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This article provides tips for determining which tests work well with automation and whether to choose a coded or codeless test automation tool.

Test automation works well for many software applications. Automated tests and manual tests include details, scope and depth for a particular test. Each also can produce reliable positive and negative test scenarios. So why do so many software organizations abandon test automation due to a low ROI? Because they attempt to automate the wrong types of tests.

Most organizations start a test automation project without a strategic plan and simply try to automate everything to reduce costs and speed up test execution time. The problem is test automation does not work for all types of test scenarios. Many complex scenarios require manual testing. End-to-end or system regression tests require manual testing when scenarios are lengthy and highly integrated. Additionally, when the team needs a quick validation of critical functionality, the fastest way to an effective test is sometimes manual.

Automated test development depends on a solid strategy that starts with identifying suitable tests or test scenarios to automate. Automated tests work for a multitude of testing tasks and can provide coverage for difficult white-box testing scenarios.

This article provides tips for determining which tests work well with automation and whether to choose a coded or codeless test automation tool.

Why Invest in Automated Test Development?

Investing in automated test development provides extensive benefits and a positive ROI when it’s planned. Planning is time-consuming but it helps to avoid misunderstandings and makes sure everyone has the same objective and timeline.

Take the time to develop an automated test strategy before automated test development begins. Without a plan, the team becomes frustrated with the tools and the existing tests. Unplanned automated test development wastes valuable resource time by struggling with tools, tests and trying to munge the two together and still provide quality testing coverage.

Investing in automated test development provides several benefits including:

  • Efficient unit testing
  • Integrated unit tests that run each time code is merged
  • Performance and load testing
  • Base-level security testing
  • Smoke testing
  • Base-level regression testing

Investing in automated test development provides access to effectively extending the depth and breadth of software test coverage. Automated test development is effective for testing backend systems, APIs, performance and basic security. Many organizations skimp on testing for backend, performance and security because of the resource and time investment. However, if the tests are automated, then they can be run each build or before a release.

The more testing the better. With upfront test automation, fewer defects are found during regular QA test execution and regression testing. Automated tests will require maintenance but if you implement them for unit, performance, API and backend testing, they’ll find errors faster and earlier in the process where they can be corrected at a lower cost.

Should you invest in automated test development UI-level testing? That’s a challenging question to answer because it depends on the complexity and integration level of the application. The heavier an application integrates with other applications, databases or APIs, the more complicated full test automation is to develop. If you can break the application into functional modules or practice modular testing techniques, test automation in the UI is sustainable.

How to Prepare for a Positive Test Automation Experience

Successful test automation begins with a plan or strategy. Defining the approach is essential for long-term success and a positive ROI. The team must decide what type of automated test development to pursue. For example, are you only automating unit tests? Or are you starting with unit tests and moving sequentially down a checklist that may include performance, security, APIs and UI smoke testing?

Plan time to review the existing tests the team currently has for the types of tests you want to automate. Can you reuse them or should you develop automation from scratch? Depends on how the tests are structured. If the test verifies more than one or two objectives, then consider breaking them into smaller tests. There are two choices. If your existing manual tests are complex and verify multiple objectives, the best path forward is to create new tests that are smaller and verify only one or two related objectives.

The reason tests need to be simple and focused on two or fewer objectives is to make maintenance and troubleshooting efficient. The smaller the test, the easier it is to update or correct. When defects occur, it is also easier to find the problem in single objective tests than large, complex automated scripts.

What Types of Tests Work Well for Test Automation?

Automated testing works best for tests that are:

  • Repetitive functions that don’t change often
  • Not easily performed manually
  • Need to be tested on multiple hardware or software platforms or browsers
  • Performance and load validation
  • Calculations
  • Functions that require testing with large data sets
  • Documented exploratory workflows that are focused on a single function

Automated testing may not be the answer for:

  • Test suites that cover critical UI functions
  • Tests for complex customer workflows
  • User acceptance tests
  • Document exploratory workflows that involve large numbers of steps or integration
  • Tests for integrated functionality between applications

The lists above change depending on the application(s) being tested and the current test development. What tests you automate truly depends on the application and how you start automated test development. For example, if you’re starting to automate a smoke testing suite from scratch with scripters experienced in the application, then the process should be efficient. But, if you’re starting from scratch with scripters with little application experience, plan additional time.

Likewise, if you are planning to automate existing manual smoke or regression tests, the difficulty and success rate depend on the complexity and accuracy of the existing tests. If your existing tests are long, complex and out of date, it will require additional work and time to create test automation.

Stay focused on your automated test strategy and plan for slow but steady progress. It’ll be worth the investment in the long run. Finally, consider the tools you’ll use. The tool you select success relies heavily on who is creating the tests and their level of coding ability and understanding.

Selecting the Right Tool for Test Automation

Many development teams contain a variety of roles that may be participating in testing. If you have team members without a coding background, choose a codeless test automation tool. Codeless test automation tools are also referred to as no or low code tools. The intent is to enable all team members to participate in developing, executing and maintaining automated test scripts.

One advantage of using codeless test automation is removing the task from developers. Additionally, it allows team members to bring their experience into the test automation. For example, product managers may code tests with a greater focus on user workflows. Designers may create scripts more focused on verifying design elements. QA testers will create test scripts that prove acceptance criteria or requirements with a user focus. The more team members contribute, the greater the value of test coverage.

If the idea of non-developers creating test automation makes you cringe in fear, take heart. Most codeless automation tools contain editors to access the code behind the test. Developers can troubleshoot errors or add code to cover more complex test scenarios. The beauty of codeless test automation tools is their flexibility. The tools work for everyone within the team regardless of their technical or coding aptitude.

Test automation is well worth the investment in time, resources and tools. Granted, it takes time to plan, strategize, prioritize tests and train on a tool. Spend the time up front for the greatest reward. The less time spent duplicating work or redoing work, the better. In your test automation strategy, determine the type of tests you plan to automate. If you plan for full test automation, plan time to review existing tests and prioritize the order of automation development. Consider using a codeless test automation tool like Progress Telerik Test Studio and get the whole team involved.

About the Author

Amy Reichert

A QA test professional with 23+ years of QA testing experience within a variety of software development teams, Amy Reichert has extensive experience in QA process development & planning, team leadership/management, and QA project management.  She has worked on multiple types of software development methodologies including waterfall, agile, scrum, kanban and customized combinations. Amy enjoys continuing to improve her software testing craft by researching and writing on a variety of related topics. In her spare time, she enjoys gardening, cat management and the outdoors.


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