The Ultimate Guide to Codeless Test Automation (eBook)

Codeless test automation addresses many challenges that come with test automation, providing solutions to some of the most pressing QA bottlenecks. This eBook will share everything you need to know about the latest technology to hit the world of software testing:

In this eBook, you will learn:

  • What is codeless test automation and when to use it
  • How codeless automation compares to other test automation tools
  • Practical ways that codeless automation can make your company more agile

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Automation is becoming a critical asset in virtually every industry. With the ever-growing demand to increase software release velocity, especially as regression testing gets longer from one version to another, test automation is necessary for both high-quantity and high-quality software deployment.

Within the world of test automation, codeless test automation tools have grown in popularity in recent years. It addresses many challenges that come with test automation, providing solutions to some of the most pressing QA bottlenecks.

This eBook will dive into all you need to know about codeless test automation, as well as analyze how it compares to other tools that QA professionals often turn to for this task. With the right implementation strategy, codeless test automation can help bridge the gap between automating tests effectively and improving the overall DevOps pipeline.

What is codeless test automation?

Simply put, codeless test automation is testing without the need to physically write test scripts. Its uniqueness lies in that it offers testers with little to no coding skills the opportunity to get more involved in the test automation process. While codeless automation is especially useful for manual testers, other members of a company’s QA and development teams can benefit tremendously from it as well.

There are many reasons why codeless test automation has become increasingly popular in recent years. In the age of digital transformation, more companies have been tasked to create and release frequent software updates to provide better user experiences. To do this, companies need to shorten each stage of the software development lifecycle (SDLC), but in a cost-effective way that doesn’t require an overhauling of their QA or DevOps teams.

Codeless test automation benefits both testers and developers who are trying to shorten company release cycles. For development teams, codeless automation relieves them of the excessive need to code, giving them time to focus on future software innovations. It makes the process of writing tests faster and more efficient, as well as eliminates the resources taken for test maintenance. For testers, it allows them to use their extensive business knowledge when creating tests without needing previous coding skills. Additionally, codeless test automation saves time by taking charge of more repetitive tests that are basic, but also time-consuming. This frees up testers’ time to focus on running more complex scenarios. It also helps connect between the development team and the QA team so they can all speak the same language and understand each other’s processes better.

When to use codeless test automation

While codeless test automation is a great way to achieve more effective testing overall, it’s important to keep in mind that there is no such thing as 100% automation. There are areas of testing that will always require manual effort, such as exploratory testing or accessibility testing. The same applies to tests that are dependent on third-party solutions or have complex prerequisites to set up.

Codeless test automation is best used for areas such as continuous testing or regression testing. In these areas of testing, the tests that happen are often repetitive, while also taking a lot of time and resources to execute. In this case, codeless test automation speeds up test creation and execution through an easy-to-use, visual interface.

It also helps to use codeless test automation to reduce test flakiness, or improve tests that are error-prone. Many codeless automation platforms utilize artificial intelligence and machine learning to ease different areas of the test automation process. As test maintenance is one of the largest pain points of test automation, one area where codeless test automation focuses its AI efforts is on reducing maintenance time and improving overall test resiliency.

Is codeless test automation the right choice for me?

When searching for a test automation tool, there are a wide variety of options out there to explore. In general, many choose to invest in one of three options. The first is Selenium, which is the most widely adopted open-source test automation platform. The second option is “record-and-playback” tools, which record different scenarios as they happen in order to create new test flows. There are also code-based legacy solutions, which often are part of a larger investment with an enterprise IT organization. Here are a few reasons why codeless test automation continues to stand out as the more effective solution.

Codeless Automation vs. Selenium

As already mentioned, many companies start their test automation journey by looking into Selenium. This makes a lot of sense, as Selenium is the most common open-source test automation solution, with worldwide adoption and an ever-growing community of users. Yet, Selenium is purely code-based, which presents a multitude of challenges to QA teams who have minimal coding skills at best.

