Automated functional testing is a popular tool for software testers, but it can be easy to misuse. This article describes five important points that functional testers should consider before they start writing automated tests.

“Automated functional testing is a popular tool for software testers, but it can be easy to misuse. This article describes five important points that functional testers should consider before you start writing automated tests.”¬†

What is automated functional testing?

Automated functional testing (also known as automated user interface testing) allows the test engineer to record and replay user actions within a testing tool. The test suite is recorded and played back against the application under test (AUT) to verify that it operates as expected. It typically takes the form of recording a manual test case and then automating it.

What should you consider?

Here are five important points that functional testers should consider before they start writing automated tests.

  1. Automated testing is not complete unless it’s regression testing

When I first started learning about test automation in software testing, the process of creating an automated test suite was often presented as if it were a self-contained activity. It was characterized as a one-time, golden path that would automatically ensure that future releases didn’t break previously working functionality.

However, this is not how it works in practice. Automated tests are written to test the code that exists at the moment they are recorded, not to test the code as-is for all time. As you implement new features or refactor existing ones, you take the risk that old functionality will break.

This means that automated testing is not complete until you’ve added regression tests to catch any issues introduced by new changes. Adding regression tests is a separate, ongoing activity that must be scheduled alongside other development work.

  1. Regression tests require good coding practices

If your tests are not written well, they can be fragile and prone to breaking. In turn, your regression suite will take longer to maintain and will provide a poor signal about the quality of your application.

In order to build a robust regression suite, you must make sure that your test automation code follows best practices. For example, you should avoid using hardcoded links or values in your tests. If these change, the test is likely to break.

  1. Automated testing can’t replace manual testers

Automated functional tests are a great complement to manual regression tests but they should not be used as a replacement. Automated tests can test things that are difficult or time-consuming to test manually (e.g., multi-page forms with many fields, multi-window workflows where the tester switches between windows). This allows our manual regression test suite to focus on testing what is difficult to automate.

On the other hand, automated tests can’t match a manual tester in terms of creativity and intuition. While automated tests can take a deterministic approach to test, manual testers can explore what-if scenarios. Automated tests also cannot detect important issues that aren’t visible on the screen.

  1. Automated tests do not eliminate the need for manual testing

Automated testers often imagine that their job is to create automated tests which will take over their role, perhaps freeing them up for more interesting testing tasks. Unfortunately, this often doesn’t play out in the real world.

Mobile application automation testing is not a replacement for manual testing, they are an augmentation of it. You may find that an automated test suite helps you to test more efficiently, allowing you to run your manual tests more quickly. You might even be able to extend the subset of your manual tests which you can automate.

In other cases, it may be difficult to set up automated tests in the required way, making them impractical. For example, working through a complex multiple window flow is time-consuming to automate, too much so for it to be feasible.

  1. Manual testing and automated testing require different skills

It’s easy to assume that because automated functional tests use the same web-driven interface as manual testers, anyone who knows how to use an automated test tool can write functional tests. Unfortunately, it isn’t that simple.

Manual and automatic testing requires different skills and aptitudes. Automated testers who do not possess the skills to create manual tests should not be expected to develop automated tests.

Automated tests require a different mindset than manual testing. This is not surprising, as the tools even have different UI layouts. A tester who has always used a test tool that uses a linear layout (where one action follows another) may find it hard to adapt to an automated tool with a grid layout where they have to switch between different windows.

Conclusion 

Automated functional testing is a time-saving way to test software systematically. Consider these 5 tips for better automated functional testing and you’ll be on your way to more efficient, less error-prone code!