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Jason Huggins and Agile colleagues debate the future of test automation

There has been a recent flurry of events in the Denver area catering to the agile enthusiast. This is the second event in a week where I’ve been able to personally meet with nationally-known agile leaders. I’m going to have to start carrying around an autograph book!

Last Wednesday I met Mike Cohn at the local Java User Group meeting. Then last night I attended a meeting of the Agile Denver user group, which featured Selenium creator and co-founder of Sauce Labs, Jason Huggins. Huggins and Sauce Labs were the topic of a recent SearchSoftwareQuality news story, Sauce Labs adds business value to Selenium testing with IDE.

In a panel discussion about automation and the use of Selenium. panelists included SSQ contributor Chris McMahon, fellow agile experts, Matt Raible, Scott Allman, Thomas Albright and Joe Yakich and, of course, Huggins. The first question they tackled was, “Do you think UI Automation Test Tools are snake oil?” The question was prompted by the controversial blog post by Michael Feathers claiming user interface (UI) automation does not deliver on its promises. Panelists discussed using UI automation testing tools the right way, which means testing navigation, not business logic.

Regarding the return on investment of automation versus doing such techniques such as exploratory testing manually was also debated by panelists. Most felt that automation could be effectively used in conjunction with exploratory testing, and that automation could be used to perform such functions as the setup of tests or the recreation of defects.

In another session, Huggins gave overview of Selenium, the popular open source tool providing platform-independent automation testing.  He suggested, among other things, taking advantage of Selenium Grid to executed tests much more quickly on multiple machines, rather than executing tests serially on limited hardware.

Huggins also talked about future trends in test automation, Selenium and cloud computing, such as using automation for mobile device testing and the use of automation videos for more than testing.  Check out this video in which Huggins describes his views on the future of automation combined with screencasting to create test outputs that can be used for marketing, documentation or training.

I’m convinced test automation can provide a lot more than regression tests, but there are some that are disillusioned by the maintenance costs. What experiences have you had with test automation?

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