With Selenium, code is involved in every aspect of the test automation process, from test authoring to test maintenance. Without the necessary coding experience, Selenium is hard to navigate with a difficult learning curve. Another important challenge that many face with Selenium is determining how to build a test automation framework. Building a framework is a development project all on its own, plus companies often do not adequately factor building a framework into the overall cost of test automation.

Test creation, test maintenance and building a testing framework all require a lot of time and effort with Selenium, not to mention the additional resources needed to bridge the skills gaps that exist within many existing QA teams. Getting Selenium up and running often requires implementing one of the following solutions:

a) Teaching your manual testers how to code
b) Outsourcing parts of your test automation efforts to a contractor or consultancy
c) Hiring developers and/or other specialists to manage the test automation

Each of these options either requires significant restructuring of the QA team or spending an extended period of time teaching manual testers the necessary coding skills. Neither option is particularly cost-effective or allows your testers the space to do the work that they were hired to do (and excel at) in the first place.

All the power of code-based tools, while maintaining your existing team

One of the major ways where codeless automation stands out is that it caters to QA teams with diverse skill sets. Testers can create and execute tests easily using a visual interface, all while harnessing the power of Selenium “under the hood”. This gives manual testers the opportunity to focus more on strategizing about test designs and which tests to run instead of spending an inordinate amount of time on repetitive testing.

In addition, a codeless test automation tool offers a structured framework that is set up for you from the get-go. Plus, many codeless solutions are already integrated with tools that are likely to be part of your CI/CD pipeline, such as JIRA, Jenkins, and TeamCity. This makes test creation and incorporating test automation into your environment that much simpler.

Selenium vs. Codeless test automation comparison

Codeless automation vs. record-and-playback tools

Another type of solution that companies often look into for test automation is test recorders, also known as “record-and-playback” tools. These tools are an especially tempting choice for UI test automation, as they simply record different actions that happen in your web application in real-time in order to create new test flows. They are easy to use and work quickly, presenting themselves as an attractive option.

While many of these “record-and-playback” solutions also self-identify as “codeless”, they fall short when it comes to improving and simplifying the test automation process. Anytime there is a change in the code or if the test breaks, a tester needs to re-record the scenario and let it run all over again. Recorders are therefore limited to only helping with automation for simple scenarios, and do not have the sophistication to scale by handling complex processes. Due to this setback, many test automation professionals determined that these “codeless” offerings caused more trouble than they were worth.

Easy to use, with the sophistication to handle complex scenarios

Test automation solutions that are truly codeless are as simple to use as a recording, but also includes the key features needed for test automation to scale properly. One distinctive advantage of codeless test automation tools is that it does test modeling instead of a recording. With a model-based solution, testers can take steps that they’ve created previously and insert them into any subsequent test flow.

Sample codeless automation test model

Test creation in action, using a codeless test automation platform. On the left, a test model is created. On the right, the website under test.

Reusable steps within a test model are beneficial because it ensures that your tests go through the same elements when testing different functions. This mimics the end user more closely and establishes a strong foundation for building more complex scenarios in the future. It also helps with test resiliency. Within TestCraft in particular, changes that you make to one test step will apply automatically to other tests that use it. This significantly reduces the time that testers spend on test maintenance, allowing them more time to focus on complex scenarios as well.

Another key feature found in codeless test automation tools is smart element locators. Using artificial intelligence and machine learning, purely codeless automation tools take into account all of the attributes of an element and allow you to assign different strengths to each one. This self-healing mechanism allows your test flow to update automatically to changes in code that do not affect the logic of the test. This is another way that codeless automation can help reduce test maintenance, which frees up testers’ time to focus on the scenarios that require human attention.

In addition, codeless test automation tools that create models instead of recordings are virtually limitless when it comes to the types of tests it can handle. While recorders are limited to handling simple scenarios, codeless automation can handle more complex features such as cross-browser support, iFrames, and dropdown lists.

