10 best practices to get the most out of test automation

Have you ever tried eating nuts in the shell? If so, then I don’t think it was a very successful experience. Although everyone knows that nuts are very healthy and nutritious. Paradoxically, many companies implement test automation without looking at the nuances. Everyone knows it’s good for business (just like nuts are for our bodies!). However, if you don’t follow certain approaches, you could lose some of the benefits of automation. To avoid this, we have collected 10 best practices for test automation.

Practice №1. Combine manual and automated testing

Everything is good in moderation. Automation included. Many tests are only done manually and it makes no sense to automate them for various reasons. First, scripts cannot always simulate human behavior and reactions. Second, if the test is intended to be run only once, there is no point in writing an automated script for it.

At the same time, some tests are ideal for automation, and here’s a list:

tests that require repetitive actions; tests that involve huge amounts of data; tests that have a high potential for human error; tests that can be run on different versions of browsers, operating systems, hardware, firmware, and combinations of all of the above; tests that often relate to functionality used.

Practice №2. Pay special attention to regression testing

Regression tests are tests that are performed after adding new functionality. The purpose of these tests is to verify that existing functions are working correctly. Regression tests are repeated, so it’s helpful to automate them and run them over and over. Experienced QA automation engineers recommend adding smoke tests for regression test suites, health tests and test cases for finding defects in previous test cycles.

Practice №3. Includes end-to-end testing

End-to-end (E2E) testing ensures that the application behaves according to requirements and works correctly in a variety of user tasks. This type of testing is based on the end-user perspective and simulates their interaction with the application in real-world conditions. E2E testing speeds up release time as you automate critical user journeys, quickly find bugs and fix them immediately.

Practice №4. Provide collective ownership for automated testing

Collective ownership leads to collective responsibility. You avoid a situation where one person is responsible for creating scripts, running tests and maintaining them. The described scenario slows down the team’s work and does not allow you to make quick changes to the code. In addition, when all automation is linked to one team member, there is a high risk that all processes will come to a complete stop if, for example, a person becomes ill or suddenly leaves the company.

The success of test automation in any given organization depends on how well the QA team works. When each of its members is aware of the current testing phase of the project, they contribute to the process. In addition, sharing test scripts allows the most qualified QA engineers to share their knowledge and skills with other colleagues. In addition, collaborative work on automated testing ensures that the testing process is transparent and that all stakeholders are aware of its status.

Practice №5. Plan in detail all processes related to testing

Successful automation is impossible without a strategy, and planning is at the heart of any strategy. Plan which tests and how often will be performed at each stage of development. Plan to fix not only failed tests, but also the root causes of failures. Schedule retrospective meetings that allow the team to understand the essence of mistakes made and avoid them in the future.

Practice №6. Choose the automation tools that fit your needs

Test automation management tools directly impact the quality of the entire automation process. The toolset that QA teams use in their work includes software for writing test scripts, running tests, preparing reports, analysis, tracking and resolving bugs, and tools for team communication. They should all integrate well with each other and work smoothly without causing confusion in the process.

The most convenient option to organize the whole testing process is the test automation management platform. Among the most famous platforms are Katalon, LambdaTest, Perfecto, Zebrunner and others.

Practice 7. Track the progress of the automation by comparing the expected results with the actual

Don’t forget to set metrics for expected results: what types of tests you want to automate, how much time you plan to spend writing scripts, running tests, debugging and retesting, and test coverage you expect, how many hours you allocate to automation, and what an estimated budget. After several sprints, compare the expected results with the real ones and analyze the discrepancies. This gives you insight into where your automation efforts are effective and where you have not yet achieved the expected results. In the next phase of the project, adjust your testing strategy to achieve maximum efficiency.

Practice №8. Keep a balance between emulators, simulators and real devices

Mobile and desktop applications can be tested on real and virtual devices. Both approaches have their pros and cons.

The advantages of testing on virtual devices are that it is free and available to all companies, and it is also suitable for functional testing. As for the drawbacks, the main ones are the inability to emulate real-time data. You cannot test through virtual devices how the application is affected by low battery, poor network quality, GPS, and interaction with various sensors and widgets.

Testing on real devices solves this problem: you can test your product on the devices your end user has and fix all bugs in time. The downside of real device testing is the high cost. You either need to buy all the necessary appliances and then regularly spend money on their maintenance or rent appliances in special appliance farms. The latter option is more sustainable because you only pay for the time you use a particular device and don’t think about maintenance costs.

We recommend testing the application on both virtual and real devices. This ensures maximum product quality and a rational approach to the project budget.

Practice 9. Run tests from early software development cycles

The sooner you start testing, the sooner you find critical bugs and the more time you have to eliminate them effectively. With each new sprint, you test new functionality and its interaction with the entire application, pay attention to the usability of the user interface and eliminate all possible problems in the application. Another benefit of early testing is that the sooner a bug is found, the easier it is to fix. Ultimately, this project saves time and money.

Practice 10. Keep all tests up to date

With automation you achieve the highest possible test coverage. However, flaky and outdated testing reduces this benefit to zero. Weak tests give false-positive and false-negative results, extend the time for analysis and elimination of errors, and lead to the release of the application of insufficient quality. Outdated tests do not cover new functionality and are therefore missing bugs, which also has a negative impact on the quality of the product.

Experienced QA engineers recommend removing unstable tests from regression packages in the first place. Second, you need to plan the process of running tests and make sure every test in the suite is up to date.

Editor’s Note: This article is in collaboration with: zebrunner.

Tags: automation, best practices, end-to-end testing, software testing, Testing

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