Your Complete Guide to Automation Testing for IT teams

David Campbell Developer Tips, Tricks & Resources

Software development is a series of trial and error. It takes a conscientious effort and a large amount of time to create a product that meets technical specifications and user requirements. That is why repeated software testing is a significant part of the process, as it allows developers to take notes and improve the product each time.

Catching software issues early on can save a company a lot of time and money. However, as development projects become more complex and time-sensitive, manual testing may not cut it. As a result, more companies turn to automated testing to ensure better consistency within a manageable timeframe.

That said, what exactly is automation testing? Moreover, why is it important? Keep reading this guide to learn everything you ought to know about automation testing.

What is automation testing, and why is it important?

Software testing ensures that the application executes the intended functionality and behaves within acceptable parameters. Automation testing is a technique that uses special automation tools for software testing. These tools are added to the software development flow to conduct tests on simple scripts, detailed data sets, or complex behavioral simulations.

Time is money, and saving time is ultimately the biggest advantage automation testing has compared to manual testing in software development. A report by Puppet found that teams who integrate testing in the development process spend 22% less time on unplanned work and rework. While manual testing should still be part of the equation, automation testing can yield a lot of benefits and value for a business:

  • Accuracy – Automated testing eliminates some of the manual interaction needed from human testers, reducing the possibility of human errors that can lengthen the developing process.
  • Scope – It’s possible to run more automated tests faster than you could run manual tests, which normally reduces development time and cost.
  • Reusability – The results from automation testing script, data, and workflow can be valuable references for future software projects.

Automation testing also has advanced logging and reporting capabilities. The reports are delivered to the developer for review and automation testing reports are more comprehensive than manual reports, which allows for maximum bug detection.

How to set up automation testing for your team?

Transitioning from manual tests to automated ones can be quite complex and overwhelming, but your business can reap many benefits when software testing is done intelligently. As a foundation, it’s good to familiarize yourself with the basics of automating IT infrastructure. From there, your IT team can start their journey towards better software quality with this complete guide to automation testing.

1. Identify the test cases

Not all test cases can be automated. That’s why you must determine which cases should and shouldn’t be automated. Luckily, you don’t have to start from scratch. There are pre-existing factors you can check when determining the automation potential of a case.

Since automation enables faster and larger testing, the best test cases to automate are the ones that run frequently and require large amounts of data. Aside from these characteristics, here are some questions you should ask yourself when deciding which cases to automate:

  • Is the test case prone to human errors?
  • Does the test case require multiple data sets?
  • Is the functionality of the test case frequently used and does it have high-risk conditions?
  • Will it be impossible or inefficient to test the case manually? 
  • Does it have several different hardware or software platforms and configurations?

If you’ve answered yes to any of these questions, then these test cases should definitely be automated. However, the test case should not be in the early stages of development.

It’s likely that new cases or apps will still be subjected to frequent changes and are, therefore, poor investments of time when automated. The case should have existing modules that have been tested manually. 

Various types of automated testing can be performed simultaneously or in progression—for example, regression tests, unit tests, and smoke tests, among others. Once you’ve determined the cases to be automated, you can plot what type of testing they should undergo.

2. Select the right testing tools

According to a report by PractiTest, 47% of testers use tools for testing or quality assurance. The goal of every software testing tool is to accelerate the testing process. But not all of them are the same. Each tool has different functionalities and specializations, so you should select them according to your software requirements.

Choosing the right testing tools requires careful research and evaluation. In selecting your testing tool, you first have to identify your purpose. For instance, if you’re looking to identify bottlenecks, then Netreo Retrace is the tool for you. Retrace can help you monitor everything about your applications and servers in just one place.

Note, too, that some stand-alone tools can perform specific tests. Some can perform multiple tests and are dubbed as all-in-one testing tools. Before you choose your tool or tools, determine if they suit your current development framework of operation systems and application languages and if they are compatible with other tools.

Test the selected tools through free trials. Although the functionality of the tools in free trials is limited, you should be able to gauge how it supports your platforms and technology. Make sure the testing tools are flexible and easy to use.