Complex test scenario made simple with a visual test model

Test flows can be modified through a visual canvas using a simple drag-and-drop method.

Codeless automation vs. legacy solutions

Many QA teams also consider legacy solutions from larger, more established enterprises as a viable option for test automation. Perhaps this is because the company is already highly invested in this enterprise, or because many test flows were already built using these tools. Regardless, the major advantage of legacy test automation tools lies in their trust factor. Their users are reassured by these tools’ consistency, their powerful testing features, and overall brand reputation.

Yet while legacy tools may tout a highly recognized brand name, they also come with a heavy cost. In addition to their hefty price tag, many legacy tools also require a lot of maintenance due to their complexity. Testers will spend an extensive amount of time learning the tools themselves, instead of working on the test scenarios themselves.

Robust features, without the learning curve

While codeless automation tools require some training to acclimate to a new solution, they are as feature-rich and powerful as legacy tools, but with a considerably shorter learning curve. Much of this is attributed to the fact that codeless test automation tools prioritize having an easy-to-use, visual interface. With the option for visual test creation, testers can build test scenarios based on what they actually see in the web application instead of within the code. This will free up time for testers to create and execute tests quickly, as well as explore the different features within the platform that help test complex scenarios.

Why codeless automation is ideal for agile organizations

In general, codeless test automation can improve your test automation efforts on multiple fronts by helping speed up test creation and execution while minimizing test maintenance. It’s simple to use, while still offering a powerful set of features that can handle a wide range of tests that you would want to add to your automation suite.

In addition to this, codeless automation is highly advantageous for companies that are trying to adapt an agile methodology. There are two ways that codeless automation stands out: by pushing “shift-left” testing and operating in the cloud.

“Shift-left” testing

The concept of “shifting-left” is a software testing best practice of testing as early as possible in the software development lifecycle. Codeless test automation is especially useful for “shift-left” testing, as it allows for test creation even before the code has been written.

Working on a codeless test automation tool’s virtual canvas, a tester or a product manager can design the tests in an abstract way based solely on the product wireframe or product flow. This allows testers the space to think critically about future software updates and prepare test builds in advance that help ensure the software is meeting the necessary business objectives. Later on, after the development team has coded the feature, you can get the specific details of each flow and bind the actual elements during runtime.

Creating tests before the code is written has a strong “shift-left” benefit for companies that want to achieve an agile work process through continuous testing. Consider the following:

  • The more testing that is being done per code-commit, the stronger the effect of the entire DevOps cycle and software iteration.
  • Effective continuous testing also employs an overall fast feedback loop that can address issues as they are introduced into the build cycle.
  • More automation, with more testing done closely to the code-commit translates into efficient defect detection, resolution, and more time to spend reducing the product backlog.

Testing in the cloud

Companies are increasingly shifting their tools and platforms from on-prem to cloud-based across the board. SaaS-based codeless test automation tools are ensuring that the same applies to software testing. Here are just a few reasons why testing in the cloud is especially advantageous for agile companies.

Availability

The first point to highlight is that SaaS provides an optimization of the company’s IT resources, mainly because the framework’s operation does not depend on a robust internal infrastructure. SaaS-based codeless test automation platforms are deployed on massive cloud servers such as Amazon Web Services (AWS) that ensure continuous functioning with strict data security. More importantly, cloud-based frameworks require no installation time, expertise, or effort. This means that your tests can be up and running within a matter of minutes.

Codeless automation allows for simple cross-browser testing.

Define the cross-platform execution of a test.

Due to its availability in the cloud, SaaS also lacks the need for internal infrastructure and staff dedicated to maintaining its operation. All the maintenance and setup is done by the cloud provider, so the platform is always available for the company without the need of internal servicing. This also eliminates unforeseen setup costs, such as installing extra modules, because the package is contracted with a predetermined value, according to the needs of the customer.

