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Automated testing is a process to validate that software functions appropriately and meets requirements before it is released into production. This form of software testing uses scripted sequences that are executed by testing tools.
An organization can apply automated checks to a broad range of test cases, such as unit, regression and API testing. Automated software testing's main benefit is that it simplifies as much of the manual effort as possible into a set of scripts. If unit testing consumes a large percentage of a quality assurance (QA) team's resources, for example, then this process should be evaluated as a candidate for automation. Automated testing tools execute tests, report outcomes and compare results with earlier test runs.
Automated tests can run repeatedly at any time of day. This approach fits in with continuous testing as well as continuous integration and continuous delivery (CI/CD) software development practices, which aim to shuttle code changes to production without gates that require manual intervention.
Benefits of automated testing
Automated testing can boost a QA team's efficiency. Some benefits include higher accuracy as well as better reporting capabilities, coverage, resource efficiency, bug detection and reusability.
When a software tester manually checks a system, he can make a mistake, especially when an application contains hundreds or more of lines of code. Automation helps the QA team avoid these application testing mistakes and executes checks in a faster timeframe than a person.
Some test automation tools have reporting capabilities that log each test script to show users the status of each test. A tester can then compare the results with other reports to assess how the software operates compared to expectations and requirements.
Automated testing enables staff to avoid manual tests and focus on other project priorities. A QA team can reuse automated test scripts to ensure each check executes the same way every time. Additionally, automated testing helps a team quickly find bugs in the early stages of development, which can reduce overall working hours.
Test automation frameworks
An organization implements test automation with a framework that includes common practices, testing tools and standards. Data-driven and keyword-driven test automation frameworks are common, as are frameworks for linear scripting and modular testing.
The linear scripting framework suits small applications, because it enables the use of a test script with little planning, but does not support reusable scripts. In modular testing frameworks, a software tester creates scripts as small, independent tests to reduce redundancy, but this process typically consumes more time to set up. Data-driven frameworks enable software testers to create scripts that work for multiple data sets for wide quality coverage with fewer tests than modular options. Keyword-driven testing frameworks use table formats to define keywords for each function and execution method; software testers without deep programming knowledge can work with the keywords to create test scripts. Hybrid-driven frameworks combine two or more practices to have the benefits of both.
Open source test automation tools and frameworks include Selenium, Robotium and Cypress. Selenium can automate and run test parameters across multiple web browsers and in various programming languages such as C#, Java and Python. Robotium helps testers write automatic user acceptance, function and system tests for Android devices. Cypress covers end-to-end, integration and unit tests, all within a browser. Cypress allows access to distributed object models in the browser and provides a debugger for further tests.
Organizations typically include automated tests in a continuous testing strategy, which conducts code checks at every step in the software development and delivery pipeline. Continuous and automated tests help organizations reduce performance bottlenecks because the pace of work is ongoing rather than start-and-stop. For example, an organization might release software changes every few hours with automated and continuous testing, rather than every few days with a more manual and gated system.
CI/CD pipelines utilize automated tests and deployment processes that enable developers to decide to deploy code when it is ready, as opposed to when operations is available to deploy it. CI involves frequent and isolated code changes, as well as immediate testing at each stage of completion before the CI pipeline adds an update to a larger codebase. CD enables executable code updates to go live in staging or production environments, and typically any commit that passes automated integration or other forms of big-picture tests is a valid candidate for release.
What are the four major categories for application testing tools?
Learn about use cases for three categories of application testing tools: automation, bug tracking and coverage.
Trial versions and vendor research can be helpful if you want to invest in the right application testing tools.