3. Assign the work

Testing takes a lot of skilled, repetitive work, and tests are usually based on developer skill levels. To fully optimize the power of automation testing, you should assess each team member’s level of experience and skill. While some automated testing tools are flexible to testers of all skill levels, it’s important to divide the testing efforts accordingly.

Some team members may have expert knowledge in scripting languages or writing test cases. Fully utilizing these skill sets can work wonders for your automation testing. Proper collaboration and constant communication are necessary for accomplishing projects. You can use Gmail extensions to improve your Gmail’s functionality and keep track of each team member’s tasks.

However, if your team members are manual testers turned automation experts, they should be properly trained with the terminologies and concepts.

There are two kinds of automation experts: automation architects and engineers. Automation architects analyze applications and technologies to select the perfect automation tool, help develop the overall automation framework and create rules for scripting. Automation engineers, on the other hand, are in charge of creating and developing scripts, turning manual test cases into automated scripts.

4. Create quality test data

Data is the currency of automation software testing. Creating quality data is a time-consuming process. A study by IBM found that searching, managing, maintaining, and generating test data encompasses 30%-60% of the tester’s time. However, the data is useful as it makes writing automated tests easier.

Test data is the information used as input to perform the tests that identify and locate defects. The test data can be system test data, SQL test data, performance test data, or XML test data. Testers can create data according to the needs of the project. You can use database software to help manage this data.

It would be best to have a systematic approach to collecting data while executing test cases. Without it, some important test data may be lost. Creating your test data can help you cater to project requirements and functionality, but you may also use readily available standard production data. Just make sure to incorporate your datasets each time you get the same module for testing.

5. Make sure the test is resistant to UI changes

Automated tests with scripts are highly dependent on the application being tested. In between builds, the user interface of these applications may be subject to changes that may affect test results or become incompatible with future versions of the app altogether.

Problems arise because testing tools often rely on specific properties like location coordinates to identify and find an object. Once the location has changed, the automation testing tool will fail to find the object. When this happens, you may need to replace the names of the entire project to be able to conduct tests against the application’s newer versions. That can be a tedious process that will only make you lose more time and revenue.

Your test cases should be resistant to user interface changes to prevent this from happening. You can do this by providing unique names for your controls, which ensures that the tests will work without having to make changes. By doing this, your automated testing tool will no longer rely on location coordinates to find controls.

Manual testing or automation testing?

Many tech trends predict that automation testing will replace manual testing altogether. As efficient as automation testing is, manual testing is still an essential part of the testing process. Certain types of test cases cannot be automated and still need the attention of QA testers.

The main purpose of automation is to ease the tester’s workload by handling repetitive and large-scale test cases. That is done to give room for manual testers to craft more test scenarios. While automation may be more efficient, it is not automatic per se. The test scripts and workflow needed for automation are all concocted by developers.

In addition, automation software is costly and may not be justifiable for small projects. Compared to automation software that needs time to set up, manual testers can get small projects done faster and at a much lower cost.

Manual testing also brings a user perspective to the table, making the project more customer focused. That’s why automation and manual testing should work together in varying degrees. The key is to distinguish the cases that either need manual or automated testing.

In closing

Automation software testing reduces the cost and time it takes to execute a project. While manual testing is just as important, automation can produce more standardized results for repetitive and large-scale test cases. All in all, automation testing is an effective strategy that gives good value for your money.

In setting up your automation testing strategy, you must first determine which cases should and shouldn’t be automated. Once you’ve sorted that out, finding the right automated testing tools is the next big step – a very important step, as each tool in the market has specialized tasks to test out a wide range of cases.

All this, however, cannot be possible without a strong IT team. It’s important to foster collaboration within the team by distributing appropriate tasks to each member. Once you start conducting a series of tests, remember to provide unique names for your controls to be resistant to changes in the user interface.

About David Campbell

David Campbell is a digital marketing specialist at Ramp Ventures. He helps manage the content marketing team at Right Inbox. When he's not working, he enjoys traveling and trying to learn Spanish.