Customer mobility

As mentioned above, SaaS companies handle all of the setup and infrastructure. Once the customer gets the credentials and has the platform running internally, it works just like a typical website where you log in and start using the service. Each employee of the company can therefore access the application from anywhere at anytime, while on-prem software often requires access solely through the company’s internal devices.

Automated testing software updates made easy

On-prem solutions usually get a bi-annual update, which is typically a difficult process where the customer needs to validate the migration in-depth. Even worse, if the customer detects a bug within their on-prem solution, they would have to wait until the next update. With SaaS, the software update process is no longer bureaucratic and time-consuming. The times where it was necessary to send a piece of hardware, such as a pen drive or CD, to those who will update the system are long gone.

With a SaaS tool, versions are deployed every other week. This causes only minor deltas to the framework’s code while ensuring smooth and continuous updates. For the customer, it feels like the updates are being done automatically.

SaaS codeless test automation tools update their software in the cloud, and instantly allow all of their customers to have access to the most recent features. SaaS companies also ensure that each computer receives access to the appropriate version according to their different system requirements (Windows, Linux, etc.), thus avoiding compatibility failures.

Seamless integration with internal software

When it comes to adding a new tool to your testing stack, it is essential for the tool to integrate well with the internal software you are already using. Not only does this make for a better user experience, but it also reduces the chance of errors caused by the use of software that is incompatible with one another. On-prem software comes with a larger risk of clashing with other internal environments, which requires a lot of time and costs to fix. From contacting the IT service provider to searching for resolutions, dealing with integration issues can be considerably strenuous.

If a SaaS company has a problem in their server that may affect the end customer, they are alerted on this issue automatically and can often fix it in a matter of minutes; the customer does not need to take care of anything. The enormous stress caused by software failures in SaaS is nonexistent; even if there will be a bug or a miscommunication between your internal server and your cloud-based platform, no internal software will be compromised.

Enables teamwork and cooperation

Another area where a SaaS test automation tool can be helpful is by fostering an environment with effective communication. With a SaaS testing platform, testers can reuse elements already created by their peers, as well as collaborate on the creation of new testing projects on the same canvas. This creates ample opportunity for stronger communication, as well as more productive knowledge-sharing.

Codeless test automation that are SaaS-based help create an even playing field for all team members. Instead of tests that cater only to QA or developers with coding skills, everyone can see and understand the test scenarios clearly. This also allows product managers to get involved in the testing process, which adds even more context and diversity to the conversation. With the opportunity to ask each other the right questions, the possibilities for faster and more thorough testing is virtually endless.

How to get started with codeless test automation

This eBook has delved into the various benefits and features of codeless test automation. For teams that are looking to improve their test automation efforts and become more agile in the process, there are many reasons why codeless test automation is a great option to consider.

Yet, the transition to codeless test automation does not happen overnight. While it makes test automation faster and reduces maintenance time, another important part of adopting codeless test automation is getting your development team on board. During implementation, developers and other important decision-makers need to trust that codeless test automation will work in your company’s specific environment.

When building your test strategy, here are some best practices to ensure validity and value:

  1. Start small, prove value and increment iteratively. Define a few tests flows, build them and ensure they are solid through all platforms and many iterations, and only then demonstrate those to developers. When a developer believes that a failed test was a real failure, the trust will grow.
  2. Build your tests in a modular and reusable fashion. Building the script in a smart way will minimize your chances for bugs. Further, since you can reuse test steps and test scenarios, if the app changes materially, you will know exactly which area of the script to change and you need to make the change only once.
  3. Review the reporting. Does it deliver a clear error message and the needed data for developers?

Sample TestCraft codeless test automation report

Test execution results. There’s an option to drill down and see the exact location of the failure with a detailed explanation, screenshots, and data.

Introducing an innovative, yet stable test automation option for developers (without asking them to invest their time in creating it) will help pave the way for significant collaboration in the future.