results from the test script match the actual result in the application under test, congratulations—your test passed! If there’s a difference between the expected and actual results, the testing tool will let you know about it so you can investigate if something isn’t working as intended.

The entire process of creating a test script, executing it and validating the results may seem like it will consume a lot of your team’s time. While some upfront costs are involved in getting test automation set up, the long-term benefits of automated UI testing will far outweigh them.

Benefits of Automated UI Testing

Establishing a stable and robust automated UI testing process can yield tons of benefits to your entire organization. These are a handful of the benefits you can expect when you begin automating these tests.

Consistent and Accurate Test Runs

Performing UI testing manually introduces plenty of risk in the process. These tests are often tedious and repetitive, leading to tired, unfocused testers. Sometimes, testers cut corners and miss critical areas that require test coverage. Also, not everyone might understand what to test or how to test your application appropriately, resulting in inconsistent test runs.

With automated UI testing, you don’t have to worry about this. Once you write a test script, it’ll run the same way every time. If your application changes in a way you don’t expect, your test script can immediately alert the team that something may have broken the app’s functionality. Automation drastically reduces the risk of human error or inconsistencies in testing.

Improved Speed and Efficiency Across the Board

One of the primary reasons for automating UI testing is to make your test cycles significantly faster. An automated UI testing tool can go through a long set of actions at a fraction of the time it will take a tester to do manually. In addition, most automated testing tools can execute your test scripts in parallel, running multiple scenarios simultaneously without human intervention.

It might sound like it’s too good to be true, but I’ve experienced these benefits again and again. For example, I worked with a team with no automated UI tests for a complex web application, and they struggled with regression testing. It took the team over one week to perform a full regression test during their development cycle. After helping them automate most of their test scenarios, we reduced that testing time to two hours—a 95% reduction.

Reduced Operational Costs and Improved Allotment of Resources

Another reason organizations automate their UI tests is to keep costs down and ensure their team is free to work on the right things for the business. Automated UI tests can free up your team to do higher-value work. Also, these tests catch potential issues early, making them quicker and cheaper for engineers to fix—one of the highest costs for any company that builds software. As a bonus, organizations will likely deal with fewer customer support requests due to the high quality of your applications.

Returning to the previous example, the team struggling with regression testing needed three dedicated manual testers to complete the process. The customer support team had to deal with increasing complaints, while engineers often had to get pulled away from their tasks to fix urgent bugs. After automating the bulk of their UI tests, they only needed one tester to do exploratory testing. Customer support requests dropped by 45%. Engineers spent more time working on new functionality. It was a win for everyone involved.

Increased Retention and Happier Customers

An often-forgotten benefit of automating UI tests is that it will inevitably lead to happier customers using your applications, and more delighted customers will stick around. The reason is simple: When you have a well-tested application that works great, it dramatically enhances the user experience, making your customers likely to continue using your service. They’ll also gush about you and your company, recommending your product to others and boosting your reputation and reach.

Plenty of research shows that low-performing or buggy software leads to customer abandonment. For instance, a study by Compuware in 2013 reported that 79 percent of people surveyed would retry using a mobile app again if it didn’t work the first time, and dropped to 16 percent if it happened more than twice. You’re potentially leaving tons of money on the table if you’re not leveraging automated UI testing in your workflow.

Automated UI Testing Tools

Whether you’re developing a complex website, a mobile app, or traditional desktop software, there are plenty of solutions to build and run automated UI tests. Below, you’ll find some of the most commonly-used tools across the industry.

  • Selenium: Selenium is a well-known free, open-source tool used for automated browser testing supporting multiple programming languages and integrations with various frameworks.
  • TestCafe: TestCafe is a JavaScript-based testing tool focused on ease of use, along with providing increased reliability thanks to its automatic page-waiting mechanism.
  • Appium: Appium is an open-source tool focused on testing mobile apps, supporting iOS and Android platforms running native or hybrid applications.
  • WinAppDriver: If you need to test Windows desktop software, WinAppDriver is a free, open-source tool for running automated UI tests for Windows applications.
  • Telerik Test Studio: For teams developing software on multiple platforms, Telerik Test Studio supports automated UI testing for web, desktop and mobile applications.

These tools are just a tiny sample of the automated UI testing tools available for small and large teams. There are tons of options at your disposal, each with unique features and functionality. Before automating your tests, you’ll need to do some initial research to ensure you have the right testing tool. Take the time to explore some options, and you’ll find what you need for your current situation and make your automated UI testing journey as successful as possible.

Summary: Stay Ahead of the Curve with Automated UI Testing

Most modern software applications are complex, consisting of multiple interfaces, components and functionality. It’s becoming more and more challenging and time-consuming to have testers manually go through each area to verify everything works as intended. Automated UI testing can alleviate this issue by helping teams automate the steps needed to validate most of your application’s functionality. Whether updating a web application or submitting your latest creation to a mobile app store, you have various tools available for automated UI testing.

Beginning with automated UI testing involves selecting a testing tool, creating test scripts to execute the steps you want to perform and validating the expected results.

The process has some upfront costs, but the long-term benefits are worth the effort. Your testing will become consistent, faster, and more efficient. Your organization will also save lots of money, use existing resources better, and discover that your customers will stick around longer thanks to a high-quality product.

Keep your customers happy and stay ahead of the curve by implementing a reliable test automation process that includes automated UI tests.

Try Test Studio

Telerik Test Studio is a robust test recording tool for web and desktop applications. Test Studio goes beyond simple test recording by offering API, performance and load testing capabilities. It also provides plenty of useful functionality for the long-term maintainability of your tests, like an element repository to keep track of elements used by your tests.

Try Test Studio for Free

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About the Author

Dennis Martinez

Dennis Martinez is a freelance automation tester and DevOps engineer living in Osaka, Japan. He has over 19 years of professional experience working at startups in New York City, San Francisco, and Tokyo. Dennis also maintains Dev Tester, writing about automated testing and test automation to help you become a better tester. You can also find him on LinkedIn and his website.

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